How to be streetwise in managing a project

Our top tips to get the desired result out of a home renovation project, managed by you!

Embarking on your first building project can be daunting. Where to start? How to manage the process? Let's walk through the process.

Do you need an architect?

The first thing to consider is whether you need to engage an architect.

If your project is simply changing the use of your space or converting your loft, it's likely the work can be adequately managed by a competent builder. 

But if your plans involve a substantial extension or a new build where the style of architecture is also an important consideration, then you'll need an architect to manage the planning and building control processes as well as the project design and build.

Choose a builder

The next step is to choose a builder or installer and ensure they understand what you are trying to achieve without compromising the project vision, the building programme or your budget. The best form of recommendation is still word of mouth, so chat to your family, friends and neighbours about their building experiences and see if they can recommend architects or builders.

Create a brief

Once the architect or builder is engaged, they'll need a brief to fully understand your requirements. This can be developed in conjunction with your appointed architect or builder and can cover:

  • Your ultimate expectations – what you wish to achieve from the project, both short term and long term. Include your likes and dislikes in design at this stage.
  • Your needs – such as use and connection of spaces, sizes of rooms, privacy and future plans.
  • Constraints – such as planning restrictions, existing structures, accessibility (restricted mobility), timescales and budgets.
  • Opportunities – such as flexible use of space, upgrades to other elements of your existing property, improved layouts, renewable energy, enhanced natural daylight provision etc.
  • Your timeline and budget – the two most important aspects that are quite often overlooked in the early stages of design.

As the design process develops, there will be changes to the brief to firm up understanding and it will eventually provide a set of instructions to make clear to everyone involved what is required and form a useful check list to measure progress of the project against.

The brief can also be used to ensure that the builder’s interpretation of the architect’s drawings is accurate and that the project is constructed entirely to your expectations and satisfaction. 

Agree the timescale and budget

There are two things most likely to adversely affect a project. So make sure you allow for a generous contingency sum (15%) to cover unforeseen work, and agree a start date and an end date with the builder.

You may wish to have a bonus scheme written into the contract to reward the builder if they finishes the project early. It's also reasonable to have penalties written into the contract should the builder go over the agreed end date as a direct result of their own management of the build. Both of these inclusions provide incentive for the builder to complete the project on time.

Decided how the project will be managed

It may be that you are quite handy with DIY and fancy managing the build process yourself. This is quite appropriate for the very smallest of projects, but the bigger a project gets, the more hassle and time will be needed in coordinating and managing the sub trades, utility companies and local authority requirements (planning and building control). By employing a general contractor, you not only remove the hassle and time associated with project managing, but you pass the risk onto the builder, which he will be much more used to dealing with.

Top tips

  • Always obtain at least 3 quotes from architects and builders to allow you to compare and make sure you're getting value for money.
  • Write a list of questions before completing a brief to ensure you have everything covered.
  • Try to programme the building work for the summer months to reduce the risk of weather.
  • Engage with your neighbours early (usually through the Party Wall etc. Act 1996), to allay any fears they may have of the impact of your project on their own property.
  • Ensure that all funds are secured before committing to a project and that stage payments can be made at regular intervals - include details in your contract with the builder.
  • Consider your living arrangements whilst work is being carried out.
  • Check other existing fixtures, fittings and equipment in your home as you may have the opportunity to upgrade or change whilst carrying out building works.

Ultimately, being streetwise in managing a project will ensure that you get maximum value from your investment, with a finished project that you will be able to enjoy for many years to come.

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