A quick guide to appointing a professional consultant for construction projects

Published: September 29, 2021
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A professional consultant can be a huge benefit to your project, helping to provide expert knowledge, support and advice. To get the best results, however, you want to be sure that you find not only the right kind of consultant but also the best consultant for your specific project and understand what is involved in their appointment.

Who is a professional consultant?

Within the construction industry, the term ‘professional consultant’ can describe many different professionals who provide services to those working on construction projects. They can be involved at certain stages of the project or throughout it, depending on their role and specialism.

Professional construction consultants can be involved in a project’s design or provide other services related to planning, supervision, testing and monitoring. Some consultants will be heavily involved in the project from its inception to completion, whereas others may have a more limited role.

Professional consultants may be:

Other consultants who are likely to have more minor roles in a construction project include acoustic engineers, landscape architects etc. These types of consultants provide niche services and so are not always a requirement.

How do you find a professional consultant?

There are several ways to find a suitable professional consultant for a construction project. One way is to refer to the following organisations and directories:

Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSEYou can also find a consultant via recommendations, such as by one consultant recommending another based on experience. This can be helpful for collaboration throughout the project where consultants have previously worked together.Open competition and selective competition can also be used to find a suitable contractor. Alternatively, employers and/or contractors may have an existing relationship with professional contractors.How is a professional consultant appointed?Typically, professional consultants are appointed by the employer, however, some consultants may be appointed by the contractor, especially in a design and build scenario. It is more common for contractors to appoint specialist contractors – such as geotechnical engineers and fire engineers – who are likely to be involved in design development.

There needs to be an agreement between the professional consultant and the employer or contractor that covers what the consultant is being hired to do and how much they will be paid. This is often agreed upon by exchanging letters or by the consultant submitting their standard terms of engagement. The employer and consultant can also agree to use a published industry body standard form appointment documents.

When it comes to larger construction projects, it is common for consultants to be engaged by a bespoke appointment document. This will usually be drafted by legal advisors and usually includes more detailed terms, conditions and schedules.

What key terms of appointment can you expect?

There are several key terms of appointment that you’re likely to see for professional consultants, including:

  • a schedule of services that details all of the services a specific consultant is expected to perform throughout the project
  • the consultant’s responsibilities and the standard of care they need to follow
  • the consultant’s fee and when it will be paid – this should also include information on payment for any additional services that are carried out by the consultant
  • how much the consultant is responsible for the design of the project
  • if any materials are prohibited
  • the obligation of the consultant to maintain professional indemnity insurance
  • what provisions are in place to deal with the termination of the consultant’s engagement
  • whether a contractor can assign or sublet any of their obligations under the appointment.

A schedule of services is also likely to be included within the appointment document, which will detail a consultant’s services as agreed upon with the employer. This will include all the services that the consultant will carry out during the project and must accurately reflect the services being undertaken from appointment to completion of works.