Rahim Banizaman Lari has a vision, and it’s one that may see him collecting enemies along the way. Talking about this vision of his, the managing director and founder of Abdul Rahim Architectural Consultants (Araco), tells Construction Week that value engineering must be introduced as early as possible – ideally during the pre-design stage of a project – to ensure that costs are kept down without compromising the development’s quality and performance.

It’s the matter of how to ensure this early introduction that Lari notes is the critical part of his vision – and the part that is unlikely to make him popular among the GCC’s contracting community.

“I have a vision of consultants overseeing the project management aspect of construction,” he says. “You could say that project management – and value engineering – is already part of the consultancy business, since it’s our responsibility to help clients save on costs and provide solutions [for] different conditions. But what I’m targeting is another level of project management and value engineering.”

Essentially, Lari’s argument is that consultants need to take on a bigger role when working on projects, and even assume responsibilities that have traditionally belonged to main contractors.

“At the moment, consultants don’t get too involved in the details of construction because that is the contractors’ job. But by leaving the details to the contractors, we’ve noticed instances of them exaggerating the cost for every single item in the building, just so they can keep bigger margins, which is definitely not to the benefit of the project owner,” says Lari.

To mitigate the issue of contractors – whether intentionally or accidentally – inflating project costs, Lari proposes that consultants become more engaged in the details, even to the point of buying the raw materials for the project and hiring level contractors on behalf of the client.

“This would mean consultants taking over the project and doing much more than general consultancy work. Meanwhile, the main contractors will basically become sub-contractors, only doing the civil engineering work,” he elaborates, adding: “This would mean that I will be carrying more responsibilities; that I may end up making contractors my enemy, because I will have to give them the minimum [of the project budget] and take the maximum and manage it on behalf of the owner.”

The risk of upsetting contractors notwithstanding, the idea of a more engaged consultancy sector promises numerous benefits for the construction industry, notes Lari.

Naming one benefit, he says that an expanded role would entail more competitive fees for consultants, which in turn would allow them to boost their capacity and hire more skilled and specialised engineers.

He continues: “There are so many new materials and technologies available in the market. Consultants won’t have the capability to do the required research unless they bring in more staff to learn what’s out there. The way everything is moving and changing so fast, we fall behind sometimes, and that affects projects. Consultants need to be up to date on new materials – on their applications and costs.”

Lari states that it is only by staying current and well-educated on materials and technologies that consultants are able to provide clients and investors with project designs that are not only of top quality, but also sustainable and cost-effective.

Giving an example, he continues: “Precast concrete, for instance, is a solution to the problem of waste created during construction. And yet, it’s barely used, with more than 70% of the buildings here in Dubai still built using conventional construction methods and materials.