“Efficient design, efficient construction” – The BSBG approach to lead consultancy

Brewer Smith Brewer Group (BSBG) is widely regarded as one of the leading providers of comprehensive Lead Consultancy services in architecture. This reputation is founded on the successful delivery of some of the most prestigious and complex projects across the Middle East, Africa and Asia. How does BSBG execute projects as a Lead Consultant, delivering concepts not only produced by its own design studio, but also working alongside many of the world’s leading designers (Foster + Partners, Zaha Hadid, 10 Design and Benoy, to name a few), to bring their concepts to life? In a bid to learn more about BSBG’s unique approach to Lead Consultancy, we sat down with group Partners Kevin Harper and Andrew Bereza to discuss how this multi-disciplinary solution has been refined, and the impact it has had on the international expansion of the group.

BSBG Blog: How is BSBG equipped to initially take on the large-scale projects we see in the group portfolio, and also deliver on them, in a way which exceeds expectation?

Andrew: “It’s about attitude, taking ownership, and really driving the project forward. We’ve seen examples of Lead Consultants being engaged with varying degrees of success, and for those that struggle to deliver, it’s usually because they lack the fundamental experience and understanding of what it is that a Lead Consultant has to do. Countless times we hear of Lead Consultants being engaged on the understanding that their role is just to produce sets of architectural drawings. That’s not only what a Lead Consultant does. Yes, the Lead Consultant may also be an architect, but architecture is just one component of the co-ordinated information. A successful Lead Consultant ensures that the architecture, the structure and the MEP is co-ordinated, and that the design produces the best result for the client.”

Kevin: “For me, it’s in the name, it’s about taking the lead, setting the example, working to set and implement the standards you expect all those working on the project to meet. From the design architects (whether external or internal) to the sub-consultants, it’s our job to make sure they’re meeting the requirements of the project. We’re effectively the project custodian and should be its driving force in all aspects of design coordination and quality – whilst ensuring the programme is consistently tracked and the agreed deadlines are met.”

“We are the project custodian and the driving force in all aspects of design coordination and quality”

Kevin Harper

Dubai Lead Consultant on ICD Brookfield PlaceBSBG is the Joint Lead Consultant and Executive Architect, working with Design Architect Foster + Partners on ICD Brookfield Place, currently under construction in DIFC, Dubai

BSBG Blog: Can you give us an example of a scenario you might face as a Lead Consultant during the early design stages, in terms of providing a specific result for the client that moves beyond just delivering the concept drawings?

Andrew: “The client might say: ‘We want a residential building that achieves an efficiency of 85% so we can get maximum value from the project, and we need you to do the most cost-effective, co-ordinated engineering design on the façade, structure and MEP that reduces the overall build cost.’ The Lead Consultant has quite a challenging set of parameters there, and sometimes there may be a misalignment between the design aspirations and the budget. It’s about managing and maximising the available budget so the client can see they’re getting value for money; the structure is efficient, the MEP is efficient, but as well as that, the building has a great quality aesthetic and optimal use of space.”

Dubai Lead Consultant on BLVD Crescent, also designed by BSBGThe dual tower BLVD Crescent residential development is an example of a BSBG design and delivery project, for Dubai developer Emaar 

BSBG Blog: What elements of design work are involved in the Lead Consultancy role?

Kevin: “From a design perspective, it’s largely about co-ordination; you are the one point of contact that all parties can filter their information through, who understands the input that comes in, can provide clear guidance and identify the areas of the design where more attention to detail and time is required. As a Lead Consultant, we need to understand across the board what each contributor is doing, and how we can make sure they are able to produce work in a cohesive and productive manner – conducive to achieving the best overall result for the project. A good Lead Consultant will be an effective problem solver and a confident provider of informed and considered design decisions that allow the other consultants to move forward with clear direction.”

“A successful Lead Consultant ensures the architecture, structure and MEP is fully co-ordinated, and that the design produces the best result for the client”

Andrew Bereza

Andrew: “It helps to be naturally inquisitive about all aspects of the project. Where some Lead Consultants can fall short is that they can take a slightly blinkered view of a project. For example, if they primarily have a focus on the aesthetics, the façade, the look and feel, they may be less inclined to be interested in structure, MEP or fire and life safety. Very shortly after the vision for the pre-concept is established, it needs to get real, and unless you take ownership over the functional inputs, invariably, you’re not going to produce the best design for the client. A beautiful aesthetic quality may have been produced, but without co-ordination this will be compromised when it comes to establishing the structure or MEP. That’s going to be to the detriment of the programme and also to the aesthetic. An effective Lead Consultant will very quickly bring those elements into the concept design to make it a workable solution that also delivers on the design intent and aspirations.”

The Beach - Dubai ArchitectureThe Beach in JBR, Dubai, is an example of an extensive, large scale legacy development, delivered by BSBG on a fast track programme

BSBG Blog: So it helps to be well-versed not only in architectural design, but in structures and MEP as a Lead Consultant?

Andrew: “Yes, and this is what we’ve brought to the Lead Consultant role for four decades. There are countless examples of projects where we’ve come onboard and found a separate architectural package, a structural package and an MEP package. The first thing we do is to fully co-ordinate these packages to ascertain at an early stage whether the client objectives can be achieved.”

Lead Consultant in Dubai on a five star hotelLead Consultancy involves streamlining the construction programme, utilising technological innovation to save time, cost and risk. In this image, pre-fabricated modular bathroom units are currently being lifted into the hotel guest rooms

BSBG Blog: How easy is it to manage designers, consultants and contractors from completely different companies, with differing working methods, different values and mentalities?

Andrew: “There’s a huge emphasis on respect, attitude, drive and personality. Because if you’re the captain of the ship and nobody wants to work with you, how are you going to drive the ship forward? You can stand on the bridge and shout and bang the drum as loud as you wish, but if you’re not approachable, or you don’t understand the value everyone brings to the table, you’re likely to find that the deliverables won’t be presented to you on time. It’s as much about developing a solid working relationship with all the contributing parties as it is about co-ordinating drawings and plans.”

“We strive to embody everything a Lead Consultant should be; co-ordinating the stages properly, understanding the client’s key requirements and driving the team forward”

Kevin Harper

Kevin: “I think what has differentiated us over the years is that we constantly strive to embody everything a Lead Consultant should be; co-ordinating the stages properly, understanding the client’s key requirements and fulfilling those, and driving the team forward in a positive, energetic fashion. It’s not an easy job (to be a Lead Consultant), pulling together all the different pieces of the puzzle and presenting the complete jigsaw to the client, however our experience over the years, especially working in the culturally diverse and challenging markets we are used to, puts us in a great position to deliver successfully.”

The Opus reflectionsBSBG worked alongside Zaha Hadid Architects in delivering The Opus according to the vision of Dame Zaha Hadid herself 

Andrew: “It’s something we’ve done on countless fast track projects internationally. We’re able to pool all of our resources, all of our experience to deliver co-ordinated packages of information that the client knows will get the end result they want. Our aim is to continually add value to projects. With our leadership in BIM, our construction documentation capabilities and our experience in co-ordinating some of the most complex projects you’re likely to see, I think we will continue to advance the process of efficient design and construction – not only in the Middle East, but in the Asian and European markets too.”

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