‘Going for Six’ – Tips for Procuring Better Building Project Outcomes


By Simon Birchall

May 2018

Developments in the education sector often require a reconsideration of the buildings and facilities that support curriculum delivery.  Engaging with the construction and property industries can be an infrequent and, often, expensive and challenging experience for many senior managers in the Further Education sector.  

This short article outlines six key considerations to enable better outcomes.


1. Play by the rules 

Property development is subject to planning laws, building construction must comply with building regulations and public procurement is governed by legislation that must be followed. Equally, your own organisation is likely to require compliance with its own policies, procedures and governance. 

Your development plans should consider whether and how the rules apply; getting this wrong can have drastic consequences. 

Information on public sector procurement can be found at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/public-sector-procurement-policy.


2. Be clear on what you need

Recognising that there will often be competing needs it is essential that you set out and prioritise your requirements in terms of function, space, location, quality, budget, timescale, etc. Failure to get this right often leads to poor decision making, dysfunctional facilities and an overall reduction in value. 


3. Understand your appetite for risk

How much certainty of outcome do you need before making a financial commitment? Your appetite for risk will dictate the right approach to project procurement for you. If your overarching need is for speed of delivery or flexibility in developing requirements then a management style of procurement, where design and construction run concurrently, may be for you. If cost certainty is paramount then a design then construct approach may be better.


4. Remember it’s a team effort 

Choosing the right design and construction teams for your project is a critical success factor. Capability, track record, size, financial standing, capacity, appetite and price are all key considerations. Be clear on your requirements, consider the alternatives, short-list appropriate firms and have simple but effective evaluation criteria that give an appropriate balance between quality and price and enable the right choice for you. Remember that you have to work with these teams over a period of time – look to meet the people who will be leading the delivery of your project and ask yourself if the chemistry is right.


5. Chose the right form of contract

Contractual agreements with design consultants and building contractors should be aligned to your procurement approach and risk appetite. There are a multitude of standard forms of contract for you to choose from; your selection should not only reflect procurement approach but also support your need for collaboration, control, visibility, flexibility, etc. Getting this wrong could lead to increased costs, prolongation, poor quality and dispute.


6. Be an effective client 

Having the time, experience and expertise is often key to getting the best results. A realistic approach is recommended here – it may be appropriate to enlist the support of external expertise to support you in this; to help you develop and assess your requirements, to understand your options and decisions, to prepare a plan and to procure and manage consultants and building contractors. An appropriately experienced and qualified project manager could prove invaluable in helping you to be the best in class.