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The Benefits of Early Contractor Involvement in Minor Works Projects

The construction industry has proven itself to be remarkably resilient following the disruption to supply chains in 2021 caused by the pandemic and Brexit transition period. According to the Office for National Statistics, monthly construction output increased by 1.1% in volume terms in January 2022. The highest level in three years. This increase came solely from a 4.6% increase in repair and maintenance minor works. Although the recovery rate for the sector as a whole is mixed, it is clear public sector minor works contracts are on the rise. In this Article, Key Account Manager Natalie Palframan, with assistance from City Build and Walter Carefoot & Sons, explores why it is key to consider the benefits of early contractor involvement to ensure successful project delivery outcomes.

When should a minor works contract be used?

Minor works refers to smaller, less complex construction projects, usually below £500,000 in contract value. These contract types can be commonly associated with the Joint Contracts Tribunal (JCT) Minor Works Building Contract. Formed by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) in 1931, it adheres to a more traditional procurement route, where the client appoints a consultant to design the project before a contractor is involved. With a heavy focus on the transfer of risk and liabilities, this method does not allow for collaboration and early engagement with the contractor. Early contractor involvement (ECI) can bring onboard many benefits. The earlier a contractor participates in a project, the higher the potential benefits of collaboration during the design process. Contractors can have valuable input into buildability discussions and advice, planning of the project stages, and sharing innovation and best practice. So, how can you include a contractor in the early stages of your project?

Why is Early Contractor Involvement (ECI) Important?

The best way to engage with a contractor early on in project initiation is to release an early contractor notification. A soft market test of the commercial market can help determine capabilities to meet the project requirements, and secure enough interested parties for a robust competitive process. Early publication of a Project Initiation Form (PIF) notifies contractors that the project is coming to market, giving them opportunity to review the project scope, management, and overall key criteria of the project. This allows contractors to have visibility of the basic context and specification of the project’s design and build and allocate bidding resource to tender. Open communication and access to the project details early in the process also improves the retention rate of bidders throughout the exercise.

Under an ECI system, one contractor is selected at an earlier stage in the process to work on the scheme. Depending on client preference, this can be either at the preliminary/concept design or detailed design stages. Tendering for minor works contracts with early contractor involvement, usually takes a single stage procurement route. For the single-stage route, a formal Expression of Interest (EOI) is requested, for keen parties to formally identify their commitment in proceeding to the tender stage. The single-stage approach realises a fixed cost up front based on a project scope, which often separates the design from the build. It is a labour and time intensive process for contractors, so they need adequate time to go out to their supply chain partners and obtain costs. Projects supported by Procure Partnerships under the £1m threshold are mostly procured via a single stage tender. We have many years of experience supporting public sector bodies to find suitable contractors to deliver their minor works projects. With access to appropriately sized contractors and contract value bands separated into £50K-£1m and £1m-£4m brackets, we ensure we find a contractor through the tender process that matches the exact requirements for your project. The Procure Partnerships team have the right expertise to ensure an efficient and best value procurement process, maximising the benefits of procuring for minor works through a dedicated construction framework.

Batching Projects For A Programme Of Works

One extremely effective method of efficient procurement we execute at Procure Partnerships is batching projects together for a programme of minor works. Tendering in this way allows the contractor to benefit from significant cost savings for both prelims and logistics, and in turn ensures best value for our clients. Preliminaries refers to equipment or utilities necessary to complete the works, but that do not form part of the bill of materials, e.g., plant machinery, heavy construction equipment, scaffolding, water and power, and other site overheads. By batching projects together, a strategic procurement and project delivery plan can be formed to share materials and equipment across multiple project sites, reducing the number of deliveries, and in turn reducing the project’s overall carbon footprint. With a mandatory requirement for all public sector projects to demonstrate a commitment to environmental and sustainability improvements, this methodology supports the efforts to continuously improve efficiency, reduce carbon emissions and waste, and back the Government’s mission to achieve net zero carbon targets by 2050. Importantly, batching together numerous minor works projects lowers the overall project delivery costs and makes this a commercially beneficial practice.

Other financial savings associated with batching projects are the ability to consolidate the workforce by deploying resources across various sites at different stages of the project, and the ability to consolidate orders for materials; bulk orders increase your buying power and drive down costs ensuring best value for the client. Clients also benefit from a relationship with a single contractor, having one contractor delivering the programme of works builds trust through a single point of contact, as well as allowing for quicker mobilisation of the project, keeping it on track and within budget.

How We Support Minor Works Projects

Procure Partnerships recognise the importance of early contractor involvement in construction projects, particularly in minor works contracts. As a respected and experienced UK procurement framework specialist, with specific expertise in construction frameworks, we identify opportunities to improve value for money and deliver environmental and social value throughout the public procurement process. Managing multiple projects is complex and time consuming and navigating a best value procurement process can be a minefield. We give public sector bodies the peace of mind that our tried and tested procurement methods will ensure a suitable, trusted, and reputable contractor is appointed to deliver your project successfully.

Our National Minor Works Framework option is split into two value lots of £50,000 – £1m and £1m – £4m. All contractor partners were selected as a result of their expertise and experience in delivering projects of this scale. As a result of its success, the framework is frequently requested and is being used by public sector clients across our 11 regions. Procure Partnerships are able to offer clients a one stop shop for the procurement of contractors to deliver their construction projects from £50k right up to £100m+.

Two leading minor works contractors that are available through our Procure Partnerships North West Framework are City Build and Walter Carefoot & Sons (Carefoot). We spoke with Andrew Field of City Build and Paul Buttery of Carefoot to discuss the benefits of early contractor involvement. 

Andrew Field, Business Manager, City Build Commented: “City Build has undertaken 24 minor works projects through Procure Partnerships Framework over the last four years. On several occasions we have been appointed to deliver multiple small refurbishments and upgrades, batched together under one contract, on healthcare facilities across the North West of England. Under this method of operation City Build creates best value through significant prelims cost savings to the Client, contributes to our and the Framework’s target to reduce our carbon footprint, and feeds into our social value initiatives in line with National TOMS around areas such as sustainability and use of local supply chain and labor. The result is high quality work delivered on time, within budget, safely, to the highest quality standards, whilst making a measurable difference in the communities around our sites.”

Paul Buttery, Business Development Manager, Walter Carefoot & Sons, Commented: “Our experience has shown that Early Contractor Involvement on Minor Works contracts is important to ensuring that minor works remain ‘minor’. Through an outcome-based approach and working with the supply chain; cost, programme and downstream issues can be eliminated from smaller projects which are cost and time critical by nature.”

“Risk Allocation on any size of project is always better understood through Early Contractor Involvement. On Minor Works Contracts having the breathing space to develop a shared Risk and Opportunity Register can deliver greater percentage of added value / cost savings.”

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