Business Breakfast Debate Summary – Smarter thinking around the future of façades

In the midst of a plethora of challenges from designs that are pushing the boundaries, to unrealistic cost plans coupled with industry challenges such as Grenfell, it is no mean feat to successfully deliver great facades in today’s market.  Getting all the stakeholders together, tabling the issues and seeking alignment is a first step in moving forward on this journey.

Participants

Bill Soper – Principal Director, TP Bennett | Adrian Barnes – Preconstruction Director, McLaren | Colin Taylor – Associate Director, FMDC | Andrew Howland – Director, Colliers | Neil Murphy – Partner, MFS | Ross Price – Managing Director, Colorminium | Kieran Mallinson – Preconstruction Director, Colorminium | Gareth Baker  – Commercial Director, Colorminium | Ronnie Myatt – Business Development Manager, Colorminium

 

Following the success of the business breakfast debates we held last year, we recently held the first event in a new annual series aimed at taking this to the next level. A number of reoccurring themes came out of previous sessions, which we’re bringing forward as the discussion points as we continue this exciting journey titled “Smarter thinking around the future of façades”.

These forums bring ideas and challenges in the industry to the table. As we work together closer with Project Stakeholders, we find that more collaboration gives us insights and better alignment, which should lead to more project success.

We put the question on the table, Is there a smarter way to procure facades…?
Our views of what we think are some challenges in the industry at the moment;

  • Disparity between client’s expectations of cost plans and performance/visual design
  • Lack of standardisation in designs and products – increasing risk – every project is a prototype!
  • Misalignment between project stakeholders on the best way to approach the façade – ultimately increasing the risk of failure of the project

Where the PQS might have a view on costs and the architect on a design, unfortunately they don’t always align, which can bring its challenges. Debate was had as to which appointment is best done first: The Façade contractor or Main contractor to resolve the challenge. There are strong arguments for both. Ultimately, it is essential that a strong partnership is maintained between all parties and everyone is clear on what has been procured and their respective contractual responsibilities. Where clients and their representatives understand the time it takes to make sure the design and cost plan align and all the whole build team are on the same page, this is much more likely to provide a seamless delivery with better a project outcome and ultimately less cost.

Early engagement with a Façade contractor through the likes of a contractual vehicle such as a Pre-Construction Services agreement (PCSA) has significant benefits to projects. It allows the actual company that are going to deliver the project the chance to “look under the bonnet and make sure the engine is in good working order”. It is a great early warning system that can help flag up issues early and resolve them at the earliest opportunity with minimal cost and time impact. Understanding the risks of the project and providing more certainty to the client is always beneficial in helping to manage the process.

Neil Murphy of MFS highlighted ‘If we are allowed to give proper advice early enough and are able to develop technical concepts within stage 3 or stage 3+ that by the time the façade contractor comes in, you see a sensibly developed package. It might not be developed to the extent that you would like but the basic principles should be strong enough, that your approach isn’t going to be a million miles away from our approach. It’s selecting the right cladding strategy at an early stage that suits all the parameters, usually gets you there. It’s when you get outside influences coming in, all of a sudden this strategy that has been going along the right route and then someone comes in with another approach entirely.’

A fundamental challenge is that very few clients are willing to negotiate the façade at an early stage. How do you demonstrate the value for client? It is usually mandatory to get 3 bids for each package regardless and you can’t get away from that.

From a Façade Contractors perspective, every project is a prototype. Early engagement allows them to become involved earlier to bring forward some of those lessons learnt on past projects and reuse tried and tested design principles to avoid reinventing the “wheel”. The advancement of regulations, and the advancements of construction methodology, specifications, new products and different products, every combination is different, and to be able to convert that to a cost plan that can stand up to the light of day and stay rigid through the process is very difficult.

Standardisation of façade design principles, products and supply chain are all critical factors in de-risking façade delivery. Whilst at no point, do we wish to destroy the “design flare” that exists especially in London and its buildings, the more bespoke the project the more likely the cost plan is wrong and more likely the façade will fail to perform.

The event was summarised concisely by Adrian Barnes of McLaren in coming forward as a Main Contractor stating the importance of collaborating as much as we can and understanding how we can best work with others.

 

Testimonials

Neil Murphy – “ I found it to be an enjoyable and open discussion between industry professionals in a non-project based setting. This led to a relaxed conversation where you get to understand the viewpoint of all stakeholders on topics of mutual interest.”

Bill Soper – “Many thanks to you and your colleagues for a very enjoyable breakfast and interesting discussion at the Gherkin. It was interesting to hear the views around the table the most encouraging was the desire for all to work together harmoniously. A marked change from the historic confrontational approach.

In this vein, hopefully we can work together again on Hammersmith where the client is keen to have cost and time certainty provided it sits within his budget. The new product information was very interesting, and I have passed this onto our librarian as I suspect it will of interest to both architects and our interiors design team.”

Colin Taylor – “Thank you for inviting me to the Breakfast Event, I thoroughly enjoyed it and it was good to have a discussion and throw around some ideas on a topic that is very much at the forefront of everyone’s minds at the moment.

I think these types of events are excellent at bringing people together and many interesting ideas from different perspectives are shared. How we use them to influence any change in the industry is challenging however, but perhaps the more opportunities and discussions like this available, will help to bring forward that change.”