The different duties and functions of the role players involved in a typical construction project are fundamental in the understanding of the proper operation of a construction site.   The purpose of this article is to provide clarity as to the functions of certain of the professionals involved in a typical construction site. Simply put, who does what?

It is intended to address the different role-players involved on a typical construction site and the relationships and responsibilities of such role-players in a relatively simple construction project.

The typical construction site can be quite complex, not only in the technical sense, but also because the various professional disciplines must work in unison, as a team, to achieve the required result. In most cases “the required result” includes the delivery of the agreed product, within budget, and within the agreed timeframe. The three primary considerations are usually “scope”, “cost” and “time”.

Apart from these three considerations, safety on site is also one of the key requirements of the modern construction operation. In the modern construction framework numerous safety requirements are prescribed by legislation. Ensuring compliance with these requirements involves the ongoing monitoring of operations on site by a dedicated safety officer.

Over and above the safety officer, the typical construction team involves a number of professionals from different disciplines within the engineering sector. They are usually highly qualified individuals who have specialized knowledge in their own field of expertise.

The professionals that need closer attention are architects, engineers, quantity surveyors and project managers.

Other professionals will include the Land Surveyor and the Landscape Architect. A discussion of these professions does not fall within the ambit of this article.



Architects are artists. They combine architectural history, science and art within the built environment to produce designs that will not only meet the client’s requirements, but also enhance the environment.

The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary describes the architect as:

“One whose profession it is to prepare plans of edifices and exercise a general superintendence over their erection.”

An architect is usually the first professional to be contracted by the client. They are also the leaders of the construction team. In many building projects the role of the architect is to co-ordinate a team of specialist consultants, such as landscape architects, engineers, quantity surveyors, interior designers, and even contractors and sub-contractors.

An architect must be professionally qualified and lawfully registered to practise. They also subscribe to a code of conduct that requires them to perform all duties with professional integrity.

An architect can make a valuable contribution to any project, even before any design work commences, particularly in the following respects:

  • Feasibility Studies


It may be necessary to establish the economic relationship between factors influencing the cost of a development on the one hand, and the estimated return from the project that a client could expect. Most architects are able to assist with such a basic financial analysis.

  • Site Selection


Architects are able to advise clients on the selection of a suitable site based on the client’s needs. This advice can often reduce the cost of the project through the appropriate assessment and selection process of a site. Architects may consider and advise clients on issues such as sub-soil conditions, availability of services, local building regulations, heritage implications, site orientation and views, as well as solar energy design requirements.

  • Budget Planning


Experienced architects can provide a client with a reasonable estimate of expected costs for the different phases of a building development. These estimates can be broken down into the site development phase, construction phase, the cost of furniture and fittings, the estimated cost of landscaping and other external works. They may also provide the client with some indication of the expected cost of finance and consultants’ fees, as well as possible ongoing maintenance costs.

  • Preparation of a project schedule


On smaller projects, architects are sometimes engaged by clients to prepare a project schedule of events. This is normally done at an early stage in the project in order to allow for the ongoing monitoring of the project activities and to what extent certain activities are being completed. It also gives the client an indication of whether or not certain deadlines will be met.

With larger projects, this task is within the responsibility of a project manager. In recent times the development of the project management profession has, to some extent, depleted the role of the architect on this particular issue. The management of resources and activities, and ultimately time and money, is increasingly becoming the responsibility of the project manager.

  • Schematic Design


Architects will prepare, at the outset of the project, a schematic design based on the information and initial brief given to them by the client. The schematic design will also take into consideration the architect’s understanding of statutory requirements. Government and local councils may have specific regulations which affect design solutions and the project schedule. This is also the opportune time for the client to make any amendments to proposed designs. Any changes at this stage would be far less expensive than significant design changes at a later stage when detailed designs have been completed by the architect. The design process therefore starts with the schematic design and leads through a progression of designs. The client develops the design with the architect into a final design which, at the end of the process, should be in accordance with the client’s requirements. During the design process the architect will also explore and illustrate the cost options for each design and any changes made thereto. The client should therefore be in a position to take the cost factors into consideration when a design is being developed.

