What makes a great building great? Is it the design? Is it the purpose it serves? Is it innovative use of materials, technology and its environmental impact? It is all of these things, but the biggest factor is the client - behind every great building there is a great client - a client that has vision, aspiration and isn’t afraid to be brave and try something new every so often. But this is only part of the challenge. To truly deliver an exceptional building, clients need supply chains that share their aspirations and goals - but that is easier said than done.

If there is going to be something that derails or detracts from a project - with the exception of cost - it is understanding. As construction projects become increasingly complex, supply chains and delivery teams get bigger-and-bigger. With this comes the challenge of ensuring buy-in from all parties and making sure they are fully on board with the client’s goals, aspirations and objectives. 

If a client can convey to all parts of their supply chain the passion that is driving them and the end result they are looking to achieve, then they are on course to achieve an outstanding building. If they can go one step further and get a supply chain that totally buys into what they want to achieve and is willing to go that step further and help to enhance the design or build, then the truly exceptional is possible.

However, in reality this rarely happens. All too often there will be an opportunity for a contractor to deviate from the original plan. Sometimes this is down to value engineering, with the good of the client and their budget in mind; sometimes it is down to a lack of understanding of the reason why something has been specified; and sometimes it is as a way of doing it cheaper, quicker and easier. However, in many instances, alternative products and “cheaper and quicker” means compromising the project objectives, and it is done because outcomes and objectives are not understood or bought into.

When delivering truly aspirational buildings, it is essential that all parties are on board with the client’s goals. These need to be shared goals, not just client goals. For it to really work, all members of the supply chain need to understand where the client is coming from; believe in the goals and want the project to succeed.

As such, it is essential at tender stage that contractors are judged on their enthusiasm for the project; their willingness to get behind the client and deliver their vision, and for what added value they can contribute. This means clients have to be strong and make sure that cost isn’t the overriding factor. 

This is very much the case with BREEAM, the internationally-recognised measure of sustainability for buildings and communities. Clients choose BREEAM for many reasons - to provide recognition of a building that places people, the environment and economics at the forefront; to drive energy efficiency, innovation or best practice; to add value through creating properties that are more attractive to tenants; to create environments that are more conducive for working, living and learning. 

The problem comes when the supply chain doesn’t understand the reasons for choosing the accreditation. Simply disregarding it as a “box-ticking” exercise or believing it just adds a layer of complexity, is a sure-fire way of making the process unnecessarily difficult. It could even add time delays, costs and result in a building that doesn’t meet expectations. By finding a supply chain that fully understands BREEAM and knows how it can improve both the design and build processes, and why a client has chosen it, is key. 

The same principle goes for other components of a project - a team that understands your decisions and supports them will ensure that corners are not cut and decisions made that can compromise a project. 

Yes, at a time when everyone is under increasing pressure to deliver faster and cheaper, it can be difficult to find partners that truly understand your goals. However, never underestimate the value of an empowered, enthusiastic and supportive supply chain.

Written by: Darren Evans, Managing Director, Darren Evans Assessments.

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