In early September 2023, the United Nations issued a report claiming, in no uncertain terms, that the window to reach climate goals is “rapidly closing.” Adding to this, reputed organisations such as NASA have gone on record noting that “climate change from a human-caused rise in greenhouse gases is increasing the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events.” Such warnings coupled with the fact that buildings are responsible for 39% of global energy related carbon emissions mean that the built environment really must accelerate its focus on decarbonisation, and the development of sustainable structures, so that we all may enjoy a safe and sustainable future.
Typically, when a developer sets out to develop a sustainable structure, architects and engineers are seen as the first port of call to draw up and finalise plans. Subsequently, the involvement of a cost consultant becomes integral to the overall planning and decision-making. While this process has yielded good results, engagement with a cost consultant at the early design/planning stage often produces even better sustainable project results.
A cost consultant plays a crucial role in various stages of a project’s lifecycle, including pre- construction, construction, and post-construction. Key responsibilities include cost estimation, cost control, procurement, value engineering, and risk management.
With sustainable construction, a cost consultancy is invaluable to the realisation of the project within budget, by integrating sustainability considerations into core responsibilities. From a cost estimation standpoint, a cost consultant will identify long-term costs affiliated with environmentally friendly practices, sustainable materials, and energy efficient technology. Through providing in-depth cost information, a cost consultant can enable project stakeholders to make informed decisions which balance sustainable objectives and costs.
Due to an accurate understanding of current market-related project costs, it is therefore possible to optimise and efficiently distribute the budget allotted to the project. This ensures the implementation of green solutions, the use of sustainable and environmentally clean materials, and the deployment of better environmental performance systems.
The role of procurement
Procurement is a key component of project delivery, and a cost consultant is able to assist with the selection of environmentally friendly suppliers, products and materials. A cost consultant can gauge the environmental credentials of suppliers, lifecycle costs, and drive the selection of sustainable options that tie into the project’s sustainability objectives. A cost consultant may even be able to identify local suppliers offering relevant materials/products to avoid logistics-related greenhouse gas emissions (GHGE) and can factor in ethical elements such as fair trade and labour practices, ensuring procurement aligns with social sustainability objectives.
In addition, a cost consultant will integrate circular economy principles into the procurement strategy by proposing the procurement of products and materials that can be recycled or repurposed and aligns a project with circular economy mandates. A cross-industry approach may also be adopted with regards to recycling; whereas a particular product or material might be considered waste in one industry, it could be a supply source for another. Through this ability to cross-reference, a cost consultant can reduce the cost of disposal, supply and CO2 emission, while optimising the lifespan of products.
Value engineering via a structured approach aimed at optimising project value by maximising quality, function and performance, while minimising cost, and is a skill utilised by a cost consultant, bolstering sustainable outcomes.
Opportunity and operational efficiency
The role of a cost consultant is to analyse a project’s various components and highlight opportunities to further optimise construction techniques, make better material choices, and assist with optimising the design. As a result, the project is able to achieve sustainability goals, while remaining true to the original vision. A key function of a cost consultant is to control project costs throughout all design and construction stages to ensure there are no cost overruns later in the project’s development, which could potentially force a reduction in quality or the downgrade of sustainable design.
A cost consultant can assist stakeholders with total lifecycle costing, including an assessment of the total environmental impact the building will have through every stage of its lifecycle. This includes optimising operational energy efficiency, considering maintenance and renovation practices, and addressing end- of-life processes through recycling and responsible demolition. With lifecycle costing, a client can make more environmentally friendly decisions during the project’s design process.
Risk and mitigation strategies
Risks and mitigation strategies are also where a cost consultant can make a difference with sustainable construction. A cost consultant can consider regulatory compliance, as well as environmental risks and technological issues that could impact the project’s financial viability. By integrating sustainability factors into risk assessment and mitigation strategies, a cost consultant can play a significant part in ensuring the project’s long-term success, and its timely and on budget delivery.
The built environment has a major part to play in the development of a healthier and more sustainable world, and cost consultants, with a track record for enabling sustainable outcomes, are a powerful ally that clients can rely on to achieve sustainable project success.
Built Environment's ‘Expert Talk’ series carries knowledge pieces every week by industry professionals who give their take on the key trends, observations, issues, and challenges in the built industry. The opinions in these articles are the author's own and do not reflect that of the publication.
cost consultant project lifecycle procurement operational efficiency risk and mitigation