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Project development via the “design and build” procurement method, which has enjoyed increasing popularity due to the demonstrable benefits it can provide in terms of scheduling, costs and quality, is changing the role of engineers in the construction industry.
The design and build method of procurement is distinguished by its reliance on a single contracting entity known as a design-builder, which can minimize risks for the project owner by creating a sole point of accountability and shorten the project schedule by allowing parts of the design and construction phases to be conducted simultaneously.
The method affords a number of advantages compared to traditional contracting methods, reducing total capital costs and time frames while the combination of the designer and builder into a single entity can also greatly facilitate the development of a project. Omission of the tendering process also has a positive impact on quality by eliminating the temptation to simply seek contractors who provide the lowest bids.
The increasing popularity of design and build procurement in emerging markets such as the Middle East as well in industrialized economies in Europe, North America and Australiasia has in turn triggered fundamental shifts in the role of engineers within the construction industry.
Traditional roles are reversed in design and build procurement setting, with contractors acting as the clients of consultants, instead of consultants acting at the direct behest of clients.
Consultant engineers must possess a heightened awareness of the needs and requirements of contractors. This includes awareness of the construction program in order to release design information on schedule so that procurement is up to date, as well as greater detail in design and equipment information.
The distinction between contractors and consultants in terms of their areas of expertise and skill sets also becomes more ambiguous with engineers possessing experience in either area now frequently switching to the opposite role. It is now not unusual for engineers switching their place of employment from contractors to consultants and vice-versa.
The result is the need for greater versatility and a more well-rounded skill set among engineers in the construction industry, who may find themselves working on both the contracting and consulting side of the project development equation during their careers.