if you’ve not built before, this is some of what you need to know..
An advantage using an architect is our ability to work with you to find potential in your project and find solutions to your needs that might not at first glance be obvious. Sometimes commissions start with a need for a new extension, or walls to be taken down, or moving to new premises. Often we take a step back and ask about your basic needs and aspirations, taking a strategic view about a project development. It often takes three or four options to be worked through, but the end result is a solution that’s bespoke and long lasting.
We can advise at an early stage on the outline costs and time involved in a project. Construction costs are the largest but not the only outlay. Very often VAT has to be paid on labour and materials, as well as connection charges for utilities and local authority fees. Always have a contingency. Even on small projects, there are known unknowns and unknown unknowns! When working on old buildings or poor ground – challenges arise when walls are taken down or trenches dug. Keep at least 5% of the construction cost as a contingency. If all is trouble free you still have the money to spend.
For nearly all projects, you need to gain statutory permissions to start building. To stay legal, these need to be in place before commencing work. Planning consent is really important to obtain as it controls where and what you can build. There are some exemptions for smaller projects but nearly always you must go through due process. If you live in a conservation area or listed building, there are additional permissions to obtain. You also need to apply for a building warrant that covers constructional standards for your project. We can’t stress enough how important it is to have these in place as it affects your ability to sell a property on at a later date.
The construction process is complex. For some straightforward projects often you only require an engineer to design and sign off on any structural work. For larger and more complex works especially those moving into the very high tens of thousands of pounds we recommend a quantity surveyor. They cost your building work in advance, negotiate a tender with a contractor and control costs on site. It’s money well spent. For energy design and building services, we have specialist expertise, but sometimes especially on large complex non domestic projects you benefit from using building service engineers.
But a project that’s well designed at a detailed scale will provide so much more satisfaction over time. When buying a car, we’re often reminded of the importance of fit and finish – the way a door closes or the detail design of an interior. It seems strange therefore that the same thinking often fails to be found in a construction project. We work hard to make sure your project goes together well and that materials used and the way they go together are well designed and elegant. The cost of designing and specifying for such an approach can be quite modest but pays real dividends over time.
Working out your building project thoroughly in full before you even start taking a spade to site is good advice. To begin with, if you provide a builder with a complete set of requirements, you will get a more accurate price. Putting off decisions until work has started is an expensive choice to make. It makes the construction period longer [and more expensive], it becomes difficult to negotiate a good price once work has started and sometimes involves re-doing completed work. All of this delays completion and increases the project cost.
You can go out and get a price for building work by approaching a contractor directly or putting work out to competitive tender. It depends on the complexity of the project and the amount of tender information we can provide to the bidder. We always recommend a specification of the works as a minimum, and for larger projects a detailed pricing document prepared by a Quantity Surveyor. Whichever approach is taken, sometimes we see a price much lower than what we expect. Nearly always, it’s too good to be true, with the work not priced properly. If your project has a contractor working at a loss from the very beginning, then it threatens the quality and progress of the build.
A good reason to use an architect is that we are there to assist and advise on completion of your project. We often recommend you use an approved building contract and we can administer this during construction. For larger projects especially those requiring loan finance, we can approve stage payments and certify completion. These contracts often allow for a 12 month period during which any snags and uncompleted work is picked up and we ensure the contractor completes this to everyone’s satisfaction. Often your family or business needs change and we often return to projects to add, extend and enhance.
Brennan and Wilson Architects
9 Bayswell Park
T: 01368 655004