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International Journal of Project Management Vol. 16, No. 6, pp.

385±391, 1998
# 1998 Elsevier Science Ltd and IPMA. All rights reserved
Printed in Great Britain
0263-7863/98 $19.00 + 0.00

PII: S0263-7863(98)00001-5

An evaluation of the project needs of

UK building clients
Ezekiel A Chinyio, Paul O Olomolaiye and Pauline Corbett
School of Engineering and The Built Environment, University of Wolverhampton, Wulfruna Street,
Wolverhampton, WV1 1SB, UK

The investigation reported established a checklist of 50 di€erent needs from which a client's
speci®c requirements can be identi®ed. The checklist comprises of 34 aspects of needs compiled
from literature, and 16 others ascertained from an empirical investigation, through a question-
naire survey of 42 UK building clients. An evaluation of these needs indicated that `functionality
of buildings', `timeliness of completion' and `value for money' are the aspects of needs, which at
the moment are most frequently desired by clients. In quest of achieving optimal client satisfac-
tion with building schemes, the generated checklist can be developed into a databank which, can
easily be used for verifying a client's project requirements. # 1998 Elsevier Science Ltd and
IPMA. All rights reserved
Keywords: needs, clients, identi®cation, brie®ng, retailing, evaluation, planning

Introduction Clients' needs

Construction clients' projects needs are still not fully A need is a state of felt deprivation which pertains to
met1, 2 and, clients are distraught about it.3±5 The health and well-being.9 For a deprivation to qualify as
apathy of construction clients can be ameliorated and a need, it must be desired with regularity such that it
their satisfaction improved by stepping-up the extent can be treated as a feature of one's personality.10 For
example, the deprivation of shelter, oce space, or any
to which their needs are achieved in project schemes.
other type of building accommodation would be per-
One way in which this is possible is by adequate ceived as a building need.11, 12 Wants, on the other
identi®cation of each client's exact requirements; for, hand are objects (goods and services) for satisfying
according to Weihrich and Koontz,6 accurate problem cravings for mental and physical pleasures.13±15
de®nition is the panacea for resolving a diculty. Pertaining to buildings, clients' desires like: beauty of
The suggestion of targeting clients' requirements in product, timeliness of completion, safety of delivery,
construction projects is not particularly strange. In etc. would be classi®ed as wants.
marketing, for example, suppliers deem it an obli- Despite the di€erence in meaning between needs and
gation to determine the particular requirements of wants, construction industry scholars often refer to
both as needs. To maintain a consistency with con-
their (prospective) customers and then, supply pro-
struction literature, `needs' is herein used in reference
ducts in accordance with established expectations.7 By to both needs and wants.
this approach a pro-active alertness towards custo-
mers' optimal satisfaction is ensured. In like manner,
construction productivity can emphasise on this habit
as a means of improving its clients' satisfaction. In this Compilation of clients' needs
regard, this communication aims at providing a basis Being that clients' needs are not listed in any one
for easy identi®cation of clients' needs in building pro- documented source, an attempt to compile and evalu-
jects. ate them was made in the course of the study. The
Since many clients still adopt the traditional pro- compilation was done both through a literature search
and a practical study. The essence of the former was
curement route, Jenks and Bacon8 advocated the for-
to collate popularly expressed needs while the later
mal establishment of clients' requirements during brief was to ascertain clients' other implicit needs. Being
formulation, prior to any work being commenced. that clients' needs are many their collation into one
Their call underpins the quest for establishing a struc- documentary source would assist clients in spotting or
tured databank from which project speci®c require- verifying what they particularly want, as they formu-
ments can be generated with clients. late their requirements with construction professionals.
An evaluation of the project needs of UK building clients: E. A. Chinyio et al.

