Chris Ashworth explains how every manufacturer selling to specifiers needs to be aware of the changing relationships and roles within the team responsible for creating a building.

As the Government moves Forward with implementing Building Information Modelling (BIM) and encourages a team approach to construction, Sir Michael Latham’s recommendations are being adopted a mere 17 years after he made them.

Back in 1994 Sir Michael published Constructing the team a – review of procurement and contractual arrangements in the UK construction industry. Two of the key recommendations he made were that the government should take a lead and that there was a need to improve the link between design and construction. Nearly two decades years later, thanks to the efforts of chief construction advisor Paul Morrell, it is finally happening.

The driver for change is the adoption of BIM for all government projects over £5m. To be fair, the technology of BIM was not available when Sir Michael published his report. But this technology is making building design more of a team approach.

At the moment the individual members of the team have tended to work in some isolation. In a typical worst case scenario the quantity surveyor may propose a cost for the project which doesn’t allow for certain aspects, the building services engineer may design services which have to pass through structural elements, and the architect may fail to design in access panels. The cumulative result is that first time services need a major repair or unblocking the team responsible finds there’s no way to get at them without damaging the building structure. Very often these problems have to be addressed on site by the contractor beforehand, creating delay and cost. BIM is solving this, allowing the complete building to be reviewed at the design stage, identifying areas of conflict and allowing them to be resolved before construction begins.

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. Very often this role merges into other tasks, such as project management, and will be delivered by the quantity surveyor.

With the advent of CAD the need for someone to take quantities off drawings reduced and the role of the quantity surveyor changed. To survive companies had to take on new roles. 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.

Finally, we have 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.

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.

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. They must also be moving with the times and, as the RIBA Insight report What specifiers want from product manufacturers highlighted, providing BIM objects.

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