Back in 1994 Sir Michael Latham published Constructing the team a – review of procurement and contractual arrangements in the UK construction industry. He highlighted the need to improve the link between design and construction. Two decades later, thanks to the efforts of the first chief construction advisor Paul Morrell, it is finally happening and one of the drivers for change is the adoption of BIM, a technology that is making building design more of a team approach.

BIM is allowing the complete building to be reviewed at the design stage, identifying areas of design conflict and allowing them to be resolved before construction begins. In this blog I take a look at the changing dynamics of the design team and what this means for the product manufacturer.

The Architect:

The role of the architect is still important, although today it is often the case that he does not have ‘absolute’ control over design. Traditionally he or she acted as the node between the client, main contractor, specialist contractor and others with responsibility to ensure the right products are selected and installed correctly. The architect will develop the buildings’ design, taking the client’s brief and combining it with the advice of consultants. With the use of Design & Build, PF2 (also known as PPP or PFI) and BIM the architect’s role is evolving from construction team leader to an important member of the team.

Architects are often ‘small businesses’ so are time poor and consequently hard to get hold of. Think carefully about how to communicate with the Architect, choosing your channels of communication carefully and presenting the appropriate product information in an easy to access format.

Incorporating BIM into your specification sales strategy is important, providing BIM objects for the design team means they have a greater understanding of the product and how it works in the design overall. All of this makes the architects life easier, as well as saving time and money.

The Engineer:

When we talk of specification selling there is a tendency to think of just the architect, but the engineer is an equally important specifier, whose role is increasing in importance. This is because of the growing complexity of the legislation which is pushing almost every aspect of a building’s design, causing architects to rely even more on the engineer.

Very often they will focus on performance specifications, leaving the specialist contractor to decide on the materials to be used. They will, however, continue to oversee the work and ensure that items perform as planned. So they also have an influence on product selection.

Like architects, what engineers want is good quality technical advice. It is also important to remember that specifiers in general are short on time and will not respond well to ‘spin’. What specifiers want is technical information and advice, they will be happy to deal with a manufacturer or supplier who can provide good quality, comprehensive information on demand.

The Main Contractor:

The role of the main contractor will vary depending on the type of contract selected to deliver the project. If Traditional, then the main contractor’s role is to build what the architect designs; if Design & Build or PF2 then the Main Contractor will also have responsibility for design. In both cases the Main Contractor influences product selection. In the case of Traditional this will take the form of advice to the Architect. But in D&B or PF2 the Main Contractor may even provide the Architect with a list of approved materials to select from. In this case it will be the Design Manager who will understand the Client’s needs and then brief the Architects.

“With earlier engagement from Contractors, there will be earlier procurement, with greater activity at the front end of the construction process.” David Philp, Head of BIM Implementation, Cabinet Office

Although every commercial organisation has an eye to profit, within the Main Contractor organisation there are other influencers who have other priorities. The Estimating Department want to know about the compatibility and availability of products, the Contract Manager will be interested in sub-contractor familiarity and minimising disruption to the build programme. And the Design Manager will be interested in the most efficient solution to provide a first class outcome. By understanding these needs and offering solutions which represent value it is possible to reduce the influence of price.

As with all specifiers, Contractors do not want to be sold to. They want to deal with technically competent people. They are looking for design advice that is accurate and reliable. The Contractor is looking for quality, price, availability and then technical support.

Other Influencers not to ignore:

Most organisations’ specification sales effort tend inevitably to focus around those most visible when it comes to product selection. The other members of the team receive much less attention. For example, what about the specification writer? There are specialist organisations who take on this role on behalf of the architect. They focus on the detail of specification writing to produce robust and unambiguous specification documentation, allowing the architect to concentrate on design. Another important role is project management, often delivered by the quantity surveyor.

In addition to specification writing and project management today’s QS will provide advice in areas such as procurement, value engineering, infrastructure and sustainability. This makes them an important influence in decision making.

When it comes to sustainability we are also seeing a number of professions claiming this as their expertise. The building services engineer probably has the highest profile in this area, but the quantity surveyor too, is laying claim to this expertise.


Specifiers need to be aware of the changing relationships and roles within the team responsible for creating a building. Any manufacturer creating demand through specification selling needs to be aware of these relationships and promoting the benefits of their products to all of the decision makers in the design team. Reviewing your specification strategy on a regular basis is essential, to ensure you provide the right information at the right time and in the right way, to continue to get your product specified.

Further Reading:

Further information:


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