Last edited 29 Jun 2016

Client for building design and construction

The term client refers to the organisation or individual that is procuring the building development.

The client is also sometimes referred to as the 'employer' as they are the body which employs consultants, contractors and suppliers, for instance the Joint Contracts Tribunal (JCT) standard form of contract refers to the 'employer'. We use the term client throughout Designing Buildings Wiki as this is the term people tend to use in practice, and it is also used in OGC guidance (The Office of Government Commerce) for public sector projects. NB The Office of Government Commerce (OGC) has now been absorbed into the Efficiency and Reform Group (ERG) within the Cabinet Office and it's guidance archived, however much of the same terminology and procedures are still used in public sector procurement.

Within the client, there are likely to be a number of groups and individuals with an interest in, or control over the project.

Private sector Public sector
Main board of directors. Investment decision maker (IDM).
Project director. Senior responsible owner (SRO).
Board representative. Project sponsor (PS).
Project board. Project board.
User panels. User panels.
Champions (perhaps heads of department). Champions.
Project manager. Project manager.

In addition there may be a number of external stakeholders with an interest in the project.

It is important that the allocation of responsibilities between members of the client team is clearly defined.

For smaller or less complex projects, some roles may be combined. However, OGC guidance suggests it is not good practice to combine the roles of investment decision maker, senior responsible owner and project sponsor because of the risk of a conflict of interest. It suggests that roles that do not overlap should not be combined.

On public sector projects, OGC guidance shows the relationship between the client and the integrated supply team (designers, suppliers, contractors) as illustrated below (image reproduced from with permission from OGC).


Client champions are identified and given ownership of specific components of the project. This could include a champion for the vision, for change management, for communications and so on. The champions will need input and assistance from many other individuals throughout the client organisation. In encouraging this input it is vital that people understand the project's significance and potential to impact on their future.

For many of those involved, the project will be a ‘parallel activity’ carried out in addition their day job. This means that their individual goals need to be re-aligned to include the project goals, and rewards for individuals need to come out of project success, rather than just being linked to their normal day job. Because of this additional role, they may need extra support and guidance to help them to focus on the key issues and to make best use of their time.

Inexperienced clients might benefit from appointing independent client advisers to help them structure the project, prepare a business case and strategic brief and to appoint consultants.

NB The Office of Government Commerce (OGC) has now been absorbed into the Efficiency and Reform Group (ERG) within the Cabinet Office. OGC guidance has been archived, however, it is cited in the Government Construction Strategy and the Common Minimum Standards, and links are provided to OGC documents from government websites such as the Major Projects Authority. The OGC gateway review process still provides one of the best and most comprehensive sets of guidance for public projects. It is for this reason that the project plan for public projects within Designing Buildings Wiki follows the OGC gateway review process.

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