Using a negotiated route to provide best value

January 2023

WG Carter recommend early contractor involvement in their projects to ensure best value for the client and, importantly, to reduce the incidence of variations once work has commenced.

A specialist builder can bring expertise and experience to a major refurbishment project well before machines and tools arrive on site. In fact, their contributions at the costing and detailing stage can be invaluable. WG Carter recommend early contractor involvement in their projects to ensure best value for the client and, importantly, to reduce the incidence of variations once work has commenced.

When a major refurbishment is undertaken, particularly for a private client, it’s very important to ensure that services and materials are procured at market prices and that the specification is such that the client’s wishes match the buildability of the vision. This is best achieved with a collaborative approach from the outset. Bringing WG Carter expertise into the project early helps the architect produce a schedule of work that closely matches the client’s brief before it goes to pricing. So, following an initial budget based on the client’s cost consultant’s preliminary assessment, we will work together with the architect to review and revise the scope of works by recommending different materials or processes to keep the project costs aligned. The negotiations will continue in cycles until all parties are satisfied with the project from the four imperatives of cost, quality, safety and programme.

Why a negotiated route is best for the client

This negotiated route is really about the contractor and design team working together to develop a design that suits the client’s budget, aesthetics and uses our experience and expertise to produce the most pragmatic and practical solution that delivers on that all important component – buildability.

Compare this to the single stage competitive tender – perhaps the most obvious way to collate a range of views, methods and prices, thereby demonstrating value for money to a client. This type of tender process relies on the bill of quantities being comprehensive enough for each contractor to be quoting on a like-for-like basis. But in an undersupplied market we often find the bill of quants incomplete which leads to significant variations in the approach and pricing from different contractors. It is common for WG Carter to pick up details that others may miss, often they are absent from the drawings and the detailing and unless each tender document is read with this detail in consideration, the selected contractor may not end up being the best solution for the client. It could mean budgets being revised midway through a project, or worse, quality compromises being introduced to keep the contract value within expectations.

So, early contractor involvement will take a lot of pressures off the design team, the QS and the client. As specialist constructors we hold a lot of expertise that we are happy to share very early in a project’s inception, so there’s a considerable advantage at design stage to have us on board, inputting to the practical detailing work.

Early contractor involvement for refurbishment projects

This works particularly well with refurbishment projects because through that early period we can start uncovering and debating some of the challenges with the existing building that would otherwise be hidden in the first stage of a competitive tender.  We can have a solution in place before the machines arrive on site. So, this helps the client massively. With a renovation, there’s so much more scope for additional work and variations because much of the original construction is hidden. As you uncover a roof in an old barn, you can’t see the conditions or materials until all the ceiling is down.  Taking a negotiated route means there’s more opportunity to do this investigative work and then research what needs to be done, rather than it just generating another variation on the job because no one foresaw the problem.

There is of course the hybrid solution, a two-stage tender where the bidding contractors outline their project approach, management and profit percentages in a comparatively straightforward process. It gives the contractors enough time to describe how they would go about the project, how they would set up the site and stage the build, so the client gets a good sense of how they operate. Once selected, the chosen contractor works with the client and design team to produce a detailed Schedule of Works, bringing in multiple quotes for the larger ticket items such as Mechanical and Electrical  sub-contractors. This ensures the project is let at market value and that the detailing is given sufficient consideration to bring confidence that variations should be minimal once the work commences on site.

Negotiated routes work best when detailing complex refurbishment projects