  • Obtaining Approvals


Approvals for any project must be obtained from a number of authorities. An architect can submit applications for approval, together with the required information on a client’s behalf and may also respond to any technical queries raised by any of the approving authorities.

A number of authorities may be involved in the approval process inter alia:

  • The Local Authority
  • Fire Services
  • Liquor Control Authority
  • Environmental Protection Authority
  • Heritage Authority
  • Health Authority

The architect will also be au fait with the national building regulations. Any design prepared by the architect should be in compliance with the national building regulations, as well as certain requirements that the local authorities may have in this regard.

  • Preparing Documentation for Construction


Following the approval of the design by the client, as well   as the   relevant authorities, the architect   will prepare drawings and specifications which will be used during the construction process. These documents will be used during the identification of suitable contractors. They will also be used, where necessary, to obtain further designs from relevant professionals such structural engineers, mechanical engineers and electrical engineers. The construction documents can be detailed and complex. They require skill, experience and time to prepare. It will normally include a set of large- and small scale fully dimensioned and detailed drawings, known as “the working drawings”.

This set of drawings is accompanied by a written, bound volume giving full descriptions, details and direction in relation to all work to be carried out. The set of drawings is known as “the specification”. The documents prepared by the architect may often also include further drawings and specifications prepared by any specialist consultants appointed by either the client or the architect on the client’s behalf. Architects, in their role as leaders of the design team, have a good knowledge of the building and construction industry, as well as available technology. They also know providers of specific products and services and may make valuable recommendations to clients. During the design stage many building projects will require specialist consultants in specific areas of the work to be executed. These consultants include engineers (structural, civil, mechanical and electrical), quantity surveyors, project managers, land surveyors, landscaping architects, etc. An architect will advise the client on the need for such consultants, may recommend certain preferred consultants and will also advise on the roles that they will play.

  • Regulation of the Architects Profession


Architects are regulated by the Architectural Profession Act 44 of 2000. The Act makes it an offence to practise as an architect without proper registration. The Act also provides for the registration of architects, senior architectural technologists, architectural technologists and architectural draft persons.

The Act regulates the relationship between the South African Council for the Architectural Profession and the Council for the Built Environment. This entity is called into being by the Council for the Built Environment Act, 43 of 2000.

In recent times, the identification of work to be executed by the relevant professional bodies has been the focus of the Council for the Built Environment. Most of the Councils regulating their individual professions are now finalizing their “Identification of Work” documents within their own professions. It has also been instrumental in the co-ordination of the various Councils that were established through their respective Acts in 2000.

The Architectural profession is no exception. The identification of work provides for categories of work within which registered persons are permitted to operate.

The aim is to regulate the conduct of registered persons to ultimately protect the public in their dealings with registered persons and to maintain the integrity of the architectural and/or other regulated professions in the construction and engineering industry.



Engineering has been an aspect of life since the beginning of human existence. Civil engineering might be considered properly commencing between 4000 and 2000 BC in Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia when humans started to abandon a nomadic existence, thus causing a need for the construction of shelter. During this time, transportation became increasingly important leading to the development of the wheel and sailing.

The construction of Pyramids in Egypt in approximately 2700-2500 BC might be considered the first instances of large structure constructions. Other ancient historic civil engineering constructions include the Parthenon in Ancient Greece (447-438BC) and the Great Wall of China in 220 BC.

In ancient times, engineers were typically referred to as architects or master builders. In the 18th century, the term civil engineering was first used to recognize it as a separate field from military engineering. The first self-proclaimed civil engineer was John Smeaton who constructed the Eddystone Lighthouse.

An engineering qualification is highly sought after in South Africa at the moment. According to the Human Sciences Research Council, the growth in the demand for labour in the engineering sector is expected to rise. This has put significant pressure on the limited professionals presently available in the market.

