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Last edited 07 Feb 2021
Specialist suppliers in the construction industry
In the construction industry, a specialist supplier is one who concentrates on the supply of one or more products, services or materials and who, as a result, has amassed a body of specialist knowledge and expertise.
Typical examples include suppliers of:
- High thermal performance glass.
- Laminated timber components.
- Building services equipment.
- Steel universal beams and columns.
- Lifts and escalators.
Modern design and construction projects place a huge importance on establishing collaborative practices which can involve bringing together a large number of diverse disciplines, and co-ordinating and integrating a great deal of complex information, procedures and systems. Typically, this requires early engagement of the supply chain and the introduction of specialist sub-contractor and supplier design. Their early involvement in the overall process can result in better design and construction, as well as fewer problems, delays and cost overruns.
As a result, the term 'supplier' has expanded from its traditional meaning, referring to the supply of products and materials, to a specialist that may be an integral part of the project team, supplying design, construction, installation and other specialist services.
- Tier 1 suppliers – have a direct contract with the ultimate client and can provide services to the project, eg supply of constructed assets.
- Tier 2 suppliers – have a sub-contract with the Tier 1 contractor eg suppliers of major plant and equipment, such as tower cranes.
- Tier 3 suppliers – have a sub-contract with a Tier 2 sub-contractor, eg, manufacturers, material distributors, and plant and equipment supply-and-hire firms.
- Tier n suppliers – Tier 3 sub-contractors also employ suppliers and sub-contractors, so in many cases there will be a fourth or even fifth tier involved in construction delivery.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Collaborative practices.
- Contractor vs supplier.
- Framework agreement.
- Fragmentation of the UK construction industry.
- Government construction strategy.
- Integrated supply team.
- Main contractor.
- Named specialist work.
- Nominated supplier.
- Products v goods v materials.
- Supply chain management.
- Types of contractor.
 External references
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