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Why you need to involve construction professionals on your project

20th November, 2019

A member the general public when faced with paying fees to a construction consultant for their new house or investment plans tend to view this as an expense they can avoid on a project.

Many opt for getting some very basic planning drawings done by an architect and enter negotiations with a local building contractor who they really know very little about, with no contract in place and no construction specialists involved to provide them with advice.

There is a reason why most large scale developers and multi-million pound corporations are happy to pay fees to construction professionals and employ a full design team on their development projects.

How this can go badly wrong

Working as a freelance Quantity Surveyor, I was recently contacted by a concerned member of the general public who was very keen for me to visit their investment property in London to assist them with filing a case for the small claims court. It was a medium sized semi-detached house which the client was wanting to convert into two flats, one upstairs and one downstairs.

The client did not involve any construction professionals on their project, instead going on word of mouth they arranged a meeting at the house with a local building contractor to help make their investment property a reality. They instructed the contractor on what they needed, they then received a highly inflated construction cost from the contractor and agreed to appoint them for the job.

The contractor began working on the house with no construction contract in place. No professionals were on hand to help the client assess workmanship, cost etc. This project was destined to fail from the start, but it failed to a greater extent than even I could have imagined.

The client was an extremely busy doctor who simply didn’t have time to check up on the property on a regular basis. The contractor put in place five payment stages in his original agreement with the client, detailing works that would be completed at each stage and then was expecting payment for that stage. The client payed the Contractor almost £30,000 in the space of 4 weeks for the completion of four stages before realising on a site visit that the contractor had not even completed one, and the client had fallen victim to fraud or a ‘Cowboy Builder’ as they are also known.

If the client had simply involved some professional help on the project they would have received an accurate build cost as a starting point, a reliable builder being appointed for the project after a competitive tender which would ensure the best price for the work to be done. They would also have been protected by a JCT Contract put in place legally binding the contractor to conditions of payment once a month after assessment by a professional Quantity Surveyor. The professional could also have conducted visits to the site and manage the project for the busy client.

Instead, they had spent £30,000 on poor workmanship, and actually decreased the value of their investment project due to the damage done by the contractor.

The unique nature of involving a Quantity Surveyor on a project

Quantity Surveyor’s are the most multi-skilled professional within the construction industry, making them ideal to appoint on these smaller types of projects such as house extensions and one off new-build / refurbishment projects. On smaller projects like this it is simply not economic viable to appoint a full design team with Architect, Quantity Surveyor, Structural Engineer, M&E consultant, CDM co-ordinator etc. A Quantity Surveyor can:

  1. Provide project management services.
  2. Estimate the cost of your project giving you an idea of the total cost before you further commit your time and money to a project.
  3. Competitively tender the project to several reliable Contractors to get you the best price.
  4. Act as a management contractor / project manager and procure sub-contractors to carry out each element on the project to save you paying for a main contractors overheads & profits.
  5. Prepare, administer and enforce the conditions of the construction contract put in place.
  6. Conduct monthly site visits and make payment assessments / valuations of the contractors work.
  7. Establish the Construction Programme and forecast monthly cashflow.
  8. Agree the Final Account with the Contractor, as well as snagging their work for defects to be corrected and withholding 2.5% of the works value until these are corrected.
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