There are many different types of engineering qualifications. Without dealing with the detail of every engineering discipline, some of the main ones are:

    • Civil engineering
    • Electrical engineering
    • Mechanical engineering
    • Metallurgical engineering
    • Industrial engineering
    • Clinical engineering
    • Mining engineering
    • Chemical engineering
    • Aeronautical engineering

Perhaps the most recognized branch of engineering is Civil Engineering, the reason being that it directly affects the infrastructure used by society. Civil engineers are commonly involved in all aspects of community infrastructure, housing and construction. Our homes, roads, airports and bridges are built thanks to the involvement of civil engineers.

Civil engineering includes the following different specialties:

    • Environmental Engineering
    • Geotechnical Engineering
    • Hydraulic Engineering
    • Materials Science
    • Structural Engineering
    • Transportation Engineering

Engineers are regulated by the Engineering Profession Act 46 of 2000. The Act makes it an offence to practise as an engineer without proper registration. The Act also provides for the registration of engineers, candidate engineers and specified categories in the engineering profession. The Act regulates the relationship between the Engineering Council of South Africa and the Council for the Built Environment. The identification of work to be executed by the relevant professional bodies has been the focus of the Council for the Built Environment. Most of the Councils regulating their individual professions are now finalizing their “Identification of Work” documents within their own professions. It has also been instrumental in the co­ordination of the various Councils that were established through their respective Acts in 2000.

The Engineering profession is no exception. The identification of work provides for categories for work within which registered persons are permitted to operate. The aim is to regulate the conduct of registered persons to ultimately protect the public in their dealings with registered persons and to maintain the integrity of the engineering and/or other regulated professions in the construction industry.



The quantity surveying profession emerged in England at the beginning of the 19th century. Prior to the first recorded usage of term “quantity surveyor” in 1859, the term “measurer”, “custom surveyor” or “surveyor” were used. In those early days the quantity surveyor acted as master tradesman, measuring the work at completion and frequently submitting final accounts to the building owner.

As a direct result of these activities it often became the the practice of building owners to have the work executed under contract and to call for tenders before any work was undertaken. A procedure therefore developed whereby building owners would approach an architect to design a building.

Drawings and specifications were distributed to selected master builders, who would then submit tenders for the total price rather than a collection of prices from master tradesmen. The task of arriving at an accurate estimate of cost or tender can be carried out in only one way, that of measuring the quantities of all materials and labour necessary to complete the work, i.e. preparing bills of quantities.

As each builder had to prepare his/her own bills of quantities for each project, they realized soon that it would be more economical for them, as a group, to employ one surveyor to measure quantities for all of them. They would thus share the costs of the surveyor, obtain identical bills of quantities which ensure that they would all be tendering on exactly the same basis. The builder owner subsequently realized that it would be to his/her personal advantage to appoint and pay the fees of the quantity surveyor. Thus the independent professional quantity surveyor gained consultant status.

Quantity surveyors become involved in the various stages of the project as essentially a financial consultant to the client. The client would normally engage an architect to prepare a design and the required drawings for the construction of a project. The architect’s drawings, being specific structural designs, be required, are then passed on to the design engineer. The engineer will then prepare designs for the specific design elements that would be required.

From the engineer, the finalised drawings would be passed on to the quantity surveyor in order to “measure” from the designs and prepare bills of quantities. The measurement from the finalised drawings involves the determination of the quantity materials and resources that would be required to complete the project.

Anything and everything from volume of concrete, tons of steel, number of bricks to square metrics of paint would be detailed. The bills of quantities are normally broken down into specific sections of measured items according to a pre-arranged and/or agreed strategy. The bills of quantities normally would form one of the cornerstone documents of a construction contract.

