Archive for the ‘Project Management’ Category

Extensions and alterations can be costly excursions

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

Even small extensions can benefit from expert supervision and cost control

Two sad cases have recently highlighted the need for tight cost control and expert supervision of even straightforward building projects.

Both cases were similar in that they were extensions and alterations to existing houses, but they were different too.

One client had done everything right; he engaged a professional to design and supervise the project but had been badly let down. The other had gone it alone and, armed with only some drawings, had obtained quotes and appointed a builder.

Both jobs went wildly over budget resulting in serious financial problems and months of stress and heartache.

What had started as a dream had turned into a nightmare!

Both projects had three things in common:
i) poor cost control
ii) poor supervision, and
iii) inability to control the contractor

Cost control starts at the pre-tender stage. To get a meaningful quote the design, specification and scope of the project need to be determined in detail. If there are gaps in these there will be gaps in the price.
And without a fixed starting price you have no hope of knowing what the final cost will be.

Drawings alone rarely tell the full story; designers skirt round the difficult bits with phrases like ‘to be agreed’ or ‘to be approved’. Seldom are things like doors, door handles, tiling, kitchens and bathrooms ever selected. A QS will fill these gaps and provide a Schedule of Work setting-out everything the contractor should price.

Building is not an exact science. There will always be unknowns and changes of mind, especially in alteration schemes where preliminary investigations are limited; all the more reason for tight cost control.

Without tight control the contractor can proceed unchecked; he can take short cuts, vary the specification and costs can escalate.

When it comes to paying him:
– How much and when should you pay?
– Could you value the work done?
– Do you pay what he asks when he asks?
– What does the contract say?
– Have you even got a contract?

Even small construction projects can be a minefield for the unwary.

An experienced QS will:
• Help fix a budget for your scheme
• Help you choose a contractor
• Ensure watertight tenders
• Help you keep costs within your budget
• Ensure compliance with specification
• Protect your position

Before you get in your mess call us on 01332 603000.

PV, or not PV, that is the question

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

The door-bell rang.  I opened the door to a cowering salesman “I’m not selling anything” he whimpered “I just want to save you some money on your electricity bill”. 

This guy wasn’t from Scottish Energy or any of the other Gannets trying to woo me away from my current provider.  He was offering to install photovoltaic panels (PV) on my roof – for free!

The contract was for 25 years.  The deal was that I use the energy they create to save on my bills and they collect the feed-in tariff.  After 25 years the PV panels were mine, at no extra cost.

He took-out his I-phone, tapped his way to the compass app and checked my roof orientation (I know it faces East/West) and confirmed that my roof was ideal.  His colleague would be visiting a neighbour tomorrow, could he call in to talk it through?

PV can look neat when it's designed-in

I know South-facing is the optimum direction.  And, not being one for ‘appendages’ on the outside of my house (I won’t even have a TV aerial or upvc windows) I said I would think about it.  And I did.

So, I use the energy they create.  But we’re out all day and, as PV doesn’t work in the dark most of the energy will be fed back into the grid; they gain from that, not me.  Wonderful!

I looked on the ‘net’ for alternatives; there are loads out there.  I could buy the PV  and collect the feed-in tariff myself .  But the pay-back is estimated at 10 years, and that’s for optimum orientation. So it would be longer for me.

I’m nearly 60 and looking to down-size in the next few years.  So considering the options:

If I take their offer I might save a few pounds in the short term, but the house would be lumbered with ‘their deal’ when we moved.  New owners would be prevented from installing their own system and collecting the feed-in tariff.   PV panels don’t look pretty.  How do I repair my roof if I need to?  The technology will go out-of-date.  And the house owner will have to pay to remove them after 25 years when they break down. What affect would this have on the value of my house? 

If I installed my own I’ll have moved before they’re paid for.  The technology will be ageing.  They could devalue the house.  And who can rely on any government’s promise to last 25 years? 

Retro-fitting anything is never as good as designing it to fit in the first place.  A development in Derby has incorporated PV within the construction and, I have to admit, it looks neat.

So, I don’t think PV’s for me, but it might be for you.  There is much to think about.  And don’t be swayed by the door-step salesman.  Do your homework.

Demolition Sheffield

Friday, October 29th, 2010

There’s a tendency for some to guard our ‘Heritage’ in the mistaken belief that every old building should be preserved just because it’s old.

 Granted, ‘fashionable’ planning polices of the day have resulted in swathes of ill-conceived demolition.  The heart and the heritage have been torn from so many of our inner cities, to be replaced with faceless glass and tin-shed shopping centres.

 Will future generations bemoan their passing?  I think not.

 But dying industries have left industrial conurbations with acres of redundant industrial buildings, dinosaurs, of no viable use and of no architectural merit.  Preservation is not an option; they are ripe for redevelopment.

 One such is a site in Sheffield where we are project managing the redevelopment for a national developer.

 An old tool-making factory was to be demolished beside a busy main road and could have distracted drivers for weeks. 

 To avoid that, the facade was retained to hide the demolition going on behind.  Then, early, one wet Sunday morning, the explosive boys worked their magic and felled the front in one fell swoop.

 Check it out at Factory demolition