The Life of a Project

A recent instruction by a client involving a collection of farm buildings in the Lake District, including a barn with grade II listing, and a farmhouse with planning permission for a two storey extension highlighted to me the need to consider the appropriate procurement strategy for the extension and conversion works of this project type. That is to say how the design may be developed, tendered and constructed within the required programme and outline the controls necessary during the management of the works. So here is some technical information when considering the route to be taken to deliver a built project of this nature, the below is not exhaustive.




Appointment of a design team


A suitable design team will be the primary requirement including an architect, if not already engaged, a structural engineer, a quantity surveyor and assumed that the mechanical and electrical services content of the scheme would not warrant the appointment of a consultant, but consideration should be given to the necessity of obtaining independent advice if any special requirements are anticipated.

In all cases it is vital that members of the team are able to demonstrate experience in working on the conservation of historic structures, and are able to deal sensitively with the necessary repair and extension works.

The design team will appraise the existing buildings and site conditions, develop the design proposal to an appropriate level and prepare documentation. At this stage it will be particularly important to clarify what is to be preserved in the works and what work is to be carried out.


Investigative Works


The purpose of investigative works is to clarify the scope and extent of the contract work required, and allow the intending Contractor to price the works with some certainty. Whilst some research can be undertaken in the form of ‘desk top’ studies, an allowance should be made in the budget for a limited amount of opening up or inspection work, so that the design can be prepared on an informed basis. Where advice is required for items such as timber decay or insect infestation, this should be sought from specialists acting on behalf of the Employer, who can provide independent and unbiased advice.


Requirements for Contract Information


Thepreparation of concise and adequate contract information is common to all procurement routes. In most cases the contract documentation will include a specification to augment the drawings and is recommended to follow the industry standard such as the National Building Specification. This organises trades and activities into an arrangement of sections of standardised clauses, but is flexible enough to allow the inclusion of clauses relating to repair and alteration works.


Selection of a Contractor


The selection of a suitable and competent contractor is essential in view of the risk of damage to the intrinsic value of a historic building.

It would be usual to seek tenders from three or four contractors for a project to obtain a competitive price. As a preliminary to inviting tenders, information should be sought as to their financial stability, experience in this type of project and capability and resources for carrying out the work.


Types of Building Contracts


Whilst it is possible to engage in a contract on a simple exchange of letters, this provides little protection in the event that some eventuality befalls either party. Recognised forms of contracts exist for the conduct of building operations which have been developed over time and tested in law. Not all types are suitable for the particular requirements of conservation projects: Design Develop and Construct arrangements are better suited to ‘new build’ construction. More commonly used contracts are outlined below.

It is important to bear in mind that the procurement of any building project is a function of three main variables, Quality, Cost and Time, all important aspects of the project. The relative weighting of each varies according to which route is selected and will be fundamental in determining the final choice.



The ‘Traditional’ Contract


Traditionally an Employer engages in a contract for building using a design prepared by his professional advisers, and the contract is administered by the team during eh construction phase, normally by the Architect, assisted by the Quantity Surveyor. This can either be by way of a firm price or a ‘lump sum’ or by a schedule of rates which is then applied to the work carried out. The contractor is not directly involved during the design phase, although some elements of the work can be designed in detail during the construction phase. There is plenty more to expand on within the traditional contract route and would be the role of the Architect and QS to further advise on the advantages and disadvantages.



The ‘Design and Build’ Contract


As an alternative to the professional team providing full design services it is possible to transfer the design responsibility to the Contractor, under a JCT Standard Form of Building Contract with Contractor’s Design, with theoretically significant savings in time. To maintain continuity of design the team can be transferred from the employer to the contractor.



The ‘Construction Management’ Contract


A different approach which may be considered is that of the Construction Management route. In this the contractor takes on the role solely of a manager and tenders and engages a series of works packages during the construction phase and is normally based on the current JCT Standard Form of Management Contract.

Whilst the three routes pointed out have certain theoretical advantages, these should be considered in relation to the size and complexity of the work planned.