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Last edited 23 Aug 2021
A consultancy is a practice comprising one or more professionals (consultants) who offer expertise in a particular field or specialisation. As a result of their education, skills and experience, consultants can sell their services at a premium to clients.
Professionals making up a consultancy may all have the same specialisation (eg as in a firm of lawyers specialising in company law) or may have complementary skills which, taken together, allows the consultancy to offer a ‘one-stop-shop’ service; an example is a built environment consultancy which includes architects, civil, structural, mechanical, landscape architects and services engineers. In that case, the consultancy will usually be called ‘multi-disciplinary’ to reflect the range of specialisms it offers.
The way in which consultants are appointed varies from sector to sector. Generally, when consultants are appointed by clients to undertake work, they are said to be ‘contracted’ to the client in question, working according to a contract they will sign to undertake a specific range of services. This is very often the case in construction but in everyday situations, such as an individual seeking the services of a lawyer, the services provided may not require either party to sign a contract other than a verbal agreement.
 Services provided by consultants
In large consultancies, there may be several of each of the above specialisms. Furthermore, such large practices may require full- or part-time support staff to enable them to function. Support staff may include individuals with skills in accountancy, human resources, PR and marketing, IT, administration and secretarial staff and so on.
- Providing advice on setting up and defining the project.
- Developing and co-ordinating the design.
- Preparing production information (eg. drawings and specifications) and tender documentation.
- Contract administration.
- Inspecting the work of contractors.
- Post occupancy evaluation.
Given the increasing complexity of many construction projects, it is becoming more common that a consultant appointed on a project will, in turn, appoint other consultants (external to the firm) to undertake some or all of the work for which they have been engaged. In this case, the client's consultants may be referred to as ‘prime consultants’ or ‘first tier’ consultants, while the consultants that they appoint are generally referred to as 'sub-consultants' or ‘second tier’ consultants. This is similar to the relationship between clients, contractors and sub-contractors.
It is widely acknowledged in construction that for consultants to work effectively as a team they should adopt collaborative practices as early in the project as possible. The requirement to adopt such practices may be included in the appointment documents.
A consultancy may form part of an integrated supply team (IST) responsible for designing, building and possibly financing and operating the project. The IST integrates the complete supply chain involved in the delivery of a project and may include the main contractor, designers, sub-contractors, suppliers and facilities managers.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Appointing consultants.
- Architect's fees.
- Architectural practice.
- Building engineering services.
- Collaborative practices.
- Commercial manager.
- Consultancy playbook.
- Consultancy vs contingent labour.
- Consultant team start-up meeting.
- Consulting engineer.
- Cost consultant.
- Design liability.
- Environmental consultant.
- Facilities manager.
- Independent client adviser.
- Information and communications technology (ICT) consultant.
- Integrated project team.
- Integrated supply team.
- Interior designer.
- Landscape architect.
- Lead consultant.
- Lead designer.
- Local consultants.
- Management consultant.
- Planning consultant.
- Professional indemnity insurance.
- Services engineer.
- Structural engineer.
- Specialist designers.
- Specialist contractors.
- Team management.
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