New guidance empowers construction clients to help drive up standards, collaboration, innovation and value
Being a construction client isn’t just about creating the right building for the right price within the right timeframe. It is also an opportunity to solve some of the biggest economic, ethical and ecological problems we face today.
Clients play a pivotal role in collective efforts to raise construction industry standards, improve collaborative working, encourage innovation and push towards net-zero.
It is not uncommon however for clients, particularly end user clients, to have no professional training and little or no prior experience of the construction process, which is why the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) has launched a new online resources hub – for both homeowners and professional clients - designed to help them achieve better project outcomes and deliver greater value.
Construction clients oversee projects of all sizes, from major builds such as new schools and medical facilities, to household loft conversions and everything in between. For those construction clients who work in the public sector - in healthcare, education or local government for example, achieving quality and best value is imperative. Public sector clients not only have to consider the benefits to the people who will use the completed building, but also have responsibility to protect the public purse.
5,426 construction projects totalling £32 billion were completed in the public sector alone in 2022, while contracts for a further 4,096 projects worth around £25 billion were awarded.*
Clients are responsible for navigating a complex web of resources, contractors, suppliers and legislation. The introduction of the Building Safety Act in 2022 and the supporting secondary legislation, currently in development, includes additional, clearly defined responsibilities for clients, yet in many cases there is a lack of understanding of the expectations and processes to be followed.
In many cases the client will be trying to co-ordinate their construction project alongside their day jobs, for example, a school’s headteacher overseeing the building of new classroom block, a medical practice manager commissioning an extension to a GP’s waiting room, a civil servant leading the retrofit of an existing government building and, of course, a homeowner planning their first loft conversion or kitchen extension. Knowing where to turn for help and best practice advice, for example, on how to select contractors, suppliers and materials, and how to meet targets on quality and sustainability, can be a challenge.
To support construction clients, CIOB has launched new digital resources for both homeowners and professional clients. All resources are available online with much of the information offered free of charge.
Central to CIOB’s initial support for clients working in a professional capacity is a new, best-practice, step-by-step guide: Leading Projects in the Built Environment.
Aimed at those who are new to the construction process, the easy to digest document is designed to help professional clients get the building blocks right from the start. It explains how projects are generally structured and managed, and what to look out for along the way. Drawing on CIOB members’ experience and expertise, it highlights the things clients can do to benefit their project such as having a clear project brief from the outset, making decisions based on long-term value rather lowest cost and using professionals to undertake the work. Although the guide is aimed primarily at professional clients running larger projects/programmes, the principles apply to all clients regardless of project size.
Additional resources include online training courses via the CIOB academy and signposting to third-party support, as well as a set of top tips and FAQs for homeowners. Over time, CIOB envisages a global, one-stop-shop for all clients in need of advice on how to make their construction project a success. The online hub will be regularly updated with best practice case studies and knowledge sharing podcasts and there will be resources available for contractors, who themselves become clients when they subcontract work.
The ambition is to capture and share learnings to encourage greater collaboration and good decision making, highlight known pitfalls and help minimise waste. Ultimately the aim is to help clients achieve better project outcomes for them, the environment and society at large.
Having best-practice support and guidance from a trusted body, such as CIOB, should ultimately empower construction clients with the knowledge and skills they need to achieve a quality outcome, better value for their investment and peace of mind during the process.
CIOB’s commitment to clients was renewed in 2021 by its past president Mike Foy OBE, but is now a strategic focus, embedded in the institute’s new five-year corporate plan. Foy is now Chair of the CIOB Client Steering Group, set up to oversee the development and implementation of the CIOB’s work stream to support construction clients.
Commeting on the CIOB's new guidance for construction clients, Lord Stunell said:
“The CIOB’s new toolkit will help overcome a key barrier to delivering consistently high quality outcomes in the construction industry: many clients don’t have the professional background to evaluate the options they face when setting out on a project, nor to ‘see round the corners’ as it progresses.
"Their guidance will be especially useful to the many householders who annually set off on a project without a compass!"
To access CIOB’s client resources visit https://www.ciob.org/industry/support-for-clients
*Data from Barbour ABI
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