Consultants: a smart move?

SAPCA’€™s Neil McHugh explains how bringing a consultant into a sports facility development project can you time, money and labour

When sports facility projects run into installation problems and costs spiral, it’s often down to a poorly perceived design or some underlying issues which, if addressed, could easily have been rectified in the earliest stages of planning. 

Long-term savings

Good advice has its price, but the costs of skimping on design quality are far higher. Design fees will usually constitute just a small fraction of the total construction expenditure, and pale into insignificance when measured against the operating costs over the lifespan of a facility.

High-quality design can reduce those operating costs by maximising a building’s efficiency. A sports facility that has received the input of design professionals right from the start of the project could well end up being cheaper to run, and command a greater value in the long term. And what is a new facility if not a long-term investment?

SAPCA’s Professional Services Group (PSG) gives you access to expert consultants across a range of disciplines, and is designed specifically to work with you to maximise the cost effectiveness, delivery and quality of your latest installation by carefully considering everything from initial preparation to tender, construction and even aftercare.

Independent consultants oversee seven distinct stages of a sports facility project: 

1: Preparation

It makes sense to start at the beginning. Involving a SAPCA-member consultant at the initial stages of your project can add much-needed clarity and direction to your installation. They can identify a clear project brief, examine site information and make recommendations for crucial data which could affect your build – ranging from topographical surveys and soil investigations to noise and lighting impact reports.

What’s more, their expert knowledge can help you to agree a timely project programme and procurement strategy, assemble a project team, and agree the scope of services, contract relationships and design responsibilities for each participant. They can also take on the core CDM Coordinator role and assume Health & Safety responsibilities for the build. 

2: Scheme Design

Here, a consultant really begins to steer your project, freeing up your valuable time. Being part of SAPCA’s certified Professional Services Group is essentially a seal of approval from the industry trade association. Our experts can prepare concept designs, including outlining services information, landscaping, outline specifications and a preliminary cost plan.

They will also put in place an OS Location Plan, proposed layouts to national governing body standards and proposed floodlighting spillage plans, and will review all materials being used. Later, they can agree modifications to the original brief as the project adapts over time, issue a final project brief, and review procurement strategy. 

3: Developed Design

At this stage of your project, a consultant oversees the preparation of developed designs including updated proposals for services, landscape, outline specifications and cost plans. Additionally, they will review the environmental impact of your installation (i.e. urban drainage, renewable energy, ecology) to make sure it is both high-quality and sustainable.

They will also prepare and submit a planning application via a registered planning portal, as well as reviewing construction strategy, including Health & Safety, to ensure your project remains on schedule. 

4: Technical Design

This is when a consultant becomes indispensable. They will oversee the preparation of technical design information – including all services, structural information, and specification – for sign-off. They will also prepare building regulations, National Building Specifications, bills of quantities and priced specification, all to ensure your installation is in keeping with legislative and quality guidelines. 

5: Tender

As your project advances, the role of a project consultant becomes more intensive and cost-efficient, ultimately making your project a sporting, economic and environmental success. At the ‘tender’ stage, a consultant will agree a tender list with the client and inform contractors, agree the client’s address for tender return, and collate drawings, specifications and pricing documents.

Crucially, they will also provide a scoring matrix, issue amendments throughout the tender process, and issue the client with a tender opening form. In this sense, their role is both advisory and supervisory, allowing you to focus solely on clarifying the core vision of the installation.

Towards the later aspects of the tender stage, a consultant will analyse contractor proposals and issue cost breakdowns before submitting a final tender report for review. 

6: Construction

Now the all important physical work begins, and a consultant will liaise with your appointed CDM Coordinator regarding Health & Safety plans – or, if you have allowed them to take on the role themselves, they will individually review their observations and action as applicable.

They will also provide contract documents for Joint Contracts Tribunal (JCT), Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), International Federation of Consulting Engineers (FIDIC) etcetera, and issue certificates, review valuations, issue instructions and check that materials and workmanship match SAPCA’s relevant Codes of Practice.

Finally, they will oversee stage inspections, progress meetings, conduct a snagging inspection and oversee the handover meeting (Operations & Maintenance). 

7: Use and Aftercare

Construction may be completed, but your installation is far from over. You must still ensure that it is fit for purpose and remains so with regular aftercare to combat the damaging effects of use on a sports surface.

A consultant will inform the client of all the relevant maintenance tasks required to prolong the life of their new sports surface and facility. They will also gauge performance testing, carry out a 12-month defect inspection and prepare a final account of the full installation.

Finally, they will issue a completion certificate certifying that the build meets SAPCA’s high quality standards, and issue the client with a consumer satisfaction form to gauge their own experiences of the installation process. They will then conduct one final project performance review with the client to address their thoughts on the shared experience. 

A core commodity for any installation

As you can see, a consultant’s contribution to a project extends far beyond form and aesthetics. It can influence a project’s perception, quality and performance and add value to your business now and in the future, through careful planning and rigorous quality monitoring.

A consultant can design a facility or a master plan that is tailored to your current and future needs, delivering a design that is practical and functional but also a pleasure to play on and visit.

Commissioning a consultant at the earliest planning stages opens the door to cost savings in both the construction and operation of your sports facility. Using a consultant to manage your project and coordinate the work of sub-consultants and contractors can save you time and money in the long run.

SAPCA’s Professional Services Group is a core network of expertly skilled consultants, covering every imaginable aspect of your sports facility construction. When selecting a consultant, choosing from SAPCA’s PSG gives you resounding peace of mind that your project and the future of your facility are in safe hands. 

Neil McHugh is Chairman of the Sports and Play Construction Association’s Professional Services Group. For details of members of the group’s members, visit

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