Traditionally, the sequence of events leading to the completion of a building project follows a set pattern with different products selected at various stages. Outline proposals are often prepared for an original landowner by surveyors or architects to determine development potential. These proposals should result in outline planning consent, after which the land may be sold on and new consultants appointed or nothing further happens. Scheme design gives the building’s architectural design, basic layout, size and shape, with external materials for detailed planning consent and other architecturally significant products selected. At this stage, the cost consultant will have prepared a cost plan which determines cost levels of materials and influences their choice.
If funding is available, the project can continue with detailed design, where technical aspects are dealt with and Building Regulations approval of plans obtained. Subsequently, working drawings, specifications and other documents are prepared to constitute production information covering all aspects of the project and this is where most true specification will take place. The cost consultant will often prepare bills of quantities and schedules to accompany architects’ drawings and documents from other consultants, including the CDM Coordinator, as tender documents. Selected contractors are then invited to tender and their prices analysed and compared with the cost plan. The project is most at risk at this stage and negotiated savings, perhaps involving specification changes, are often needed to allow it to continue.
To proceed, the selected contractor enters into a legal contract with the client, usually in a standard form such as Joint Contracts Tribunal - JCT - adapted to suit. The architect now acts as a ‘quasi-arbitrator’ between client and contractor in administering the contract and carrying out inspections of work. Contract drawings, specification, etc., are binding but alternative materials are often introduced during construction without the architect’s consent - or sometimes with, if delivery problems occur or savings are needed.