Leviatan Design started its activity in 2012 with a focus on providing integrated architecture and civil engineering services and evolved, in its 10 years of activity, to full construction services in the design & build type. Part of the group of companies is also Ubitech Constructii, a company established in 2015, offering complete services in the field of construction – general contracting, design and execution, project management, and implementation.
With 100% Romanian capital, this group has made its place on the construction market in Romania through the vision of its young founding entrepreneurs, a vision that has been from the beginning oriented towards sustainable development through technology and innovation.
How the construction market looks like and what the main challenges of the moment, we find out from Cătălin Podaru, CEO Leviatan Design and Ubitech Constructii.
What are 3 tips you would give to a new client for the correct acquisition of design and execution services of construction works?
First of all, my advice would be for the beneficiary, namely the client, to define their requirements very well, keeping in mind, as detailed as possible, the usage needs of the space, so that the design team can determine the optimal technical specifications for the project, in relation to the established budget.
Another piece of advice I could give is more related to choosing the design and execution company. In the introductory meetings, the client should ask for a presentation of the working methods and the methodology used throughout the realization and execution of the project, as well as concrete examples of their implementation. Only in this way can the client make the right decision, ensuring a high level of project quality. Also, it is imperative that the presentation of the working methodology and management capacity be in line with the price offer, as many beneficiaries choose the lowest price in the bidding stage, and later face multiple problems and errors during the project realization. For this reason, the execution time and the budget allocated to the project can increase, without reaching the level of quality required by the client.
The third piece of advice I could give to a new client is to ask the design and execution company for their portfolio of completed projects, both for the design phase and for the execution one, in accordance with the BIM standard. Even though most beneficiaries are still not familiar with what this process standard represents, they can research the benefits it brings in the design and execution phase, as well as in the exploitation phase.
The use of the BIM methodology in design and execution offers the client more transparency and direct control elements in all project stages, losses are reduced, and the number of error correction works is reduced. At the same time, BIM ensures a quick coordination between specialties, and the client can understand the technical and design implications of the project, from the design phase, even without having technical knowledge. Moreover, the client can follow almost in real-time the progress of implementation and how the quality requirements imposed within the project are respected.
It is very important to mention that BIM contributes to reducing decision-making time during the realization and implementation of the project, and the greatest benefit for the client comes in the exploitation stage, as BIM provides the client with detailed information about the built space and the possibility of intelligent exploitation.
What are 3 common pitfalls/mistakes that you observe with clients purchasing design and execution services?
A first very common mistake among clients who purchase design and execution services is the incomplete definition of the design theme, in relation to the functional requirements of the spaces. Often, technical requirements are used in constructing this theme rather than functional ones, which can generate confusion among specialists trying to understand the functional requirements based on the technical requirements presented in the project.
A second common error, particularly in Romania, is that most clients, including public institutions, allow a very short time for project realization and do not impose performance indicators to ensure minimal losses and decrease error correction work during the implementation and execution phases.
Due to the imposition of a too short design time, many projects end up being incomplete and poorly coordinated, having the materials’ quantity lists and technical sheets incorrectly drawn up. All these aspects lead to a longer execution phase and to the need to remake the quantity lists and technical specifications with products that are compliant and available on the market. This is why the budget allocated to a project increases, leading to the modification of solutions, deepening of defects or conflicts between specialties, and lack of traceability for these modifications. In the end, there are no real quality indicators for the completed project, which could be applied during the execution process.
The imposition of too short a design time inevitably leads to extended deadlines and arbitrary resolution of various technical challenges. In this context, many executors no longer strictly adhere to the technical documentation and, in many cases, adopt solutions in an empirical, on-the-spot manner, which generates multiple defects or nonconformities during the exploitation phase. Thus, the time gained in the design phase and savings obtained in regards to the design budget lead to delays in the execution phase, increased expenses during the construction realization, and additional costs during the exploitation phase. Therefore, if the design time is too short, it’s almost impossible to approach optimal solutions, both in the construction process and during the exploitation phase. This is why we end up having functionally defective spaces with high costs for certain parts of the construction, without being able to realistically take into account cost reduction during exploitation.
A third very common mistake is choosing the company based on the lowest price for design or construction work services. This approach seems more advantageous, however, in reality, if the total direct and indirect costs were evaluated, in relation to the quality level achieved, the costs would certainly be higher for a lower level of quality. Also, this aspect leads, during the exploitation phase, to increased maintenance costs, as well as the interruption of exploitation, ergonomic discomfort, and uncontrolled energy waste.
What are the current challenges in the sector you are active in?
I believe that the construction field is currently facing general challenges.
Firstly, the lack of specialists in the design and execution parts, as well as at the level of qualified and unqualified personnel for construction sites, should be mentioned. Other challenges are closely related to the galloping price increases, which do not offer medium and long-term predictability, as well as supply chain issues affecting construction material and equipment orders, generating very long delivery times that often aren’t respected by suppliers.
The rise in financing costs, which have doubled in the last year, represents another challenge facing the construction sector. These costs have a major impact on large-scale projects, which is why financing is essential for their successful completion.
Salaries bring additional challenges to the construction field. Although our companies have raised salaries by 20%, on average, this year, the price hikes generated by inflation and other factors have created real challenges in providing salaries that motivate staff, preventing them from considering exodus. These problems are also exacerbated by the modification of thresholds for ensuring facilities in construction, as well as the increase in the minimum wage in this field.
All these challenges come in a context where Romania needs large and very large investments in the coming years, which could lead to the impossibility of realizing these investments. Starting from this scenario, I would like to sound an alarm. Government investments from national funds and the NRNP are vital for economic recovery and strengthening, especially in the context of the current security crisis and economic uncertainty. However, I believe that government measures should support construction companies as soon as possible, as the latest IMM Invest measures this year are no longer attractive to banks.
How do you see the market evolution in your niche in Romania over the next 6-12 months?
Considering the financing and investment budget in Romania, as well as the opportunities that Romania offers to investors, I believe that the construction sector market will have an upward trend. Despite the previously mentioned challenges, I believe that the opportunities that construction companies have will determine the continuation of the transformation and rapid adaptation to advanced technological solutions, both in the design process and in the execution part. In this way, it will be possible to approach energy-efficient and environmentally friendly solutions in construction projects.
Can you tell us some of the objectives of LEVIATAN DESIGN | UBITECH that you are implementing during this period?
Our group of companies aims to continue the development and digitization of design and execution processes, to streamline and simplify the activity of our teams, and to be able to deliver projects at an increased quality level, in the shortest possible time.
At the same time, we aim to adopt solutions and equipment in our projects that offer more advantages to the beneficiary, in the construction phase and especially during the exploitation phase. Thus, the projects we carry out can be increasingly energy-efficient, with a reduced impact on the environment. Moreover, we are testing and identifying solutions to provide the beneficiary with Digital TWIN tools, which will facilitate intelligent and efficient use of the built space.
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