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Top tips for architects working with commercial developers

Insights from commercial developers about how architects can best work with them to optimise the brief for maximum value and provide efficient, error-free and timely service beyond Stage 3.

Commercial developers rely on architects’ creative imagination and unique combination of consultative communication skills to optimize the brief for maximum value. They also see a role for architects to maintain this value beyond Stage 3 by efficient, error-free and timely service through technical design, construction and beyond.

Developers acknowledge that, for reasons to do with their training and blinkered perspective on financial risk, they themselves can sometimes stand in the way of the best solutions. Without powerful reminders of the value of great architecture, design flair will lose out to safer but potentially less successful alternatives.

Top tips from commercial developers

  1. Assert your leadership skills – the door is wide open.
  2. Deploy your creativity fully within the bounds of the brief – it is welcome, expected and believed to be critically important.
  3. Be technically accurate, efficient, effective beyond Stage 3 to retain the value gained up to then.
  4. Engage the client in the broader vision and enthuse other stakeholders.
  5. Listen and understand your clients’ need for commercial viability; speak their language.

The RIBA for Clients initiative is overseen by the RIBA Client Liaison Group, chaired by Nigel Ostime of Hawkins\Brown. It was set up to understand clients' experiences of working with architects and the value they bring to the project team.

In the first phase of the initiative (2013 - 2015), we engaged with some 500 clients, gathering evidence through roundtable discussions and one-to-one filmed interviews by sector. We covered contractor-led procurement, housing, retrofit, local authorities, schools, workplace, commercial developers, healthcare, heritage, transport & infrastructure and sport & leisure sectors. The findings are summarised in the influential report Client & Architect - developing the essential relationship.

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