“On the whole, building refurbishment projects are much more complex than new build instructions.”
For those of you who haven’t seen the film (I encourage you do), it features a couple who attempt to renovate a recently purchased period property. A pure labour of love, everything that could possibly go wrong, goes wrong and as a result, their budget and timescales simply spiral out of control.
OK, so that’s a domestic property I hear you say but essentially, the principles are exactly the same on commercial and industrial refurbishment projects too.
Typically, at PPC Surveyors, we often encourage our clients to allow a 10% contingency for a building refurbishment compared to only 5% for a new build instruction.
The reason why is because building refurbishment brings with it lots of unknowns. Unlike a new build, you may not have seen the foundations being laid. You may not have purchased the materials used to build it. You may not know about the potential short cuts the original Contractor took…yet. Issues surrounding any of these could resurface as you start to peel back the layers.
Despite the potential drawbacks, building refurbishments can also be hugely profitable as you are taking advantage of the existing building fabric rather than starting from scratch which can obviously help you save on budget and schedules. In particular, historical or regionally-iconic buildings, especially in areas earmarked for regeneration, when sympathetically restored can also make you incredibly popular with local stakeholders and planning officers – a potential great PR story in the making.
"Typically, at PPC Surveyors, we often encourage our clients to allow a 10% contingency for a building refurbishment compared to only 5% for a new build instruction."
So, to save you time, money and unnecessary stress, we’ve put together ‘9 things you must know before you start that building refurbishment'; whether you’re a small or large management agent or a business owner!
1. Start on the right footing
We would also highly recommend you opt for a Chartered Building Surveyor. This is a mark of quality and acts as a seal of approval from the world's leading professional body for qualifications and standards in land, property, infrastructure and construction; the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). We’ve been registered with the RICS for over 10 years and will always ensure a Chartered Surveyor will oversee your project from start to finish.
2. A tick box exercise
But the big question you’re probably asking is - what are the risks if this documentation is not in place? The answer is very significant. For example, there are lots of cases where ill conceived construction activities have caused damage to neighbouring properties and left those responsible with a lengthy legal bill or even brought them in front of the Health & Safety Executive.
3. Don’t find yourself in trouble with the authorities
Under the newly implemented CDM in 2015, your duties to check and review health and safety arrangements throughout the life of the project has increased. You, as the Client, now have a duty to fulfil the roles of both principal designer and principal contractor if you do not appoint others to undertake these roles on your behalf.
4. Deep pockets
As I’ve already alluded to, refurbishment projects can be the most difficult kinds of project to estimate as there are so many unknowns and a strong likelihood that things may change mid-build. That is why you need to have an experienced Building Surveyor to advise on what contingency to put to one side for these unknowns. Their impact can be minimised by instructing the correct surveys to be carried out before construction begins. By fully understanding your brief and walking through what to expect from the finished project at planning stage, your Surveyor can help minimise the changes you may make before construction begins, therefore reducing any overspend on the project.
"If a Client’s budget is unrealistic, they need to be told so at the outset so that the budget can be adjusted accordingly or the scope of project reduced to compensate."
5. Final bids please
Our detailed specification and architectural drawings form a solid platform to fully describe and itemise the proposed works. We invite competitive tenders from selected contractors (either from a Clients’ approved list or genuine contractors) to bid for the works. The returned tender prices are scrutinised and a tender report prepared with our recommendations for your approval. We will also carry out financial checks on proposed Contractors to ensure they are financially sound before commencing work for a Client.
6. Contracts, contracts, contracts!
Contracts help to protect both parties and at PPC Surveyors, we will always use our experience to advise on selecting the correct Contract and including the appropriate conditions within it for your needs. For example, what happens if your chosen Contractor becomes insolvent? By putting the most appropriate Contract in place, staged payments and if necessary, warranties or bonds will help to reduce your risk exposure.
7. See you on site at 10.00am
Over the years, we’ve received a steady stream of new instructions whereby the Client had employed a Building Surveyor to prepare Planning and Building Regulations drawings and then engaged a Contractor to undertake the work.
In many cases, the proposed works were not sufficiently planned or detailed and differences subsequently arose between the parties. The appointed Building Surveyor duties did not extend to monitoring works on site, so they did not stand by their designs and left the Client unrepresented with the Contractor, which resulted in poor workmanship and an increase in the final build cost.
"Once your project commences, will your Building Surveyor attend site and resolve queries with the Contractor? This is where you find out about the integrity of your chosen Surveyor."
8. A good job, well done
At this stage, it is also the role of your Building Surveyor to ensure the correct information is provided by the Contractor in the building user manual. After all – there’s no point having a newly refurbished building and not knowing how to use things like your new fancy heating system!
9. Indemnify me
As with all insurance, it can be a minefield to work out for instance what type of insurance is required, the amount or even the excess level of that insurance. It is always the small details that are important and so it’s worth requesting a copy of (and reading thoroughly) a Building Surveyors’ insurance documents. At PPC Surveyors, we strongly advise upon this process and will help to explain what you need to look out for.
So, there you have it – my ‘9 things you must know before you start that building refurbishment'.
I hope you found my advice helpful. As the owner of PPC Surveyors Ltd, I’m well versed in building refurbishment projects and what and importantly, what not to do in their delivery.
If you feel that my experience is something that could help you on your next building refurbishment project, please feel free to say hello.