Bruce Caldwell – How development management can save a scheme

Development management spans the entire project lifecycle, from devising a scheme at its inception to its delivery. But why bring aboard a development manager when you already have the technical experts you need?

Bruce Caldwell – Associate Director at Tetra Tech – explains the merits of the practice and how it can drastically benefit the outcome of a project.

What is development management all about?

If project managers ensure one particular jigsaw piece looks and functions well, then development managers are the overseers from a bird’s eye view who ensure the whole jigsaw puzzle works harmoniously. You might call them a ‘jack of all trades’ because they draw on specialist knowledge from many areas like environmental impact, town planning, energy, engineering, architecture, and much more.

They are the final arbiter on granting or refusing planning permission, and by extension, they enable sustainable communities built on a foundation of great placemaking and well-designed homes, workplaces, leisure and retail, and other critical infrastructure like hospitals, transportation, and schools. They continuously straddle the line between balancing efficiency, quality, and delivery.

How does development management benefit our clients?

A development manager gives our clients a one-stop shop to coordinate all the multidisciplinary services on a scheme from inception to completion.

If you look at, say, a windfarm development, noise is massively important. But a client with a residential development background might not immediately recognise the need for a noise assessment, the lack of which could massively backfire.

Similarly, a nuclear project is far more than building the reactor – you’ve got to consider self-sustaining access and campus accommodation for thousands of construction workers. If you’re building homes for military personnel, there’s surrounding transport infrastructure, funding, and a whole circular economy that extends to even parks and electric vehicle charging hubs. And what about the neighbouring landowner who might provide access to fit 20 more houses on site?

That is all to say that development management is about maximising opportunity and value for a development. One discipline could raise a major risk while another provides the opportunity to overcome it. Unless you have someone to provide that overview, you can’t marry up those efficiencies. That’s where the development manager comes in.

How does Tetra Tech practice good development management?

Development management fundamentally requires broad understanding of all development aspects. As a multidisciplinary consultancy, that breadth and depth of knowledge underpins our entire way of working at Tetra Tech, and it’s what allows us to manage developments holistically.

Aside from technical expertise, where we really excel is in our commercial savviness as a client representative to interrogate second parties and stakeholders to find optimal solutions that maximise value and minimise risk. Too often, we find it’s easy for actors in the built environment industry to become slaves to process, which can blind people to the subtleties and nuances of a project.

As development managers, we take a helicopter view and shine a light on those nuances. Sometimes that might involve a change of scope and explaining to the client why it’s not as scary as they think it is. We say, “Ok, you’re building a box, but did you know you could get much more value for your money if you make it bigger?”

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