Building owners range from the individual householder to major institutional investors, housing associations, PFI companies, health trusts and others with large property portfolios - regarded as ‘professional clients’. These professional clients influence the choice of materials and products to secure the long-term value of their investment: whole of life costs are generally more important than initial capital cost.
Often, professional developers become involved. They are in the business of adding value to property for relatively short-term profit and are interested in products which help complete and sell their project quickly - what house builders call ‘kerb appeal’. Other parties linked to clients are also taking a more active role including funders, such as banks and lottery backed organisations, and insurers seeking to protect their own
positions. Finally, tenants can apply pressures on specification and design, particularly in terms of operation and running costs, as the end users of buildings. Of course, with some projects the same organisation acts in several of these roles but, even here, individuals with different responsibilities may not share the same views.
All these client groups have an impact on specification, perhaps through lists of preferred products and materials based on their past experience with similar buildings. On the negative side, materials which professional clients or their lawyers consider may cause performance, environmental or health problems in future, may be ‘blacklisted’. Dealt with positively in an informed way, these situations offer opportunities to form opinion and promote products but if ignored or mishandled they present real dangers to manufacturers.
Most building work in the UK today is carried out for a small number of major professional clients. Much is made of their growing influence at the expense of architects. However, the key decision makers within these organisations may well still be architects or other construction professionals, so that manufacturers’ target audiences remain the same.