Design & Build, spot the missing link

Why do clients just let a ‘design and build’ contract? What these contracts do is leave a residual liability with the builder when they then have very little influence over how the assets are subsequently managed.


There is usually no contractual link between the FM contractor and the building contractor, and often as not the client will simply handover the FM to their supplier for other existing buildings.  Quite often this contractor will be a subsidiary of a competitor builder (guess how that works out). Mix in the client’s in-house team, the installer warranty requirements and you have potential for a toxic mix where accountability is diluted, avoided or passed off at will. The fact that most FM contracts are bespoke doesn’t help either.



I am sure we would all fess up to getting into squabbles about whose responsibiility the performance of the building is post-handover (energy performance being a classic of actual vs. intent). This type of issue and associated behaviours could be swept away in a stroke if the customer procured FM contracts from the builder. So surely it would be better to have a design, build and maintain arrangement? And no, I don’t mean PFI (although that does have its place). Indeed what PFI does for the good is keep the contractor and the maintainer closely engaged both before and after the handover. Their success is symbiotic and there is an interface agreement in place which generally keeps the client out of the loop of blame.



BIM, in its disruptive glory, challenges these outdated ways of working. It’s great that we are now starting to use BIM to create asset models that can be used in operations but it seems to me that the technology has already far outstripped the business model for the built environment. We appear to be trying to shoehorn this fantastic innovation into old methods. Surely you say Integrated Project Delivery will solve this? But even the IPD form doesn’t talk very much about the operational phases of a building.



I am now starting to wonder how on earth this is going to work in the new Government Soft Landings context. If I put myself in the builder’s boots then how am I going to react when I get a disappointing result from a post occupancy evaluation study, some three years after I handed the building over – and in that period it has been maintained by some unrelated party? Notwithstanding the excellent intent to make GSL an incentive based approach, I fear this has all the potential to be very heavy going.



It’s about time we tackled these issues once and for all, and got together to agree a new business model, backed up with new forms of contracts – so that we can deliver truly integrated projects to our customers.



By Kath Fontana, BAM FM