A consultant is a person who provides professional advice. In construction, consultants work on a “project-basis” – advising on specific tasks that pertain to that project. The are many different types of consultants that operate in the construction industry – and most projects require advice from a variety of consultants. Some of the most common consultant roles include architectural consultants, engineering consultants, budget consultants, as well as government authorities such as site inspectors. Some of the more prestige consultant roles involve developing the design of the project, administering contracts and various documentation, and even overseeing the work of the main contractor.
What do they do?
It is vital for clients to carefully examine the needs of their project, and then assess which of those needs require further consultation. For example, a client may want to prioritise sustainability in the outdoor spaces – so it would be prudent for them to hire a landscaping consultant to assist the head architect with the design of the garden. To effectively decide which consultants are appropriate for a specific project, clients should familiarise themselves with all the various types of consultants available.
Once a client has decided which consultants are necessary for their project, they need to appoint someone to manage these consultants and the services they render during the construction process. This person is called the “principal agent”, and their primary task is to represent and act on behalf of their client when dealing with the various contractors, sub-contractors, and consultants involved in the building process. Usually the architect of a project takes on the role of the principal agent – but this role can also be fulfilled by a quantity surveyor, an engineer, or the project manager. Architects are the most suitable candidate, as they have an extensive understanding of not only design, but of the technical requirements of all building projects.
What do they do?
The principal agent has several other contractual obligations to execute during the building process as well. Principal Agents are a complete necessity, as they carry out tasks that their employer is unable to perform due to their lack of experience and qualification. Some of these tasks include the issuing of instructions, communication on behalf of their employer, and the co-ordination of building information.
Many different professionals, such as consultants and sub-contractors, could be operating on site at any given time – and all of these professionals are producing building information necessary for the completion of their work. This information needs to be co-ordinated, refined, and communicated to the client where necessary. This is another responsibility of the principal agent – as they have an in-depth understanding of building information. Principal Agents are obligated to fulfil this, and all their other responsibilities, with adequate precision and attention, constant professionalism, and with the best interests of the employer in mind. Clients and principal agents must devise a ‘contract of agency’ that clearly states the parameters in which the principal agent has authority.
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