ECI: Would you like sauce with that?
14 October 2016

We should start by talking about the benefits of Early Contractor Involvement (ECI) but we’ve decided to go with pies, instead. To be precise; Garlo’s Pies. Garlo’s has made a huge stamp on the Australian psyche — and taste buds — over the past couple of decades, so it was with great delight that we recently helped them to relocate from their St Peters premises (a move made necessary by the WestConnex development) to a new facility in Kingsgrove.

Total Construction’s CEO, Jeff Jones (who has sampled Garlo’s entire range and leans towards Chunky Steak), explains, “Garlo’s was on a very tight timeframe. There were also building and local government regulation issues to be resolved, and it was extremely important for the client to maintain operations during the project. Total was invited under an ECI-type arrangement to assist during the design development phase. Some companies resist the idea of going with one construction partner from Day One but it’s an urban myth that you’re locked in with no way out. The Garlo’s Pies project is a great example of working with a builder from the early project stages but still having an opportunity to tender the job after the design phase. You really can have the best of both worlds.”

Jeff is convinced that the strength of Total’s main-works bid was the result of positive client engagement during the design phase. “Early involvement meant we were very aware of their requirements, understood the building methodology, knew exactly what the challenges were and, most importantly, had an opportunity to build trust.”

Operations were maintained by pre-storing produced units in stages in the new complex, allowing the equipment to be moved across and commissioned, all while the project was being completed.

“My advice to anyone undertaking a building project,” says Jeff, “is to think of design as a living, breathing model. You don’t have to have all the answers before getting a builder in. Design will evolve as certain assumptions are tested and your requirements become clearer. For example, by working with Garlo’s during the design phase, we were able to suggest a layout that was better suited to their production stages. In fact, many of the pre-existing ideas were substantially altered, right down to the size and location of the freezer. These were issues that would have been almost impossible to correct later on down the line.

“It’s about taking on a construction partner rather than a builder. It’s a massive missed opportunity if you complete the design without construction input because the risk is far greater that you’ll fail to identify where costs can be saved, and there’s also the possibility you’ll face expensive redesign after the project gets underway.”

If you’ve any thoughts on ECI (or you want a say in the great tomato sauce/no tomato sauce debate), comment away!