PCSA/Early Design

Pre-Contract Service Agreements or PCSAs are becoming more common in the façade world. They are no longer restricted to the iconic landmark projects where there are only 2 or 3 contractors in the world capable of delivering them, and one is selected at an early stage, and paid to develop the design to a point where costing is relatively well understood and aligned with the ultimate project business plan.

Why is PCSA a good thing?

For the client.

Engaging a trusted façade contractor, with a proven track record in the field at an early stage, to work with the architect can bring many benefits in terms of cost and technical advice. True value engineering can be applied at a stage where it adds value instead of merely cutting cost. With access to the material supply chain, and real commercial relationships with suppliers, better cost certainty is available than would be possible were the architect simply to be working with a Façade Consultant to work out a generic design to fit a performance specification. As probably the most significant spend on the project, other than the frame itself, the client and architect get better control of, and engagement with the outcome than they would if the façade was supplied as a cost item, selected much later and on the basis of the cheapest tender return to the appointed main contractor, who will then add 15% and push based on program thus reducing or eliminating any time for consideration of proper value engineering or the development of more appropriate detailing based on experience.

For the Façade Contractor

The PCSA subcontractor having spent some time on the project already will be well placed in terms of understanding of the project, and will be able to shorten the programme duration for design, and procurement details, materials and suppliers will be lined up and ready to go into design approval and order placement far quicker than anyone just picking the project up should the decision be made to tender the package.

More commonly the façade contractor is engaged with a budget to design the façade, and will work through design options and specifications with the client team to get to the target number. At this stage a great deal of value engineering is done to determine and differentiate between the “must have” and “nice to have” items. There may well be a huge cost difference in finishes of panels or profiles if the architect is particularly attached to a specific anodised finish, but the ultimate client would be just as happy with a similar looking PPC finish for example. The façade consultant may prefer a bespoke system designed for the project, where the façade contractor knows of an off the shelf system with published test data and can save tens of thousands of pounds and months from the programme. In this case the contractor and client team understands that the contract will be a negotiation and not an auction where the lowest bid wins.

For the Main Contractor

While a main contractor may feel he has lost some control if the façade contractor is novated after he is appointed, the advantages to the program and the management of the approval process is significantly easier, as it has largely been taken care of during the PCSA period. The relationships across the project team are much more collaborative and conducive to a successful outcome, than where a subcontractor is trying to make an architect accept and approve a design, or materials he has allowed for in a competitive tender, which may not be what the architect or consultant expected, and can lead to drawings covered in red ink comments and rejected submissions.

The sampling process can often be a drawn-out affair, significantly impacting the program as procurement cannot get under way before material approval. This can all be dealt with during the PCSA process with glass and paint finishes already submitted and approved.

Scope gaps between contractors can be clarified and resolved during PCSA, so that it is perfectly clear what the façade contractor will be supplying, and what needs to be done by interfacing trades, making the costing and appointment of those trade contacts quicker and cleaner.

Commenting on, and costing of the performance specification will have been resolved with consideration, rather than being rushed through a limited tender process so that all parties understand clearly what, if anything, costs more than would normally be the case if the specification requires something more onerous than the industry standard.

For the Project

Early engagement of specialist subcontractors, not just façade contractors, in any complex project must be advantageous for all concerned. The client has cost certainty at a much earlier stage, and can make informed VE decisions based on actual market experience. The façade contractor gets workload certainty on projects further in advance, and can better plan resources and put supply chain agreements in place with negotiated discounts and production slot assurance. The process of final design approval is much easier, and does not threaten the programme by becoming an acrimonious exchange of letters and arguments over what is allowed for in the bid and what is an extra or variation. The old traditional methods of contracting and construction with an architect making decisions and a main contractor appointing tradesmen are no longer appropriate and have not been for some time. The future requires specialist collaboration and cooperation for everyone in the process to achieve their optimum result and a win-win strategy is the only realistic way for this to happen.