Appointment of Principal Contractor to Practical Completion

Appointment of Principal Contractor to Practical Completion

 

The UK construction industry is a complex sector. Each project requires careful planning and management at every stage of the development lifecycle to ensure successful completion. The appointment of a principal contractor is a critical stage, as they are responsible for managing the construction process from start to finish. 

However, the use of multiple contractors and subcontractors, each with their own areas of expertise and responsibilities, can result in additional costs and challenges. This article will examine the UK construction process, highlighting the benefits and drawbacks of using multiple contractors, and exploring the benefits of appointing a specialist Master Systems Integrator (MSI) who focuses on integrating building and energy management systems (B/EMS).

 

Traditional route to market vs appointment of specialist contractors

 

Traditionally, a principal contractor (PC) is awarded a contract by the client. This PC has experience in project management, and they possess a large network of contacts. After consideration of a number of factors, such as quality of work, cost of quotations, and relationship/history with the specialist, the PC will appoint a number of vertical market specialists to oversee a development. 

This can include groundworks contractors, cladding contractors, mechanical and electrical contractors. Each of these various groups may  appoint their own subcontractors, such as security subcontractors etc.

The benefits to using multiple contractors in the traditional manner include the ability to draw on a range of specialised skills and expertise. For example, a mechanical and electrical contractor can bring their expertise to the project, ensuring that the systems and services outlined on the technical design specification are installed effectively. 

Similarly, a subcontractor with specific expertise in fire safety systems can ensure that these critical systems are installed to the highest standards and conform to the latest regulations.

However, using multiple contractors and subcontractors can result in an increased development cost, as each contractor typically adds their own margin to the project at each hierarchical level, which can result in added costs for the client. 

In addition, value engineering ‘VE’ carried out by one contractor may negatively impact the work of another contractor, leading to disputes and delays. Communication and coordination can also be a challenge, with each contractor operating independently and not always considering the impact their work may have on other parts of the project. 

Often leading to a diluted version of the original design specification being delivered. At no point during the VE process do the various contractors cater or understand the requirements of the tenants of the building post completion and handover.

This is where a specialist MSI, who focuses on integrating B/EMS can add significant value to the construction process. An MSI, specialising B/EMS such as metering, monitoring and control, CCTV, access control, and fire safety can provide a single point of responsibility for the installation and integration of all B/EMS, ensuring that these systems are installed and integrated effectively, so that the necessary interconnections are in place. 

This typically results in improved communication and coordination, as well as reduced costs and improved quality. This is also linked to increased tenant experience, as all building systems are working harmoniously and efficiently. Further to this, GenZ have been shown to value ‘green’ homes and green features (1), and increased efficiency and decreased energy usage are part and parcel of effective energy monitoring and control systems.

In addition, an MSI can bring a wealth of expertise and experience to the project. They can provide guidance on the latest technologies and systems, ensuring that the most effective and efficient solutions are used, and that the final development is fit for purpose. This can have a significant impact on the overall success of the project, as well as on the end-user experience.

Furthermore, a MSI can also provide ongoing support and maintenance services, ensuring that the systems are operating effectively and efficiently throughout the life of the building. This can result in improved reliability and reduced downtime, as well as reducing the costs associated with the repair and maintenance of B/EMS.

Finally, as the traditional construction route is circumvented, this reduces the margins added on by each contractor at each hierarchical level. Therefore, the total cost of the project is often reduced, despite the fact that a specialist has been employed. Additionally, due to the interconnected nature of the systems and the effective management of energy consumption, the ongoing operational costs of the completed asset are minimised, providing a quicker return on investment.

 

Conclusion

 

In conclusion, the development of an asset in the UK construction market is a complex process. There are various methods to ensure that an asset reaches practical completion in a timely and cost-effective manner. The traditional route to market often involves the use of various contractors and subcontractors.

However, more and more companies are now appointing vertical market specialists themselves. By working with a specialist MSI, clients can benefit from improved communication, coordination, and quality, as well as reduced costs and improved reliability and maintenance throughout the life of the building.

Additionally, the appointment of a specialist contractor, such as an MSI, can ensure that within a portfolio of buildings, the systems installed are uniform and open protocol. Rather than installed and maintained by multiple different companies.

If you would like to have a discussion on this topic, then please contact Max Boon via email at lb@IBG-uk.com.

 

References:

 

  1. Kota, B.R., Debs, L. and Davis, T., 2022. Exploring Generation Z’s Perceptions of Green Homes. Sustainability, 14(16), p.10148.
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