A Single Appointment Strategy – Architects Journal September Column

Following on from last months ‘Green Specifications’ article for Architects Journal, this month Nick changes tact and moves on to discuss how a single appointment strategy can benefit projects.

“I am writing this article on a flight to Riyadh to attend meetings as part of a design team working on a major project in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The team is an exceptional group of talented architects, engineers, cost managers and other specialists who, as is quite common in the Middle East, are working under a single appointment between the client and the architect, i.e. the engineers are sub-consultants to the architect who have full design responsibility.

To consultants who have only worked in the UK, this approach may seem unusual and as such considered unacceptable and risky. The issue, of course, is that it is different and represents change, which all too often is resisted rather than embraced.

But think about it this way, when a client appoints a design and cost management team through separate appointments he does not expect them to work independently, but rather collaborate to prepare a fully co-ordinated design solution and produce one set of documentation that suits his selected procurement route. One way to achieve this is to “force” the designers to work as a team through a single agreement – it certainly focuses the minds of all those involved.

As an ex-colleague of mine, who is now a senior executive at a well respected UK developer told me recently when discussing specifications, that what he needs is a “Project Specification” not a set of separate architectural, structural, civil, MEP and landscape specifications that are uncoordinated, repetitive and potentially in conflict with each other. He needs a document that allows the cost manager to provide accurate budgets at schematic design and the ability to procure a contractor with minimum risk of claims for variations, loss and expense.  All very reasonable and correct I would suggest.

From a specification perspective some of the most successful outcomes come from single design team appointments, either through the architect alone or through joint ventures and collaboration agreements, because the team has to deliver a single set of co-ordinated design documentation, which includes a project specification.

In any single project specification the main co-ordination challenge is often the A Section (CAWS) or Division 1 (Master Format) which has to cover all design disciplines in a single section. Under the separate design discipline appointments scenario, each discipline produces its own A Section and any attempt to harmonise or co-ordinate them is met by resistance often with the excuse “my PI requires me to produce my own”.

The A Section is the section that deals with issues of specification type, procurement harmonisation, sustainability, design completion process, quality, testing, samples, prototypes, deleterious materials, workmanship, etc. which will be read with every other specification section. It sets the tone, contractual requirements and standard for the whole design and without proper co-ordination can be an easy source for claims.

Unfortunately, this already critical and complex section is made even more difficult because its content is often mixed up with the preliminaries, e.g. non quantifiable and time based items, temporary works, etc. that need to be priced forming part of the contract sum. On projects where a quantity surveyor is engaged he will prepare the preliminaries as part of the BQ or detailed cost plan leaving the design team to prepare the permanent works’ specifications and critical engineering temporary works.

Equally the QS, all too often, insists on including items that relate to design process, quality, testing, samples, etc. even though he is not in the best position to do so. The preliminaries should refer to the specification where a price needs to be identified and not try to replicate or anticipate the requirement. This problem is not helped by the fact that some “off the shelf” specification products mix the two disciplines, which I have always felt is wrong.

The single appointment strategy can be very beneficial if embraced and set up correctly from the outset. Let the designer prepare the specification reflecting the design leaving the QS to quantify and prepare pricing documents for estimating and tender purposes.”

What are your experiences? Have you been on projects where this has gone well or gone badly? We would love to hear your thoughts.

Mark Schumann

Mark Schumann

Mark Schumann is the Founder and Director of Schumann Consult.
Mark Schumann

Posted on September 25, 2013 in Specifications

Response (1)

  1. […] on from last months ‘A Single Appointment Strategy’ article for Architects Journal, Nick’s contribution for October discusses how […]

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