The literature search was conducted within the time applicable to them as per a speci®ed project. In ad-
frame of the investigation and it identi®ed 34 descrip- dition, they were asked to indicate any additional
tions of needs. These are shown on Table 1, and are needs and meanings thereof, that they have which
discussed in a later section. were not mentioned in the questionnaire. A free space
was provided for this purpose (Table 1 is an excerpt
from the questionnaire showing the checklist of needs
Grouping of needs as presented to clients).
Some descriptions of needs are interrelated,16±18 and, UK-based clients were sampled for information at
can be grouped under topical concepts.19 Consider the random from among those known to the Built
attribute of `project duration' for instance. This is Environment Research Unit of the School of
reported in literature to encompass the aspects of: Engineering, University of Wolverhampton. One hun-
early start, timely completion, earlier completion, dred and eighty-®ve questionnaires were mailed out
securing timely (planning) approvals, etc. In view of and 42 of these (23%) were completed and returned.
such interrelationships and, for easy co-ordination of Ninety-three percent of the respondents were organis-
the investigation, the descriptions of needs in literature ations while the other 7% were private individuals.
were by reasons of communality and semantics col-
lated into eight main groups namely: aesthetics, econ-
omy, functionality, quality, safety, surprises (lack of), Clients' characteristics
working relationships and time. This grouping is In terms of number of employees, 25% of the organis-
re¯ected on Table 1 where, Column 1 shows the eight ations are relatively small, 46% are medium sized and
main classes of needs and Column 2 the various 29% are big organisations. The ®rms are made up of
aspects assigned to each class. Property Developers (21%), Building Societies and
Housing Associations (15%), Public Establishments
(57%), Industrial Organisations (5%) and Schools
The survey (2%). Amongst the types of developments on which in-
A semi-structured questionnaire was used to ascertain formation was supplied are: Oces (10%), Financial
the opinions of some sampled building clients. Within Institutions (5%), Residential Buildings (39%),
the questionnaire, aspects of needs compiled from lit- Academic and Educational Buildings (4%),
erature were presented in form of a checklist of clients' Commercial Buildings (14%), Industrial Buildings
needs. In completing the questionnaire, especially the (4%) and miscellaneous facilities like hostels, swim-
section pertaining to the checklist, clients were asked ming pools and leisure centres (24%). The reported
to tick as desirable those aspects of needs that were projects are not predominantly clustered in any UK

Table 1 Checklist of clients' requirements

Attribute Needs: aspects associated attribute(s)
Aesthetics Beautiful looking product
Beautiful interior
Beautiful exterior
Beautiful ®nishes/decorations
Economy Lowest price whatsoever
Price of the product to meet a given budget
Reducing tendering costs by inviting few bidders
Balance between capital and maintenance (or life cycle) costs
Maximising taxation bene®ts
Indication of a ®rm price with minimal variations
Functionality Building to be operationally ecient with its intended purpose
Durable building
Keeping existing buildings operational during construction
Quality Quality of the product to match current standards
Innovative design incorporating high/latest technology
The Building to re¯ect your activities and image
Value for money i.e., desired quality at appropriate price
Working relationships Avoidance of disputes
Familiarity with contractor
Desire to be actively involved in your project(s)
Desire to be kept informed about the project throughout its life
Non-confrontational relationship with the contractor
Probity (Internal and Public accountability)
Safety Minimal exposure to risk for the client
Recognition of risks associated with the project
Surprises Clear allocation of responsibilities between you and contractor
(i.e., Lack of:) Flexibility to change the design during construction
Avoidance of claims
Guarantees of, and on construction
Time Timely construction (i.e. being on schedule)
Securing timely planning approvals
High speed of design and construction
Early start
Minimal interference with the works

An evaluation of the project needs of UK building clients: E. A. Chinyio et al.

