In a modern building project, no single person on a new project can understand 100% of every building system and their synergies.
As technological innovation in the design and construction of buildings becomes more complex by the day, the most prudent approach to handle complex projects is to hire a team of experts from many fields and facilitate collaboration between them in the best way possible. However, the way in which selection occurs may not be optimal for the project owner or client.
To start with, how would someone go about selecting an expert for themselves, such as a dentist or doctor? Would it be best to foster a relationship with them first, and then ensure transparent and direct communication with them? Or would the best approach be to hire someone to bid off their services, select bidders based on lowest price, and let the hired individual manage direct communication with the bidders?
Many project owners choose the latter approach. There is a cascading set of contracts and subcontracts, and the owner does not maintain communication downstream into the supply chain. Conventionally, owners generally communicate only with the architect and main contractor, while main contractors communicate with their subcontractors, and so on. Even with an awareness of how building systems can be extremely complicated, there is not much interest in knowing who is involved and whether they are the right people for the job.
It can be extremely valuable, however, for an owner to have a direct relationship with the subcontractors involved in the project. Actively engaging with design engineers and suppliers while working with architects and general contractors can show owners the gravity of decisions and the value additions that take place at the design engineer and supplier level.
Project delivery is significantly at risk when unsophisticated subcontractors are selected primarily because they are the cheapest. With the ever-increasing complexity of buildings, deep and complicated supply chains, and significant pressure to avoid project delays and stay within budget without compromising quality, not picking the best partners available becomes a high-risk decision.
There are ways to participate in the subcontractor selection process and not focus purely on price while complying with procurement laws if an owner is willing to do the research. Just like dentists are not selected based on lowest cost, why should this selection process be used on a construction project?
If you, as an owner, want better outcomes on your projects, get to know your supply chain and pick the best partners you can get on your teams.
Shwe Myat Myo Oo (ေရြႊျမတ္မ်ိဳးဦး)
Lead Engineer, Technical Development Division
B.S. 2016, Mechanical Engineering
Georgia Institute of Technology
Associate Member ASHRAE