Early Contractor Involvement (ECI) is a well-known term in the construction industry and among quantity surveyors. Let’s explore its importance, meaning and benefits for construction projects and contract parties in this blog post.
ECI is a construction contracting method that enables a builder to become involved in the work on a construction project before the project design has been completed. Since the total project cost is not yet known at this stage because the design has not been finalised, the contractor provides insights and predictions regarding overheads, preliminaries, potential profits, and time frames of the project.
The Early Contractor Involvement process involves sharing responsibilities between a contractor and a designer. Contractors can provide valuable suggestions and input about major design and construction decisions, which can have a positive impact on the quality of the project.
ECI is well-suited for complex projects, and its methods can significantly decrease the construction project’s risk by conducting design reviews that analyse buildability, value engineering, and material delivery.
ECI allows contractors to suggest potential modifications in the design of the building, which increases the project’s flexibility compared to traditional procurement methods. Studies have shown that ECI can contribute to a cost savings of 7% in total and a time savings of 10% during the actual construction phase.
Therefore, the main benefits of Early Contractor Involvement include:
The Early Contractor Involvement process can be divided into two phases: a planning phase (pre-construction phase) and a construction phase.
The pre-construction phase is where the contractor’s inputs are utilised to achieve better time, cost, and quality standards for the project. During this phase, the contractor is engaged in providing final predictions regarding the scope and cost of the project, as well as giving design feedback. Additionally, this phase often involves identifying and mitigating project risks and finalising work on contracts that will begin in phase two.
The second phase, which is the construction phase, involves carrying out the actual construction work based on the findings and agreements completed during the previous phase.
The ECI model has proven to be highly effective in securing supplies and resources in the volatile market conditions of today. Given the high risk, price volatility, and material shortages characteristic of the supply chain, ECI can mitigate these issues by establishing relationships with contractors early on and forming strategic partnerships.
There are three forms of ECI contracts in total:
The primary distinction between traditional procurement and ECI is that, in traditional procurement, the contractor is hired after the project’s design has been finalised and accepted by the project owners. Contractors that will perform the construction work are chosen based on their proposals after the invitation to tender is issued, and principals generally prefer to consider offers from as many qualified and professional contractors as possible.
In contrast, ECI involves selecting a single contractor in the project’s early stages and compensating them on the scheme. The contractor can then influence the project to suggest design changes that can add value to the finished building and enhance the quality of the output.