Table 2 Clients' ranking of aspects of needs

No. Aspect Frequency (%) Rank
1 Building to be ecient with intended purpose 100 1
2 Timely construction 98 2
3 Value for money 90 3
4 Recognition of risks and uncertainties associated with projects 81 4
5 Clear allocation of responsibilities 79 5
6 Balance between capital and life cycle costs 71 6
7 Price of product to meet budget 69 7
8 Desire of client to be actively involved in project schemes 64 9
9 Desire of client to be kept informed of project developments 64 9
10 Guarantees on construction and or products 64 9
11 Beautiful exteriors 62 12
12 Probity (internal and public accountability) 62 12
13 Minimal exposure of client to risk 62 12
14 Durable buildings 60 14.5
15 Quality of product to match existing standards 60 14.5
16 Beautiful looking product in general 57 17
17 Minimal interference with the works 57 17
18 Avoidance of claims 57 17
19 Avoidance of disputes 52 19
20 Beautiful interiors 50 21
21 Firm contract price with minimal variations 50 21
22 Securing timely planning approvals 50 21
23 Beautiful ®nishes and decorations 48 23
24 Building to re¯ect clients activity and image 43 24
25 Non-confrontational relationship with contractors 38 25
26 Keep existing buildings operational (where necessary) during construction 36 26
27 Familiarity with contractor 31 28
28 Beauty of buildings to match clients image 31 28
29 Beauty of buildings to match those of the surroundings 31 28
30 Flexibility to change designs during construction 26 30.5
31 Fast designs and constructions 26 30.5
32 Early start of physical construction 24 32
33 Procedures to conform to CDM regulations 20 34
34 Consider contractor"s housekeeping and safety records in prequali®cation 20 34
35 Adequate reaction by contractors to identi®ed risks 20 34
36 Innovative designs (Incorporating high/latest technologies) 19 36
37 Lowest price of product 12 37
38 Reducing tendering costs by inviting few bidders 10 38
39 Maximising taxation bene®ts 7 39.5
40 Parties to work as a team (especially by partnering) 7 39.5
41 Buildings to satisfy occupiers" (other than clients") use 5 41.5
42 Bureaucracy in securing planning permission can be reduced, especially between 5 41.5
Local Authority and Central Government
43 Energy eciency to be considered in design options 2 46.5
44 Contractors to provide reference from previous clients 2 46.5
45 Good communications at all levels 2 46.5
46 Contractor to assure of controlling subcontractors 2 46.5
47 Detail design prior to construction 2 46.5
48 Adequate planning of briefs, especially in terms of scheduling 2 46.5
49 High quality of workmanship to be provided by contractors 2 46.5
50 Keep statutory standards to a minimum 2 46.5
NB: Tied ranks are assigned their average rank.

location. Seventy percent of the reported projects were Results

completed between 1995±96, 2% were completed in Results are derived from opinions of the 42 clients
the late eighties and, the other 28% were on-going who responded to the questionnaire enquiry. In ad-
developments at the time of data collection. dition to verifying most of the presented needs as
As per experience with construction undertakings, desirable features of their projects some of the clients
10% of the clients have within the last 5 years, each revealed 16 other descriptions of needs that were not
initiated only one project. Within the same time frame, mentioned in the questionnaire. However, no major
a further 10% of the clients have each initiated class of need was suggested as an addition to the eight
between two to ®ve projects, 24% have each embarked categories that were presented. The 16 additional
on between six and 20 projects, and, 56% have indivi- requirements and the 34 initial aspects of needs that
dually commissioned over 20 projects. Designations of were presented to them are both shown on Table 2.
ocers who replied to the questionnaire included Attributes in normal text of this Table are those com-
Senior/Chief Architects, Senior/Chief Building piled from literature while the italicised descriptions
Surveyors, Project Ocers, School Administrator, and, refer to aspects generated with clients in the research
others in Management positions. survey.
An evaluation of the project needs of UK building clients: E. A. Chinyio et al.

