Project Management: How would clients start a construction project

6 min read

Rebecca Emily Dalli Gonzi PhD (Glasg), MSc (Edin), B.E. & A. (Melit) (Hons), A. & C.E., A.L.C.M. (Lond), is an architect, project co-ordinator and lecturer. She is a registered and certified civil engineer by the Chamber of Architects Malta, and a registered chartered member of the Royal Institute for British Architects London. She has worked in the private and public sector, both in Malta and in Scotland.  She is a resident academic at the University of Malta lecturing project management in the Department of Construction and Property Management and within the Department of Insurance, lecturing on Geopolitical and Environmental Risk and Business continuity Management. She also lectures Project Development at the Institute for Sustainable Energy.

She founded the DALI Model, which is a tool for assessing organizational risk, which can be used when firms require a recovery response due to a crisis. This model has been presented as an empirically tested proactive model in a specific setting for managing organizational risk so that firms achieve their goals with minimal setbacks. Her book entitled ‘Change and continuity management in the public sector’, which presents the research underlying this model, reinforces the idea that good governance requires the right decision-taking methods if any organisation is to succeed. Her current research focuses on innovative construction engineering techniques, decision making models and strategic project management. Rebecca has been a reviewer for journals, has chaired conferences, and continues to publish.

Hi, today we're here again with Dr Rebecca Dalli Gonzi. She is an architect and civil engineer, and her specialisation is project management.

So, further to what we were talking about last time, where we talked about the four construction phases of a project. Today we'll be tackling the basic steps of how one would go about this, right?

So, a client would generally be, “oh okay, I want to build my house, or I want to set up my office, whatever. So let me go speak to the architect” But is that really what they want to do? Is that really what they should be doing? I mean, how does one start?

So, thank you, Jeanette. We can say that there are at least five basics steps that an interested client can take if he's looking towards, you know, a construction project. The first step would be sort of what I like to call in a very serious term would be analysis, but it can be something much simpler.

Don't give me these terms, Rebecca, please.

So it is the time when the client, assuming that we would have had some discussions at home, on tissue papers, you know, during a meal, and he's got this left-over bit of design that he's really happy to show you and it does happen. That's really exciting!

There is an important step, and this is discussion and communication, and discussion and communication can happen obviously with all the interested people in your project. Ideally, with the choice of an architect, but I'm going to speak about the choice of architects a bit further on, later on.

The second thing that the client can look into is defining what he or she wants and what we call again; a more serious term the objectives. Now, what is an objective and what is a right objective and a wrong objective? I'll start off by saying that an objective needs to be what we call SMART.

SMART stands for something. So, SMART stands for S being smart, as in being specific. That takes us to M, which is measurable. Then that's A, which is actionable. Right? Then R, which is realistic, not Rebecca. Realistic and T, which is timely.

Timely? Okay, so that's a lot of information.

Yes, I'm going to give you an example. So, what would be a wrong objective? So you could meet someone, a client comes up to tell you I want to build a house in Balzan (a village in Malta).

Okay, that's a bit vague, is it?

That's a bit vague, that's it! You know? Okay, but if the client comes up to you and tells you, I want to build a two-storey house in Balzan over a timeframe of two years, say up to a certain date, with a budget of so and so. That is obviously helping the receiver, in this case, the architect, to understand a bit better the direction that the client wants to take.

I see. So possibly clients would not always know all of these details. They would know their budget because obviously, that is something that first comes to mind and possibly the location where they want to have their development, no? Their house or their business, but wouldn't they need help?

I mean, I guess the choice of an architect would, how can I say? Lead them to know whether a project is doable within two years or two months, for example, right? So that is what we're talking about, the more information, the more SMART objectives.

Rebecca: That's why we're here today. To help clients that might be watching this and not be so convinced or sure where they want to go with their design, and this takes us to sort of step two. So assuming that you're not quite sure about where you want to take this. You might wish to look at, at least four areas. Again, it might be a bit boring to say, but nevertheless, it's information. So you got cost, quality, time, and scope.

So cost, as you said before, clients would generally know how much they want to spend. Time, it's important that you have a timeframe when you present yourself to your architect. It's very important. That takes us to quality. So, what quality of building are you looking for? Are you looking for possibly high-quality finishes? Or is it something that you're taking into consideration your budget because that is also another aspect and your scope. Now scope again is a very broad term.

In fact, I was going to ask you. What is scope exactly?

Yes, scope can take us down the route, down the never-ending route. But scope very simply basically ties me back to what I said earlier, which is objective. What is my objective?

Project scope is a very sort of large domain; we can spend, you know, another hour talking about project scope but very briefly - to keep it simple - it's all about being direct with your objectives. So what is the objective? So if it's residential if you are building a complex. Is the complex for use that is going to be rented out? Is it going to be personal use? Cause even those decisions will affect how much you want to spend on your finishes.

And perhaps even the return of investment, right?

Exactly! That will take me to the other steps. Which would be step three.

This is Rebecca Dalli Gonzi, and you are listening to the human agenda. Thank you so much for joining us on this episode.

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