The construction market is complex with many influences and drivers. As a product manufacturer it is often hard to know where to start when trying to get your product specified. The construction industry is made up of a series of relationships, some are decision makers others influencers, here are just a few; architects, interior designer, quantity surveyor, sustainability consultant, engineers (civil, structural, electrical, mechanical), main contractors, sub-contractors all working together to meet the needs of the client.

The construction sector’s Decision Making Unit (DMU) is far more complex than many business to business markets. This is partly because of the various complexities but also because the team responsible for designing, selecting, purchasing and installing products is formed for a single project and then disbanded. To further complicate matters, the nature of the relationship between the members of the project team will depend on the type of contract used (Traditional, Design & Build, Management or PF2).

Over the coming months we will be publishing a series of blogs looking at the different players in the industry. We hope that this will give you a clearer view of the complexities of the construction industry and how the different members of the project team work together.

The Architect – a brief history

The role of architecture existed in ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. Indeed the first documented architect died in c.15BC! With the more complex buildings of the Renaissance architecture came into its own. Yet in Britain craftsmen often did the work of design until the 1770s when the growth of prestige buildings saw architecture developing as a profession:

  • 1791 Architects’ Club founded – Select membership
  • 1831 Architects Society founded
  • 1866 This became the Royal Institute of British Architects
  • 1894 first School of Architecture founded in Liverpool
  • 1938 Architects’ Registration Act – Title “Architect” restricted to those registered

The role of 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, passing down edicts which the contractor fulfilled (as with a Traditional Contract). Today he often acts as the node between the client, main contractor, specialist contractor and many others to ensure the right products are selected and installed correctly.

The first stage of a project will be to secure outline planning permission. At this stage the design is a concept but with the key criteria confirmed. Planning approval will be granted based on this concept, often with a series of negotiations between planners and the architect.

The architect will then develop the buildings’ design, taking the client’s brief and combining it with the advice of the consultants. At this time he may take advice from consultant and/or contractor on detailed aspects of design and possibly product selection. Working with the architect will be engineers responsible for structural, mechanical and electrical design.

The architect is probably the most important member of the design team, distilling the requirements and advice of the other members. He starts with the client’s needs in terms of how the building is to be used and how the client wishes to be perceived. This then has to be developed to meet the requirements of the Building Regulations and increasingly sustainability. Finally, there will be the quantity surveyor, main contractor and specialist sub-contractors proposing alternatives very often as cost savings.

Out of more than quarter of a million professionals within the UK construction industry there are more than 60,000 Architects and Architectural Technicians. The Royal Institute of British Architects has more than 28,000 members worldwide and more than 3,000 registered UK practices.

Communicating with Architects

Over three quarters of the RIBA chartered architects practices in the UK have fewer than 10 staff, and more than half have fewer than five. Therefore Architects are time poor and consequently hard to get hold of. So how do you introduce your products?

You need to find a way of getting the architect’s attention and then reassuring him that your product ticks all of the right boxes. Online methods are increasingly accepted, but companies need to ensure they present the appropriate information in an easy to access format and keep in touch with new developments. At the same time do not neglect the traditional media such as magazines and literature, they still have an important role to play.

A good approach to opening doors is to use CPD seminars. These should be well written and thoughtfully compiled. Done properly a CPD seminar can establish the sales person as a trusted advisor and raise the importance of your products in the mind of the architect.

Our research report entitled: Construction Media Index, identifies key media used by Architects, looking at electronic and hardcopy communication channels, including trade titles actually read. The 2013 report due for release in June 2013 indicates that Architects use a mix of journals and directories to source their product information. There is a trend to use search engines less to locate products than in previous years. Social networks, such as Twitter and LinkedIn are increasingly seen as a work tool, video and webinars remain popular and the QR code has shown rapid adoption.

Su Butcher of Just Practising, a leading communicator in the architect community, gives these top three pointers:

You need to Listen – find out which of your customers and contacts use Twitter and how they use it. Engage in conversation with them about your expertise, like you would in real life.

You need to Be Useful – provide information that people will want to keep or share. For example, much of your expertise that is only currently available via personal contact can be adapted into ‘social objects’ that people will want to keep and share for you.

You need to Be Found – be there and be present – Twitter is an easy way for architects who need advice about your products to contact you, if you are engaging and useful.

Conclusion

The Architect acts as the node between the client, main contractor, specialist contractor and many others 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 the consultants. 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. Most importantly: Listen, Be Useful and Be Found!

Further reading

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