Professional quantity surveyors render a wide spectrum of services to their clients, but naturally attend to gain experience or concentrate their services in a specific field. The services that quantity surveyors could offer include:


  • Estimating and costs advice using techniques and an intimate knowledge of building and construction economics.
  • Cost planning enables clients to make informed decisions on various design alternatives with actual costs constantly monitored against original budgets.
  • Property development advice provide a pre-design study involving technical and/or economic investigations enabling the client to decide whether, and in what form, a project is to be proceeded with.
  • Valuation of work in progress, cash flow assessment of budgets and final account preparation in respect of a contract. The quantity surveyor measures and valuates the work in progress, determines the value of any variations ordered by the principle agent and ensures that a reasonable settlement of the cost of a project is achieved.


Quantity Surveyors are regulated by the Quantity Surveying Profession Act 49 of 2000.

The Act makes it an offence to practise as a quantity surveyor without proper registration. The Act also provides for the registration of quantity surveyors specified categories in the quantity surveying profession. The Act regulates the relationship between the South African Council for the Quantity Surveying Profession and the Council for the Built Environment. The Act also prescribes that a Professional Code of Conduct be published and subscribed to by all registered members of the Association of Quantity Surveyors. The Code of Professional Conduct is included in the bundle of documents.



As a discipline, project management developed from different fields of application including construction, engineering and defense. In the United States, the forefather of project management is Henry Gantt, developed planning and control techniques. He is famous for his use of the Gantt chart as a project management tool. The 1950s marked the beginning of the modern project management era. Again, in the United States, prior to the 1950s, projects were managed on an ad hoc basis, using mostly Gantt Charts and informal techniques and tools. At the same time, technology for project cost estimating, cost management and engineering economics was evolving.

Project management involves the planning, monitoring and control of all aspects of the project and the motivation of all those involved in it to achieve the project objectives on time and to the specified cost and standard.

The project manager seldom participates directly in the activities that produce the end result, but rather strives to maintain the progress and productive mutual interaction of various parties in such a way that overall risk of failure is reduced.

A project manager is also often a client representative and has to determine and implement the needs of the client. The ability to adapt to the various internal procedures of the contracting parties, and to form close links with the nominated representatives is essential in ensuring that the key issues of cost, time, quality as well as client satisfaction can be realized.

Traditionally, three constraints have been listed as “scope”, “time” and “cost”. These are also referred to as the “Project Management Triangle”, where each side represents a constraint. One side of the triangle cannot be changed without affecting the others.

The time constraint refers to the amount of time available to complete a project. The cost constraint refers to the budgeted amount available for the project. The scope constraint refers to what must be done to produce the project’s end result.

These three constraints are often in conflict i.e.:

        • Increased scope typically means increased time and increased cost
        • Time constraints could mean increased costs and reduced scope
        • Budgetary constraints could mean increased time and reduced scope

The discipline of project management is about providing the tools and techniques that enable the project team (not just the project manager) to organize their work to meet these constraints.

Another approach to project management is to consider the three constraints as finance, time and human resources. If you need to finish a job in a shorter time, you can throw more people at the problem, which in turn will raise the cost of the project, unless by doing this task quicker we will reduce costs elsewhere in the project by an equal amount.

Project management is composed of several different types of activities such as:

  • Analysis and design of objectives and events
  • Planning the work according to the objectives
  • Assessing and controlling risk (or Risk Management)
  • Estimating resources
  • Allocation of resources
  • Organizing the work
  • Acquiring human and material resources
  • Assigning tasks
  • Directing activities
  • Controlling project execution
  • Tracking and reporting on progress
  • Analyzing the results based on the facts achieved
  • Defining the products of the project
  • Forecasting future trends in the project
  • Quality Management
  • Issues management

Project and Construction Managers are regulated by the Project and Construction Management Professions Act 48 of 2000. The Act makes it an offence to practise as a project and construction manager without proper registration. The Act regulates the relationship between the South African Council for the Project and Construction Management Professions and the Council for the Built Environment.



