How long will the project take (or when can I move in)?
We are regularly asked by clients “how long will the project (or the works) take?”.
The answer is not a simple or straight forward one, because every project is individual and will have it’s own influences; whether they be site conditions, cost, time (programme) or on occasion, the client themselves. All of these contribute to the length of time the project will take.
This is why when we first speak to or meet a client, we ask a number of questions which set the base of the project. We have outlined below a few of these along with other issues that greatly influence a small project (up to £300K). They do not cover every eventuality, but they should assist you to have a better understanding before you make that first phone call.
A. Define a project brief; list your requirements/objectives
It may sound obvious, but many clients keep their “ideas” in their heads, when a written list or description helps focus your mind and clearly sets out what you’re trying to achieve for your architect to follow. This should include any information relevant to the project, including your budget, programme or deadline (if you have one), why you want to do what you are trying to and spatial requirements, etc.
B. Activities up to a planning decision (allow 3 – 4 months)
Following our appointment, we usually undertake the relevant building and land surveys, or assist you appoint other professionals to carry these out where necessary, to provide an accurate starting point. We then provide a few sketch proposals for your consideration, outlining the advantages and disadvantages of each. The time you take to review these influence the time this stage takes, but normally it’s a few weeks. Having agreed a preferred proposal we submit a planning application to the local authority, which normally takes 8 weeks to receive a decision. Sometimes it is advantageous to submit a pre-application, where we receive advice form the planning department before submitting a formal application. This could add another 4 – 6 weeks.
C. Building regulations (up to 4 months)
Assuming approval is granted (and please bear in mind this is not guaranteed), the next stage involves preparing the technical drawings and documents to satisfy the statutory and regulatory requirements. Dependant on the project size, other consultants may be required; including M&E services engineers and structural engineers. We can assist you to appoint these which involves briefing them and obtaining fee proposals for your consideration. We will liaise with them throughout the preparation of the information to be submitted. Approvals can take between 4 – 6 weeks following submission.
D. Tender documents and invitation (usually 6 – 12 weeks)
This is a continuation of the above activities and includes “completing” the drawings and documents to include details for construction purposes, not required by the regulations. Upon completion, we collate all other information (from other parties) and package them for sending to a group of contractors to quote for the works. The tender period varies between 4 – 6 weeks. Having received the tender returns, we review them and report to you (the client) for appointment of a contractor.
E. Mobilisation (3 – 4 weeks) and construction (project specific)
Upon deciding on a preferred contractor, we will prepare the contract documents for signing by both yourself and the contractor, before commencement on site. During this time the contractor prepares their health and safety information and programmes their activities ahead of commencement. This is called mobilisation and will include placing orders for materials and sub-contractors.
We will administer the building contract (the construction period is agreed before tendering) and inspect the works to ensure it is built as per the contract documents. We can value the works as they progress and issue certificates for payment, ensuring you only pay for what has been completed at the appropriate time up until practical completion, or handover (when you move in).
F. Defects period (normally 12 months)
Following practical completion, the contract provides for a defects period, usually 12 months, which allows for the building to go through all four seasons. This allows the buildings materials to expand and contract as they usually do revealing any “defects”. The contractor is required to attend to these and rectify them during this period. After which we issue a final certificate releasing the final payment (by yourself) to the contractor.
As you can see, the overall project duration is not a straight forward question and answer situation. However, our experience does allow us to offer an opinion on each individual project, which is refined as it progresses.
That said, it’s not uncommon for projects to take over 12 months or longer still, even on a small project, from our first meeting to practical completion/handover. Especially when you factor in all of life’s distractions you have to contend with, whilst making decisions on preferred layout, appearance, materials, fittings, etc.