The role of client

This page covers:

Buildings

Being the 'client' of a building project is a very important role which can be hugely exciting and creative but can also be a shock when the project is finished and it becomes apparent that 'we did not think about that'.

Taking on client responsibilities in most asset projects is combined with being the actual owner/manager afterwards. This means that your organisation will bear the brunt of any mistakes made that relate to the viability of the land and building, its uses and the sustainability of its operation and management into the future. It is important therefore that this process allows a focus on your requirements as the eventual owner and operator of the land and buildings.

Throughout the design process, as the client, you should be scrutinising drawings as they emerge with a view to addressing the question of how the asset will run and how much it will cost to run.

Client Role

  • Being responsible for the execution of the project from the initial idea to implementation
  • Choosing the players involved in all stages from design through construction to long term management
  • Ensuring that the needs of building users/customers are met
  • Ensuring that the relevant permissions are secured (planning etc) in partnership with the professionals appointed to the project
  • May also be financier and eventual owner

It is worth mentioning that in many asset transfer projects the role of client may also be split. Projects can have different stakeholders and funders each of whom will have different requirements for being involved in the process of development and construction. It may be helpful to specifically consider the implications for the project of who take on the roles of 'Client' and 'Employer' at the construction stage. 

The client has an important role in the process since they will appoint advisors, authorise work to take place, agree costs and timetable and appoint professionals to the project. Some projects will have a community organisation or group as the client but may have difficulties with the role of Employer due to its liabilities.

At contract stage this client role is mostly known as the Employer and comes with specific liabilities. When the contract is ready for signing, the Employer for the contract is responsible for payments to the contractor and other professionals and may also take handover of the land or buildings when complete. This may prove beyond the financial capacity of a community based organisation and depending on how the whole process is funded and who will own the land or buildings at the end of construction, there will need to be a specific discussion on who will take on the Client and Employer roles during the process.

Whole Life Costing

The most beautiful and inspiring building in the world can also be an expensive headache, but it is possible to have beauty and inspiration and an asset that is not a drain on the resources of the organisation that owns and manages it.

To avoid an asset becoming a drain on resources it is necessary to think about the whole life costing of a project. This is 'the systematic consideration of all relevant costs and revenues associated with the ownership of an asset'. Typically a surveyor estimates over a 20-25 year period what it will cost to operate, repair, replace and renew building or landscape elements. These costs are then given a current value in order that an owner can make decisions about and plan investment in an asset.

It involves making judgements, with a client and other members of a professional team about when elements (windows doors etc) will need replacing or repairing and what kind of cyclical maintenance (like decoration) will be required. These are then costed and used for the purposes of financial planning for the revenue and capital costs of running the asset.