We have all seen the signs of property projects that have gone wrong, whether it’s an unfinished building site covered in weeds, or abandoned graffiti covered hoardings. Building surveyor Matthew Williams looks at what to consider when planning your construction project.

When I arrived at “surveying school” one the first exercises we did was to write a list of what is required to put a new door in a wall – “or slapping through and putting in a door” as it’s referred to in Scotland. I challenge you to think about it for a minute or two…..

When is a door not a door?

After deciding the type of wall, internal, external etc, you may have considered a lintel over the door to support the bricks above, the types of frame, sill, waterproofing around the door, architrave, the door itself, frame fixings, glazing, fire resistance, draught stripping, hinges, locks, closing devices, handles or even the colour of paint you want to finish the job, and don’t forget the letter box. A few minutes on the internet will confirm the range you can get of each of the items listed above, their “quality and cost” varying significantly from “nasty and cheap” to “beautiful and eye wateringly expensive”.

You then need to decide how you are going to do the work, is there any asbestos or electrics you need to consider, do you need to temporarily support the brickwork above, do you need a dust enclosure or extraction, how are you going to dispose of all the waste material, or finish the floor on the door line? There is also the big decision on how soon you want it done and how long it is going to be before you can walk through your new door?

A rather lengthy way of showing it may be a bit more involved than first thought and a bit more involved than “slapping through” may suggest.

Multiply the specification of one door opening to a whole building, with all the multiple and varied items that can be involved, and you can see why construction projects have potential to go wrong.

Getting it Right

The core steps to get construction right have long been talked about as quality, cost and time. Getting these three clearly set out will leave you on a good course towards your destination. There is scope on all three of these; if you reduce time – the cost is likely to increase, if you decrease quality – you may make savings on cost and time, but does this still deliver what you want when the job is completed?

Knowing what you want is a great first step in the delivery of any project. As well as considering time, quality and cost, you also need to establish those physical aspects of the project defining the space, appearance or “form” of the building required, and the “function” the building needs to perform. If your door needs to allow you to drive your vehicle through, so it can be unloaded, it is good to establish the size of the truck early on. Another example might be ensuring the new office layout has sufficient space for the number of desks required and includes for that expansion of the workforce planned in six-month’s time.

Write it down

You may delegate the detail to a trusted professional team and contractor, but ensure they’ve established the fundamental parts of the project you want or need. Like all good ideas you have in the middle of the night, it’s best to write them down.

Setting out what is required, who is responsible for delivering it, the cost and when you need it, is a stumbling block in many projects. Simple projects can be successfully delivered with a letter confirming the agreement between parties. As matters become more complex, you will need specifications, bills of quantities, employer’s requirement documents, contracts, warranties etc. to properly record those agreements and ensure you arrive at the correct finished product. However you choose to do this, make sure it is written down.

The extent and details of building projects do change over the course of works. New requirements, or unexpected problems may be encountered from ground conditions, to delays in delivering the flagpole for the roof. Consider and plan for the risks and whatever happens, make sure changes are recorded and their effect on the initial agreement is established – and written down.

There is the story of the lecturer greeting her students with a “Good morning”.  The student psychiatrists assess the state of her marriage, the student physicists assess the room’s reverberation time and the student building surveyor writes it down, maybe with good reason.

The first question arriving at any project gone wrong, is to ask for those written agreements.

So, not a complete or fool-proof list, but consider:

  • Quality
  • Time
  • Cost
  • Risk
  • Form
  • Function

And ensure what has been agreed, is written down.

Stratton Creber Commercial offers a range of design, specification and project services to take schemes from developing the initial idea to handing-over the keys, delivering newbuild, fit-out, relocation planning, refurbishment or extension. One of our building surveyors would be pleased to discuss any project you are considering.

Contact Matthew Williams MRICS BSc (Hons) Building Surveying IMaPS  Tel: 07834 996419