Establishing collaborative practices is of particular importance on building design and construction projects, as they are likely to involve bringing together large number of diverse disciplines, many of whom will not have worked together before. They are also likely to involve the co-ordination and integration of a great deal of complex information, procedures and systems.
Failure to establish clear and efficient project-wide collaborative practices can be disastrous.
This has become increasingly true as project structures have evolved from straight-forward client – consultant – contractor relationships to more integrated structures with complex financing arrangements, early engagement of the supply chain and the introduction of sub-contractor and supplier design.
It is important to establish the broad principles of collaborative practice as early as possible in a project, even if some specific details are left unresolved until later stages.
A decision to adopt a collaborative approach should be taken at the outset by the client (perhaps with advice from independent client advisers) so that a requirement to follow appropriate procedures can be included in appointment documents and can be a consideration in the selection of procurement route, form of contract and preparation of tender documentation. The implementation of collaborative practices should then be discussed in detail during consultant team start-up meetings, specialist contractor start-up meetings and pre-contract meetings.
The Government Construction Strategy recommends that public projects adopt design and build, private finance initiative or prime-type contract procurement routes, as these are considered to be more collaborative. They also suggest adoption of the NEC3 form of contract which they believe encourages collaboration more effectively than some other more traditional contracts which can be seen as adversarial.
Other forms of collaborative procurement include partnering (sometimes referred to as alliancing), which is a broad term used to describe a management approach that encourages openness and trust between the parties to a contract. The parties become dependant on one another for success and this requires a change in culture, attitude and procedures throughout the supply chain. It is most commonly used on large, long-term or high risk contracts. Where a partnering relationship is for a specific project, it is known as ‘project partnering‘. Where it is a multi-project relationship it is known as ‘strategic partnering‘.
Partnering contracts are often arranged on a cost-reimbursable, target-cost, open-book basis including both incentives, and penalties. Partnering agreements include the project partnering contract PPC2000, the term partnering contract TPC2005, the NEC partnering agreement and the ICE Partnering Addendum. See Partnering form more information.
Organisational working practices that encourage collaboration might include:
- Clear lines of communication and authority.
- Protocols for the preparation and dissemination of information.
- Co-location of team members.
- Financial motivation (such as tying the consultant team and the contractor into a common target cost for which there is joint ‘pain’ or ‘gain’).
- Rewarding initiative. This can be particularly important for members of the client team, whose careers are likely to be assessed solely on the basis of their ‘normal’ activities, rather than their involvement in a project. Recognising the work they put into a project and rewarding them for this is important if they are to remain committed.
- Regular workshops and team meetings.
- Problem resolution procedures, which should be based on solutions not blame.
- Procedures to ensure continuous improvement. This might require continual benchmarking, target setting, assessment, feeding back and adaptation.
- Early warning procedures.
- Social activities.
Roles and responsibilities
Clarity of responsibility and co-ordination can be improved by the appointment of:
- A project sponsor or client representative.
- Client champions for different aspects of the project.
- A project manager.
- A lead consultant.
- A lead designer.
- A design co-ordinator (for the co-ordination and integration of design prepared by specialist contractors).
- An information manager for computer aided design (CAD) or building information modelling (BIM).
In addition, the appointment of a construction manager or management contractor (or early appointment of a design and build contractor) can result in better integration of design and construction, as can the early involvement of specialist contractors or suppliers.This may have an impact on the fee profile for a project which will be more likely to be ‘front-loaded’, but should result in fewer problems as the project progresses.
Ensuring that consultants sign up to the use of compatible systems and adopt agreed document and drawing standards will help facilitate collaboration.
Systems might include:
- Computer Aided Design (CAD).
- Building Information Modelling (BIM).
- Common document management systems.
- Common E document management systems (these can be in-house, or externally hosted, ie. a project extranet).
- Common data environment.
A consistent approach to software systems, versions, drawing standards and file formats are very important for design projects and will avoid duplicated effort and errors.
Drawing standards might include:
- Layering standards.
- Zoning strategy.
- Grid strategy.
- Origin and orientation.
- Naming protocols.
- Agreed standards for dimensions, abbreviations and symbols.
- Standard templates (for example drawing titles).
- Standard page sizes and scales.
- Distribution protocols.
- Change control procedures.
Standardisation procedures also apply to the production of other forms of project documentation. The creation of a document matrix outlining key documents that will be required in the development of the project, their format and distribution can be beneficial.
Establishing a common data environment (CDE), within which the creation of information such as drawings can be shared between the consultant team can improve efficiency, avoid duplication and enhance co-ordination. See Common Data Environment for more information.