Last edited 09 Oct 2020

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Client commissioning of construction works

Having accepted the site from the contractor at practical completion, the client has to prepare the facilities for occupation.

The principles of client commissioning and occupation should be determined at the feasibility and strategy stage. The objective of client commissioning is to ensure that the facility is equipped and operating as planned.

This entails the formation of an operating team early in the project so that requirements can be built into the contract specifications. Ideally, the operating team should be formed in time to participate in the design process.

It is common for the client to organise a separate project to carry out accommodation works. Often this team will be separate from the main project team and will comprise personnel with greater experience of operating in a finished project environment.

Typical elements of client accommodation works for an office building would be:

Fitting out of special areas:

Installation of IT systems:

  • Servers
  • Desk top PC’s
  • Telecomms equipment
  • Fax machines
  • Audio visual and video conferencing

Demountable office partitions:

The main tasks of client commissioning include:

Establishing the operating and occupation objectives in time, cost, quality and performance terms. Consideration must be given to the overall implications of phased commissioning and priorities defined for sectional completion, particular areas/services and security.

Making sure that an appropriate allowance for client’s commissioning costs is made in the budget. Accommodation works can account for as much as 3% of the total construction budget.

Arranging the appointment of the operating team.

Preparing role and job descriptions (responsibilities, time-scales, outputs) for each member of the operating team. These should be compatible with the construction programme and any other work demands on members of the operating team.

Co-ordinating the preparation of a client’s commissioning schedule and action list, using a commissioning checklist.

Arranging appropriate access as necessary for the operating team and other client personnel during construction.

Arranging co-ordination and liaison with the contractors and the consultants to plan and supervise services commissioning, e.g. preparation of new work practices manuals, staff training and recruitment of additional staff if necessary; the format of all commissioning records; renting equipment to meet short-term demands; overtime requirements to meet the procurement plan; meeting quality and performance standards and so on.

Considering early appointment/secondment of a member of the client management team to act as the occupation co-ordinator; this ensures a smooth transition from a construction site to an effectively operated and properly maintained facility.

Before the new development can be occupied, the client needs to operationally commission various elements of the development. This involves setting to work various systems and preparing staff ready to run the development and its installations:

Obtaining of the necessary statutory approvals needed to occupy the building, such as the Environmental Health Officer’s approval of kitchen areas.

Occupation of the developed property is dependent on detailed planning of the many spaces to be used. For office buildings this space planning process is developed progressively throughout the project life cycle. Final determination of seating layouts may be delayed until the occupation stage in order to accommodate the latent changes to the client’s business structure.

It is essential that for each of these stages client user panels have a direct involvement and approve each stage. A typical space planning process consists of:

Moving or combining businesses into new premises is a major operation for a client. During the duration of the moves there is potential for significant disruption to the client’s business. The longer the move period, the greater the risks to the client. Migration therefore requires a significant level of planning.

Often the client will appoint a manager separate from the new building project to take overall responsibility for the migration. For major or critical migrations, the client should consider the use of specialist migration consultants to support their in-house resource.

During the planning of the migration a number of key strategic issues need to be addressed. As some of these strategic issues could have an impact on the timing and sequencing of the main building works, it is important to address them early in the project life cycle:

  • Determining how the building will be occupied.
  • Establishing the timing of the moves.
  • Identifying the key activities involved in the migration and assigning responsible managers.
  • Determining move groups and sequence of moves to minimise business disruption.
  • Determining the project structure for managing the move.
  • Identifying potential risks that could impact on the moves.
  • Involving and keeping the client’s staff informed.

The final part of occupation is the actual move management. This involves the appointment of a removal contractor, planning the detailed tactics of the moves, and supervision of the moves themselves. The overall period during which the moves will be undertaken is determined by the amount of ‘effects’ to be transferred with each member of the staff and by the degree of difficulty of transferring IT systems for each move group.

A critical decision for the client during the occupation stage is the point at which a freeze is imposed on space planning and no further modifications are accommodated until after migration has been achieved. It is likely that the factor having most impact on the timing of the freeze date will be the setting up of individual voice and data system profiles.

It would be common for clients to impose an embargo on changes both sides of the migration and for the client then to carry out a post-migration sub-project to introduce all the changes required by departments.

This text in based on an extract from PROJECT MANAGEMENT, by Eric Stokes and Saleem Akram. The original manual was published in 2008. It was developed within the scope of the LdV program, project number: 2009-1-PL1-LEO05-05016 entitled “Common Learning Outcomes for European Managers in Construction”. It is reproduced here in a slightly modified form with the kind permission of the Chartered Institute of Building.


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