The frequency with which needs are desired was letting. In a bid to keep rents down, this client prob-
computed leading to their ranking. The frequency ably desires buildings that will conserve energy.
score of a need was calculated by the notation:
F = [a(ni/42)  100]%, where:
F is frequency;
n is the number of yes votes recorded for the i-th The three meanings attached to functionality in the
meaning of need; and survey were: performance eciency;22, 23, 26 durability of
42 is a constant for the maximum possible vote. products;3 and, keeping existing buildings operational
during construction.27
Table 2 shows the resulting ranking of all the aspects All respondents (100%) indicated they wanted their
of needs. This ranking infers that functionality of buildings to be functionally ecient. From this result
buildings, timeliness of completion and value for alone, clients' most predominant need can be said to
money are at the moment the most frequently desired be functionality. Concerning the other attributes, 60%
clients' requirements. of the respondents desired durable buildings, and 36%
the use of existing buildings while construction works
are in progress. Seventy-three percent of those who are
Discussion interested in keeping existing facilities functional are
The following discussion of needs is made on the basis clients whose works were mainly concerned with
of their eight main groupings as listed in column 1 of alterations and renovations. Their reason was thus
Table 1. The opinion that needs have a sociable dispo- obvious.
sition and are shaped by ones' age, society, environ- The additional meaning of functionality derived
ment, etc.2, 20, 21 is borne in mind as observations from the survey was that buildings should ®t the occu-
underpinning the discussions are made. pier's use. If the end-users are known, their functional
requirements can be assessed in this regard.
Attributes assigned to aesthetics in the survey, and, as
compiled from Franks,4 Potter,3 NEDO22 and Quality was described as: matching existing stan-
Masterman23 were beauty, and prestige of construction dards;3, 16 designs to incorporate latest technol-
products. The investigation showed that aesthetical ogy;4, 27, 31 buildings to re¯ect client's activities and
aspects are desired by about 50±60% of the clients. image;27 and, Value for money.19, 28, 29
Thirty-one percent of the surveyed clients clari®ed Amongst the above meanings, value for money was
an additional aspect of aesthetics that they like. This is the only one that was rated most by 90% of the cli-
a ``be®tting beauty that is commensurate with the cli- ents. The other features of quality did not score very
ent's image and with the building's surrounding''. This highly. By desiring value for money, clients may want
assertion of clients is in line with the opinion that, their quality standards to be optimised based on what
needs have a sociable disposition and are shaped by they can a€ord and not necessarily on their taste.
society.2, 21 Value for money ranked third on the frequency of
`most desirable needs' (see Table 2). The preference
rankings of Table 2 may be an indication that clients
Economy are willing to sacri®ce some aspects of quality in order
Economy is concerned with the following attributes: to attain some particularly stronger need(s).
. getting the lowest price;24, 25
. meeting budget price;19, 26 Working relationships in the course of project execution
. reducing tendering costs by inviting few bidders
Clients were surveyed on relationships under the
aspects of: dispute avoidance; familiarity with contrac-
. balancing capital and life cycle costs;3, 23
tor; desire to be actively involved, and kept informed
. maximising taxation bene®ts;12, 27 and, about project developments.25, 32, 33 Further aspects
. getting a ®rm price with minimal variations.4, 23, 28, 29
were non-confrontational relationship with contrac-
The responses of the surveyed clients indicated that tors;28, 29 and, accountability.34
clients are not particularly enthusiastic about lowest In their responses, 64% of clients expressed a desire
price, reduction of tendering costs and maximisation to be involved in their building schemes both at design
of taxation bene®ts. Only about 10% of clients are and construction stages. Amongst these, are regular
thus minded. Fifty percent of respondents are inter- clients (36% of the sample). Fifty-two percent of all
ested in ®rm project prices. This o€ers a fair support the surveyed clients desired a less confrontational re-
of Dickinson's30 comment that English law has made lationship with contractors. These (above) average
clients to expect projects to be delivered at agreed con- levels of desires may be a re¯ection of clients' keenness
tract prices. About 70% of respondents indicated they to avoid construction disputes. Regular clients are con-
preferred building prices to meet budgets and to re¯ect versant with building schemes, hence, their desire for
a balance between capital and maintenance costs. Thus involvement may not be strange. It may not be unwar-
not only is the initial outlay important to clients but ranted if clients with complex schemes express a desire
the life-cycle costs of buildings. for involvement, as they might want to keep a close
An additional desirable feature of economy eye on their investments.
expressed by one client was energy eciency. This Few clients o€ered recommendations for the
respondent is engaged in developing public houses for improvement of working relationships in building pro-
An evaluation of the project needs of UK building clients: E. A. Chinyio et al.

