A recent study demonstrates when and why a construction contractor might be involved in project design.

Two stage early contractor involvement (2S-ECI) is a procurement method for construction contracting that involves the contractor before the design for the project has been completed. It was used for a 2019 seismic strengthening project at Queenstown airport. The project was moderately complex, because airport services had to be maintained while the building was split in half for installation of a seismic gap.

Principal Lecturer David Finnie and his student Jamie Smith undertook a review of the use of 2S-ECI in this project. Four people involved in the project were interviewed: a project manager, an engineer, and two quantity surveyors. 

  • Project suitability: The key driver for using 2S-ECI was ensuring that the airport could maintain live operations during construction.
  • Timing: The contractor's early involvement ensured it had greater understanding of the project which resulted in a more realistic construction programme.
  • Pricing: 2S-ECI provided greater price certainty, again due to greater understanding of the project.
  • Risk management: The major project risk was identifying and removing redundant electrical cables; getting this wrong could shut the airport down. 2S-ECI encompassed exploratory works to successfully manage this risk.
  • Project team composition: Because of the longer lead-in time, 2S-ECI allows more time than competitive tendering to bring together the right personnel for the project.
  • Project team relations: 2S-ECI requires a strong relationship and trust to be successful. In this case the contractor had experiencing working at Queenstown airport.

This case study informs the future use of 2S-ECI in other suitable construction projects in New Zealand. Interviewees also considered that better industry guidelines and standard contractual documentation for 2S-ECI in New Zealand would be helpful for both contractors and clients. 

May 2021

Image credit: Herry Lawford, sourced from Flickr, used under Creative Commons Atttribution licence CC BY 2.0