Large and complex construction projects, in comparison to standard state of the art projects, involve a wide spread pool of human and technically resources. Usually on the client side the preparatory process is time and cost consuming and many times at an early stage detailed decisions have to be done without specific knowledge of particular technology or equipment or innovative solutions. Also the traditional procurement may cause problems, as required specialized contractors with their very specific know how join the project after particular decisions are made and very often those decisions need time and cost consuming revision in favour of the project.

Considering the interest of the project as the overruling core element on all single steps along the project realisation time line new approaches should be discussed. Finally a well done project that totally full fills the project target on high quality level without numbers of claims will benefit all participants; client, financiers, funders, politics, contractors, public and users. From that point of view it is simply logic that the favour of the project is finally the favour of all parties involved.

Everybody usually agrees with this statement that the success of the project is the non-plus-ultra. But on the other hand money is a major concern as well. Both key aspects lead to a conflict. Project realisation on high quality with the best available resources on one side and restricted funding sources on the other.

Who, or in this case better, what could be the “matchmaker” between the two parties?

One option that is intensively discussed in the international construction business is the Early Contractor Involvement (ECI).

What does ECI stands for?

When using the ECI approach the client forms an alliance with a specialised contractor in a way that the project benefits from its specific knowledge at a very early stage. Usually such an alliance is formed after a non-price competition between the most promising candidates. The evaluation criteria are only the qualifications and capabilities that have to be established by the interested contractors.

Is ECI in general terms better than established and so called traditional procedures?

Definitely NO. ECI is a niche procedure focused on projects with very specific and high potential characters. The routine projects with commonly very well established procedures don’ t need such a specific procurement process. Almost 90% or even slightly more are applicable to the established methods.

Why ECI and what benefits are within the process?

Very complex mega infrastructure projects with a high-risk potential are the typical ECI projects. Projects with a unique character, projects that need specific know how, projects that bear high risks, simply projects that require a trustful collaboration at a very early stage of all parties concerned in favour of the project.

What are the client and funder’s benefits?

At the very early stage of a project the client, funder and/or future owner is confronted with many complex questions and subjects. Usually such very big and complex projects also have serious impact on the environment; short term as well as long term. For a client it might be a “once-in-a-life” project. Some specialized firms or organizations will have the experience due to others in the past. When now bring together the right team – client, consultant, contractor – at a very early stage all might benefit.

Why early and not after a traditional tender process?

It is common knowledge that at the beginning of a project, long before the implementation process starts, the value of impact on a project is very high on low costs. The more a project goes forward along the time line changes will have major negative impact on costs and time.

How selecting the contractor?

ECI demand a strong collaboration with open books and fair negotiations of all parties involved. The first competition step between the contractors is competition only on basis of know how and capabilities. When identified the contractor work starts to bring in as much as possible know how into the project. From a certain point on both sides – client and contractor – must come to a Design and Build Contract (D&B) or a Guaranteed Maximum Price Contract (GMP). If this fails the contractor must be compensated for work and know how he gave to the project. If so the process starts again.

What are the essentials of ECI?

ECI is and will be successful only when all parties collaborate in a trustful open-minded manner. ECI will lead than the project to success and a successful project benefits all parties involved. Without doubts financial benefit is also a major issue for all. Therefor ECI demands also the “open book” approach.