After the finalization of the design process between the client and the architect, the architect will refer the finalized design to a specialist structural engineer for the preparation of any detailed structural designs that may be required and may influence the costing of the project.

Any other designs that may be required, such as storm water drainage and electrical systems, may also be referred to specific design consultants such as a civil engineer, as well as an electrical engineer.

As soon as these designs have been completed the architect may refer the various designs, including the detailed designs and specifications to a quantity surveyor.

The quantity surveyor will in turn prepare, from the drawings and specifications, a bill of costs. This process is normally referred to as “measuring”.

The bill of quantities can be used to secure the correct contractor to execute the work. There are several ways to select a building contractor, however the most common are:

  • Tendering – public (open) and private (selective)
  • Negotiated contracts
  • A combination of both

Public Tendering is done by invitation through the press and is open to all builders, irrespective of their qualifications or experience.

Private Tendering usually involves a pre-select group of builders who are known to be familiar with, and have a good track record in the particular type of project at hand. Selective, or private tendering, usually involves an invitation to tender that is extended to, at most, five or six building contractors.

In selecting a contractor, it is essential to consider more than one tender price. The architect, civil engineer, quantity surveyor and I or project manager should be able to assist a client in evaluating tenders received, by considering:

  • Value for money
  • The tender’s ability to meet the project schedule, appropriately staff the project, and provide the necessary plant and equipment to execute the works.
  • The tenderer’s experience in the specific type of project, as well as the tenderer’s reputation for quality of work.
  • The tenderer’s reputation for co-operation, particularly if the project involves extensions to occupied premises.
  • The tenderer’s financial stability.

In private or selective tendering, it is essential that most of this information be obtained and assessed before the contractors are invited to tender. In this process it is usually understood that the lowest tender will be accepted, i.e. the invited contractors would not have been approached by the client if they had not been pre-qualified and accepted on the above mentioned grounds. In general, the contractor should be selected on the overall value that they represent, and not merely the tendered price.

A preferred contractor represents real value in reliability, speed, quality of work and in the fact that the project may ultimately cost the client less if executed by the contractor, as opposed to a contractor of lesser ability, who has tendered at a lower price.

Negotiated Contracts comes into play when a client (or the consultant advising the client) has identified a preferred contractor, the contract is normally concluded through negotiation.

The negotiation process can be facilitated by the professional advising the client and the contract can be concluded between the client and the contractor directly. A further option is for the contract to be concluded between the contractor and the consultant advising the client, such as the architect, acting as the client’s agent.

In most cases where negotiated contracts are concluded, the client must be made aware of the fact that the price for the execution of the works is not given in competition. The client should therefore seek expert advice on whether or not the price received from the contractor is reasonable.

Most standard contracts include provisions for the contract to be administered by an architect, or an alternative consultant acting as the client’s principle agent.

The principle agent will be responsible for:

  • Assessing and certifying payments to be made by the client to the contractor. These payments are also known as “progress payments”. The principle agent therefore acts as the agent of the client when approving and certifying for payment of work executed.
  • Assessing, issuing, referring and authorising any contract variations or additional work. The principle agent will also determine the value of any variations or additional work, as advised by the appropriate consultant (normally the quantity surveyor) tasked with the determination of the value of the work executed.
  • Assessing and determine any requests for extensions of time.
  • Assessing compliance of materials and workmanship with the quality specified in the contract.
  • Being the custodian of the contract documents and shall keep a set of signed documents in his possession for safekeeping.
  • Assessing the progress that is being made with the completion of the works and will give guidance to the contractor as to the state of completion of the works required in order to certify practical completion.
  • Certifying practical completion of the works. The principle agent will then issue a works completion list to the contractor within a specified time of the certification of practical completion.
  • Assessing the status of completion of any work included in the works completion list. As soon as the work has satisfactorily been completed by the contractor, the principle agent shall issue a certificate of works completion.
  • At the end of the defects liability period, the principle agent shall inspect the works and issue a certificate of final completion of the works if the works has, in the opinion of the principle agent, reached final completion.
  • The final account will also be compiled by the project manager, the quantity surveyor or any other consultant responsible therefore. The final account will be issued to the client and contractor by the principle agent.
  • In order to execute the required tasks, the principle agent will have to attend on-site on a regular basis, in order to perform the duties required from a principle agent.
  • During the course of construction the respective consultants will, as part of their responsibility to supervise the work, inspect the works with the specific purpose in mind, attend regular site meetings, comment on any site minutes that may have been prepared, advise the contractor on the proper execution of the works and issue instructions.