ject schemes. These suggestions are in respect of: mented that: as long as completion time remained
adopting a partnering approach; ensuring contractor's reasonable, economy was the main desire. At a mini-
performance (by means of references); and, ensuring mum, therefore, the (foregoing) ®ndings indicate that
good communications between project participants. timely completion of projects (with a score of 98%)
The call for good communications is supported by and e€ectual functional products (scoring 100%) are
Carrington.35 clients' current most frequently desired two needs.
It can be asserted from the high score of timely
completion that the ®ndings seem to have con®rmed
Safety Naoum and Langford's24 assertion about private cli-
The two attributes associated with safety pertain to ents' strong desire for timely completion. The ®ndings
recognition of and exposure to risks.28, 29 The need for also reveal that non-private clients are desirous of the
minimal exposure to risks scored 62%, and the desire timely completion of their construction works.
for identifying risks scored 81%. These high scores, Two other time-related features of: securing plan-
coupled with the previous discussion on working re- ning approvals on time; and, minimal interference with
lationships, indicate that clients' risk aversion may be construction works were rated moderately. The
on the high side. If so, Flanagan and Norman's36 remaining attributes of time were rated on the low
opinion that most construction clients are risk averse, side. Two suggestions for improving the timely delivery
may not be wrong. of projects were made by a few clients. They opined
Some uncertainties may still plague projects, as one that pre-construction phase bureaucracy can be
respondent explained that ground conditions are reduced and that the scheduling of construction activi-
always dicult to predict. There should thus be a lee- ties should be made more realistic.
way on the part of clients that, a few uncertainties
beyond the control of contractors may be inevitable.
In addition to rating the two attributes of safety, Clients' diversity and the need for establishing a
some clients (about 20%) pointed out their desires for: databank
CDM application; consideration of contractors' house- The foregoing discussions re¯ect clients' perceptions
keeping and safety records; and, adequate contractor's on needs. Clients' individual priorities over these needs
response-re¯exes to identi®ed risks. These suggestions were found to vary. This seems to con®rm the opinion
infer that some clients want to see a more thorough of some scholars that needs vary with individuals.6, 37
evaluation of contractors before they are selected. An inference from these opinion is that clients and
their needs cannot be treated as unitary,26 but, pluralis-
tic.38 Due to clients' diverse preferences therefore, pro-
Lack of surprises
ject teams should endeavour to identify clients'
Lack of surprises to clients comprised the four features requirements on an individual basis. The thrust is to
of: clear allocation of responsibilities between parties;19 be able to identify each client's exact requirements.
susceptibility to change the design;4, 24, 32 avoidance of Such identi®cation will help in tailoring the supply of
claims; and o€ering guarantees on construction/pro- products. However, no model exists for identifying cli-
ducts.3 ents' particular needs.
In clients' responses clear allocation of responsibil-
ities in contracts (with a score of 79%), ®rm o€ers
that avoid claims (57%), and, guarantees on construc- Establishing clients' needs
tions (64%) were returned. In addition, one client One way of establishing a client's needs is to ask or
mentioned that full design prior to construction will probe, as would a Doctor to a patient, a Mechanic to
assist in avoiding surprises. Another client mentioned a car-owner seeking repairs, an Employer to prospec-
the need for contractors to prove their ability to con- tive employees, etc. However, construction pro-
trol subcontractors who are a possible source of sur- fessionals often adopt an over-simplistic view of
prises. clients,38, 39 and, the appraisal of their priorities has
Clients may have to realise that construction pro- often been ignored.28, 40 This attitude of construction
ductivity delves into the future which, is not always professionals may partially be accountable for the non
certain. Therefore, and, as one anonymous respondent attainment of clients' needs in project schemes. Several
recommends: ``expect the unexpected and you will not questions can be posed. These include the following:
be surprised''. Clients should expect uncertainties to be
minimised, as avoiding them totally may be imposs- . What are clients' needs, and, how can they be ident-
ible. i®ed, and or, evaluated?
. Why are clients' needs hitherto not adequately eval-
uated by clients' advisers in project schemes?
Time (project duration) . Can clients' satisfaction be improved or optimised
by the conscious attainment of their needs?
The overall aim of time factor in building production
is to minimise the duration in which the ®nished pro- The likelihood is that a detailed evaluation of cli-
duct is delivered to the client. Time thus concerns: ents' needs in the course of construction production
timely construction;26, 30 securing timely approvals; fas- will lead to greater levels of achievement. This will in
ter designs;19, 27 minimal interference with the works; turn lead to greater clients' satisfaction.
and, early start.28, 29 E€ective probing of needs with clients demands
Amongst these, timely completion of projects was artistic and behavioural skills. However, the process
rated very strongly by 98% of the studied clients. The can be eased by the availability of a checklist which
only client who did not desire any aspect of time com- can be used as occasion demands. The study sought to
An evaluation of the project needs of UK building clients: E. A. Chinyio et al.

establish such a checklist from clients' responses. References

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Ezekiel Chinyio is a PhD Pauline Corbett is a Senior

student at the School of Lecturer in Quantity Surveying at
Engineering and The Built the School of Engineering and The
Environment, University of Built Environment, University of
Wolverhamtpon, UK. Mr Wolverhampton, UK. Her back-
Chinyio has worked as a ground is representing clients' inter-
Quantity Surveyor and has ests in her professional capacity as
taught at tertiary level before a Chartered Quantity Surveyor. Her
embarking on his current research interests stem from RICS
research on the evaluation of APC assessment work and concen-
client's needs. trate on evolving professional skills.