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Top tips for architects working with contractors

Insight from contractors about how architects can collaborate to produce schemes that address buildability, risk and commercial viability.

Conditions for contractor clients are set by the head client – their paymasters. Head clients have driven hard bargains over the last few years by pushing for higher quality, less risk, and ever greater value for money.

Design-build procurement is their instrument of choice, squeezing contractors, who in turn expect more from their architects and other members of the team. The RIBA’s round table discussion and 1-2-1 interviews with contractors revealed the factors that make a critical difference.

Top tips from contractors

  1. Listen to contractor clients to make sure you understand their key priorities and deliver value.
  2. Collaborate fully with the project team and proactively facilitate optimum design solutions.
  3. Immerse yourself in issues of buildability, risk, and commercial viability.
  4. Repossess the design management role saving contractor clients the cost of hiring design managers.
  5. Acknowledge the cultural shift needed to work as equal partners in contractor clients' project teams.

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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