Procuring Construction and Estate Management Professional Services – A Supplier’s Perspective 

With a decade of working with schools and academies on construction and estate management, both as a client and as a consultant, Jonathan Jones of MAC Construction Consultants is well placed to understand the complexities of procuring professional support services.

In this blog he brings his expertise to bear to highlight what you need to do to procure these services in the right way so that you have the right people providing the right services at the right cost and quality; all of which are essential to successful capital projects.

The Need for Estate and Construction Professional Services 

During a decade of working with schools and academies on construction and estate management, both on the client side as Head of Estates for a MAT, and latterly on the consultant side as a Director of a construction consultancy, the complexities of procuring professional support services have become increasingly apparent. 

The need for this professional support is well established. Most notably, the DfE ‘Good Estate Management for Schools’ (GEMS) guidance sets out: 

  • The need for professional expertise on estates projects;  
  • That this expertise may be needed even on the smallest projects; and 
  • Professional support should be procured efficiently to deliver value for money. 

Ensuring you have the right people providing the right services at the right cost and quality is essential to successful capital projects. However, procuring these services in the right way is also essential.  

Types of Professional Services – Core and Specialist 

Understanding the different types of professional services is the first step. Helpfully, GEMS provides a list of core and specialist roles required for any project, as illustrated below. 

From a supplier perspective, most consultancy practices do not provide all the core services in-house, which means that they sub-contract or procure them separately on a client’s behalf. The same applies to the specialist services.  

Effective Procurement 

This variation in the types of service means that crafting a competitive and comparable tender exercise is challenging.  There are also key differences between a multi year appointment for multiple projects, or an appointment for a single one-off project. You should therefore aim to answer the following questions: 

  • Which services do I need? If it is a one-off project, you might have a good idea of the core services you need, but the specialist services may not be defined. For a group of projects, consider if you need to procure all of the core services and ‘call them off’ as and when needed. 
  • When will I need them? Consider the project lifecycle. For design services, you may only need these early on. For a Project Manager or Cost Consultant, these are likely to be needed throughout. 
  • Why are they required? Check that you are actually procuring what you need – a lead consultant can help with this using their knowledge and expertise. 
  • Can a single supplier provide everything? For a one-off project this might be the case, for a group of projects or for bigger and more complicated schemes, it is likely you will need to use a range of suppliers. 
  • Is there a need for sub-consultancy arrangements? You’ll need to manage through the procurement process – and provide time for suppliers to develop a supply chain.  
  • What information do I have? Provide information on the project and site. Floor plans, drawings, condition surveys or existing work completed on the project are all useful – but make sure it is relevant.  
  • Who will manage all of this? Do you want a lead consultant overseeing it all and do you have the capacity to manage it? 

Quality vs Cost 

Once you have defined what you need, the tender should clearly assess quality and cost. 

On quality, keep questions simple, word limited and site specific to get the information needed. Key things to think about include: 

  • Consider supplier experience. Have they worked with schools and academies? Can they provide examples of similar projects? What is their knowledge and capacity?  
  • The supplier’s key asset are their people who will be advising you. Where are they based? Who are they and what qualifications do they have? 
  • Is there a supply chain in place for specialist services that the bidder does not provide in-house? Are the companies and individuals named? How will this be managed? How will they procure these for you and ensure best value? 
  • Consider Health and Safety including the Construction Design Management (CDM) Regulations and Principal Designer to keep everyone safe and legally compliant. 

Key things to consider regarding costings include: 

  • Ensure comparability on a fair basis between suppliers so provide them with specific information about your requirements.  
  • If it is a single one-off project, can you request a fixed fee for the different core services required? 
  • If you are not sure about the services required or are planning a group of projects over time, consider using percentage fees for each service. 
  • Keep costing requirements proportionate to the size and scale of the project. If you are only planning to spend £500k over three years on roofing, think if you really need a Building Services engineer. 
  • Do you really need to procure the specialist services or can you leave this to the Lead Consultant as the project develops? 


Managing capital projects can be daunting and the range of services you need is equally complex. Procuring professional services in a robust way ensures that you meet your internal policies and procedures and avoids costly mistakes down the line.  

We recommend early engagement with professional services providers. They will help you define what core services you might require, at what stage, and what specialist services may be needed as the project progresses. As suppliers, we are happy to provide this advice, even when there needs to be a procurement process to respond to in competition with others. 

Once you have selected a professional services partner, this should give you the confidence you need by having the right people providing the right services at the right cost and quality. As a result, you are likely to see better outcomes for your staff and students, who ultimately benefit from a successful capital project.  

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