Ensuring effective project delivery with compliance monitoring

Mark Wibberley is associate director at John Robertson Architects

The role of compliance monitoring in the successful delivery of many medium- to large-scale schemes is rarely discussed outside the context of the projects in which it operates. Yet the establishment of a compliance monitoring team (CMT) is routinely a requirement of investors and insurers of key projects, often with a highly focused role in the overall delivery process.

A CMT aims to ensure a project complies with what has been agreed at the outset and then monitors for any changes during the lifetime of the contract.

The process – critical to completing a building in line with defined contract parameters – is especially important for large and complex mixed-use developments, where issues should be raised and addressed at the earliest opportunity before they have the potential to place a project at significant risk.

Compliance monitoring assumes a greater importance when a client and contractor enter into a design-and-build contract, and when a design team is novated to the contractor.

At this point, a client will invariably require independent architectural technical advice as a means of evaluating that design documents produced post-contract – together with the quality of the construction works delivered – are in compliance with the original contract requirements or any agreed changes.

The process should ensure any non-compliance is communicated to the relevant parts of the client and contractor teams to allow corrective action to be taken.

Adding value

An effective CMT will add value to projects when adopting a proactive approach, which uses past project experiences to anticipate potential issues, rather than responding to challenges as they arise.

The need for compliance monitoring can usually be identified at five distinct project work stages, from pre-contract through construction to post-completion. In practice, it can be implemented across any or all of these stages for any given project and will include:

  • Peer reviews of the design architect’s RIBA Stage 3 and 4 Reports;
  • Assessments of client requirements against contractors’ proposals;
  • Commenting on and reviewing submitted design documents, mock-ups, benchmarks, samples and prototypes;
  • Undertaking routine inspections of work in progress and identifying any non-conformance;
  • Monitoring construction progress against programme deliverables; and
  • Monitoring the close-out of any identified snagging issues.

Most non-compliances are identified and resolved during the drawing and documentation phase. However, the CMT will also pick up a non-compliant installation of a product or components on site as part of a routine inspection. The most effective way of reducing these types of non-compliance is by quality benchmarking a selection of typical installations.

The disciplines making up the compliance team (structural, MEP, façades, etc) should reflect the complexity of the proposed project, and bring together wide-ranging practical experience, sound construction knowledge, independent technical expertise and a pragmatic approach to problem solving to support the successful delivery of a project.

Knowledge sharing

Client and contractor teams are encouraged to participate in a ‘lessons learnt’ exercise at the commencement and conclusion of a project to share knowledge and experiences of successes and failures, and to review how the process could be improved in future.

The role of an architectural CMT lead is to engage appropriately with the design architects to nurture a mutually respectful and complementary relationship throughout the duration of the project.

“A robust compliance-monitoring process means that risk items can be identified at an early stage and addressed”

The CMT should not seek to change or undermine the design; rather, it seeks to identify if any elements of the design are non-compliant, or may have an impact on how the proposed scheme can be built or maintained, and address these issues in conjunction with other members of the wider design and development team.

Clients are increasingly asking the CMT for input on value engineering (VE) prior to the contract being entered into, as well as to review any VE proposals raised by the contractor team during the construction phase.

While it is difficult to put an exact value on the contribution that a CMT can bring to a project’s overall success, a robust compliance-monitoring process means that risk items can be identified at an early stage and addressed accordingly. This helps to reduce the extent of design changes required during the construction phase, which can otherwise have an adverse effect on time and cost.

Adding value

Interestingly, there has been a marked increase in recent months in the number of due diligence enquiries covering Stages 3, 4 and 5 for smaller projects. This may be an indication of the fact that developer teams are seeing value in having an independent team provide them with support on their investment projects.

Clients will ultimately take advice from members of their professional team as to the level of perceived risk a project entails and make decisions on the extent to which a CMT is required to monitor a specific project.

In some cases, no more than a ‘light touch’ is needed where the client wants some degree of monitoring support during the project’s lifecycle and where the overall risk is deemed to be low; for instance, in a small-scale fit-out project. In other cases, a CMT can be a critical element in helping projects meet the client’s project expectations and delivery deadlines, and to stay within predicted budget allocations.

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