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Management lesson from Germany

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I read with interest your article 'How to run your own projects (aj 20-27.8.98)'. Construction management is the normal method of building procurement here in Germany and its systemisation and evolution here may offer further insight to its use in Britain.

First and foremost, the reinstatement of the architect to the centre of the construction process removes the ambiguous and sometimes aggressive involvement of the quantity surveyor. The architect is the single channel of information between all parties from client to contractor (and contractor often means those with hands-on responsibility for their tradeon site).

The architect in Germany is expected to produce cost forecasts and site programmes as well as controlling invoicing and payment between contractor and client. The overall increase in workload is reflected by higher fee levels. One project architect can be responsible for all aspects of the building including those which, in Britain, are the strict domain of the quantity surveyor. Costing and quantifying is, however, surprisingly undemanding, especially with 3D-cad systems, and the resulting awareness of the building process is comprehensive to the point of enlightenment.

A frequent occurrence in Germany is, unfortunately, the appointment of a second architect (Bauleiter) to carry out the role of quantity surveyor and architect supervising the works. This second appointment can easily result in an immediateloss of control which leaves the first project architect in a far worse position than his British equivalent.

A further word of warning: since cost reports and tenders tend to be more comprehensible under construction management (where every trade is tendered separately) it is much easier for the client to spy their own savings. The phrase 'essential to the overall composition of the elevation' can sound rather weak while you watch the client, with a gleam in his eye, move his red pen to the cost of a beautiful steel detail.

Experience in Germany teaches one that, used carefully, construction management is often the only way to go. The architect really is the professional who is trained and able to take charge and remain in charge of all aspects of building procurement.


DC Architecten, Berlin

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