The purpose of the involvement of the consultants, as well as the principle agent, is to ensure that the work being executed by the contractor is in accordance with the terms of the contract, including the specifications and drawings. The duty however, remains with the contractor to closely supervise the construction of the works and to ensure complete compliance with the requirements of the contract. For the duration of the contract, the principle agent, as well as the various consultants involved in the construction process, must maintain effective communication with the contractor to allow proper performance, as required by the contract. Communication also involves clear instructions to the contractor where direction is required on the rectification of any defects in the construction. Instructions or directions of this nature may include explanatory sketches and drawings.

If any instruction involves a variation in the cost of the works, it is the contractor’s responsibility to notify the principle agent of any changes in the project costs, before executing any such instructions. Where an instruction may cause a significant variation to the cost of the works, the principle agent will submit the variation to the client for assessment and will then revert to the contractor in accordance with the client’s instructions.

Situations may arise where the contractor is unable to complete all the contractual obligations by the stipulated date for practical completion. In such cases, the principle agent is required to consider the contractor’s claim and, if appropriate, grant an extension of time, effectively adjusting the date for practical completion.

Delays may be caused by factors beyond the contractor’s control, such as:

  • Local Authorities
  • Variations to the original contract
  • Industrial disputes
  • Disputes with neighbours
  • Inclement weather
  • Delays in issuing instructions
  • Delays in receiving appropriate designs from the professional team

In cases where delay is beyond the contractor’s control, the contract usually will require that the contractor be remunerated adequately for costs incurred as a result of the delay.

The possibility of delays occurring during the contract period can be minimised by:

  • Properly preparing the contract documents issued to the contractor
  • Establishing that the contract price is fair
  • Establishing trust and co-operation between the parties
  • Adequate time allowed for construction of the works
  • Prompt and informed decision-making
  • Maintaining effective communication between the parties involved in the contract throughout the contract period

The date for practical completion is the date nominated in the contract on which the works must be completed and available for use.

Practical completion can be defined as:

“the state of completion of the works where, in the opinion of the principle agent, completion has been substantially achieved and the works can effectively be used for the purpose intended”.

The date for practical completion may be subject to change, as discussed above.

The principle agent will issue the notice or certificate of practical completion after being satisfied that the work has been completed in accordance with the contract, that all requirements and services are fully operational and that the project is fit for occupation.

Before issuing the notice, the principle agent will undertake a comprehensive inspection of the works and list any items which require further attention by the contractor. Once the certificate of practical completion is issued, the client may occupy the building and must also insure the building from that date.

The terms of the normal building contract usually dictate that the contractor will remain liable to remedy defects in workmanship and materials which become apparent during the “defects liability period” specified in the contract.

The contractor is required to rectify such defects during the period and I or at the end of the period, as instructed by the principle agent.

Prior to the completion of the defects liability period, the principle agent will undertake a “final certificate inspection” and list any unsatisfactory items for the contractor’s further attention.

All items listed by the principle agent must be rectified to the principle agent’s satisfaction before a final certificate will be issued. This provides the client with protection against faults developing after occupation for the length of the defects liability period. The defects liability period can be as long as twelve months, depending on the terms of the contract.

At the satisfactory completion of the required rectification work, the principle agent will issue the final certificate. This signifies the successful completion of the defects liability period and formally completes the contract between the client and the contractor.