Welcome to the second instalment in our series, which is centred on the pivotal role of the Employer’s Agent in construction projects. If you haven’t yet, we highly recommend reading our previous article covering the role’s basics. [Link to Employer’s Agent 101: The Basics]. This piece focuses on the early stages of a Design and Build project, specifically the pre-construction phase.

The Employer’s Agent role during this phase is of vital importance. Acting as a client representative and utilising their project management and contract administration expertise, they guide the client and the design team through the initial RIBA stages 1-3.

It’s their responsibility to ensure the final design effectively captures the client’s vision and aligns with the terms outlined in the contract documents.


Feasibility and Preliminary Assessments

In the pre-construction phase, the Employer’s Agent (EA) undertakes critical feasibility and preliminary assessments to lay the groundwork for a successful project. The EA’s role involves thoroughly evaluating project viability and considering factors such as site conditions, potential logistical challenges, and environmental impacts. They coordinate with clients to grasp the project objectives and constraints, ensuring that the proposed plan aligns with the client’s vision and expectations. This stage is crucial for identifying any potential issues early on, allowing for adjustments before significant resources are committed. The EA’s expertise in these assessments is vital in steering the project towards realistic and achievable goals.


Design Coordination and Review

During the pre-construction phase, the Employer’s Agent (EA) plays a pivotal role in coordinating and reviewing the project design. This involves working closely with architects, engineers, and other design professionals to ensure that the design meets both the client’s specifications and regulatory requirements. The EA reviews design proposals for feasibility, cost-effectiveness, and compliance with the project’s objectives. They also facilitate communication between the design team and the client, ensuring that any design changes are well-communicated and agreed upon. The EA’s involvement is crucial in resolving any design-related issues, mitigating risks, and ensuring that the design phase progresses smoothly and efficiently. This thorough engagement in the design process helps in maintaining the project’s integrity and alignment with the client’s vision.


Budgeting and Cost Planning

In the pre-construction phase, the Employer’s Agent (EA) oversees budgeting and cost planning, often coordinating with a cost consultant:

  • Budget Oversight: The EA ensures the project budget, prepared by a cost consultant, aligns with the client’s financial expectations and project objectives.
  • Cost Control Strategies: Implementing and monitoring cost control measures.
  • Value Engineering Review: Overseeing the evaluation of cost-saving opportunities in design proposals.
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis Coordination: Facilitating cost-benefit analyses for different project elements.
  • Financial Forecasting and Reporting: Supervising financial forecasting and providing the client with regular budget updates.

While sometimes the roles of the EA and cost consultant may be combined, the EA’s primary responsibility is to ensure effective budget management and financial viability of the project.


Risk Management

The Employer’s Agent (EA) plays a crucial role in risk management during the pre-construction phase:

  • Risk Identification: The EA identifies potential risks, including those related to project scope, timeline, budget, and compliance.
  • Risk Assessment: Assessing the impact and likelihood of identified risks.
  • Mitigation Strategy Development: Developing comprehensive risk mitigation strategies to address potential challenges.
  • Management Plan: Implement and manage the risk mitigation plan, ensuring all team members are aware of their roles in risk management.
  • Regular Reviews: Conduct regular risk assessments and update the mitigation strategies as necessary.

Developing and managing a thorough risk mitigation strategy by the EA are essential for minimising potential disruptions and ensuring the project’s success.


Regulatory Compliance and Permissions

One of the most crucial aspects of the employer agent’s role during the early design phase of a construction project is ensuring regulatory compliance and permissions. This involves a close collaboration with the design team and responsible authorities.

  1. Compliance with Local Laws: The employer agent works hand in glove with the design team to ensure that the construction project aligns with local laws, building codes, and regulations. This includes ensuring the design team incorporates elements such as accessibility and energy efficiency stipulated by law.
  2. Planning Permissions: Another significant responsibility of the employer agent is securing necessary approvals. From obtaining planning permissions to other necessary certifications, the agent ensures the design falls within the constraints set by regulatory bodies.

In conclusion, the employer agent plays an indispensable role in regulatory compliance and permissions, easing the legal burdens from the client and design team.


Tendering and Contractor Selection

Once the design phase is complete, the employer agent transitions into a critical role in tendering and contractor selection. This entails:

  1. Formulating a tender strategy, outlining the bidding process and criteria for selection. This sets a clear roadmap for prospective contractors and ensures transparency.
  2. A thorough vetting of contractors, assessing their capabilities, previous performance, and financial stability. This minimizes risk by selecting only the most qualified and reliable contractors.
  3. Overseeing the tendering process, ensuring fairness and integrity. The employer agent manages all communication, informing the client of progress and any issues.
  4. Evaluating bids and advising on contractor appointments. The employer agent uses their expertise to analyze bids, considering the cost, the quality of the proposal, and the contractor’s capacity to deliver.

In conclusion, the employer agent’s role in tendering and contractor selection is essential to secure the best outcomes for the client.


Contract Preparation and Negotiation

One of the key responsibilities of an employer’s agent during the early design stages of a design and build construction project is Contract Preparation and Negotiation.

  1. Contract Preparation: The agent plays an instrumental role in preparing contracts. They define the obligations, terms, and conditions for contractors and consultants, shaping the blueprint of the working relationship. This process involves meticulous attention to detail to encapsulate all project requirements and standards.
  2. Negotiation: Typically, contract negotiation involves a series of discussions to reach an agreement beneficial to all parties. The employer’s agent brings their industry knowledge and expertise to the table, negotiating terms with contractors and consultants that align with the client’s objectives and budget.

Overall, the employer’s agent’s role in contract preparation and negotiation is integral to establishing a strong foundation for the project, laying the groundwork for a successful and efficient construction process.



In wrapping up, the employer agent plays a pivotal role in the early design stages of a design and build construction project. Their expertise guides the client and design team from feasibility studies right through to contract negotiations. With their industry knowledge and project management skills, they ensure that the design aligns with the client’s vision and objectives while complying with laws, codes, and regulations.

Their involvement contributes to a smooth and efficient client process, helping mitigate risks, control costs, and streamline communication between all stakeholders. With their assistance, the path to the construction phase is paved with clarity and confidence.

To gain further insights into the role of an employer agent, stay tuned for the next article that delves into the start of the construction phase. This will illuminate how this key player continues to bring value as the project progresses.