Blueprint for Successful Construction and Refurbishment Projects

February 27th, 2017 by Alex Kowalczuk

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Anyone working in our industry knows that every construction project, whether large or small, new build or refurbishment, will inevitably present you with challenges.

KPMG’s 2015 Global Construction Survey of project owners found that most construction projects failed to come within 10 percent of budget or deadline, with over half of respondents suffering one or more underperforming projects in the previous year. *

With literally hundreds and hundreds of building and renovation schemes behind us across the East Midlands, our Syston-based Smallman & Son team has learned from experience how to mitigate some of the risks along the way and how to successfully overcome a few of the pitfalls. Here’s some of the lessons we’ve learned;

Relationships count
Bagworth Community CentreThe key to keeping everything on track, on time and on budget is to establish good, open, working relationships between all those involved. The wider team working on a large residential or commercial project can be made up of many different stakeholders at any one time including architects and designers, project managers, the main contractor, several sub-contractors, materials or equipment suppliers as well as the client or client’s representatives or even the client’s staff. What matters most, before you start, as any project progresses, and when issues arise, is being able to cooperate and communicate well with each other.

If you know that there’s a problem, it’s really important that everyone feels able to flag it up early on and then quickly find an effective solution that works for the team. And even if there’s not a problem, keeping everyone informed that you’re bang on schedule is equally important. That might be using some of the new technology that’s coming along but it might also just be about talking to each other or having update meetings to check that everyone knows about any urgent deadlines.

First things first –what’s our priority?
At Smallman & Son, we very often get involved in the planning long before any construction or building work actually starts. There’s huge value in getting input from all the relevant stakeholders and doing a walk-through what’s going to be happening in each design phase, during pre-construction and through procurement and then on site.

There needs to be a detailed plan for each stage that also takes any likely risks into account.
Once construction starts on site, almost anything can happen and even minor day-to-day changes such as bad weather or delivery hold ups can easily derail the overall plan or require changes to be made that have an impact on what happens at different stages and affect the final handover date and budget.

Even though Team Smallman involves trusted and experienced professionals, from heating engineers to electricians or plumbers, plasterers and carpenters, all these people still need overall direction to make sure that they coordinate their efforts with each other and all know who is responsible for overcoming any issues that crop up.

Expect the unexpected
All building projects almost always take longer than planned as KPMG’s survey revealed. That’s why, at Smallman & Son, we know you can never take everything at face value, or assume construction work will go exactly to plan.

On a recent Leicester city centre project renovating outdated accommodation into prestige office space, we discovered that the high street location, tight restrictions for parking and working on the second floor of the building presented some unforeseen challenges. Using skips was impossible, so building waste had to be bagged up and removed which was more time consuming than originally planned. Getting materials inside was not a quick job either so to speed up the process we made sure we had some extra staff on site working to meet the finely-tuned delivery times.

Back to square one
Delays which happen on refurbishment or new build projects may happen because there’s project ‘creep’ – doing more works than were planned in the original scope. This is where having a good rapport with your client and any other parties involved will help you ensure that extra works are allowed for and deadlines extended realistically. Sometimes, it’s useful to go back to square on, revisit the original agreement and work out if any of the extra, non urgent or nice-to-have work could be done at a later date, especially if the completion deadline is absolutely fixed.

Get the job done!
christchurch14One of the aspects we’re most proud of at Smallman & Son is our dedication to getting the job done. We recently gained a new customer who turned to us when they hit a problem. About to move into brand new business premises, the original building contractor went out of business, leaving the client in the lurch. So close to completion yet there were still outstanding snagging issues that needed dealing with urgently. We needed to take the stress of what to do, away from the client, which we did, dealing with all the straightforward snagging works. Our job was done!

Smallman & Son was founded by Robert and Mark Smallman and provides building and refurbishment services nationwide to a client list in the private and public sector, including British Gypsum, Serco, Farmer and Carlisle, the NHS, Uppingham and Loughborough Endowed Schools and the Ministry of Justice.

*Climbing the curve: 2015 Global Construction Project Owner’s Survey, KPMG International, 2015.

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