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Planning, budgeting and preparing for major works

Preparation, preparation, preparation – is the key to the success of any major works project. This cannot be stressed strongly enough. Or, to put it another way, ‘fail to plan, plan to fail’.

So what constitutes an effective preparation process?

Ideally a Planned Maintenance Programme/Capital Expenditure Plan (PMP/Capex Plan) should be the starting point as this provides the blueprint for keeping a property in prime condition, making it easier to plan for repair costs.

The other main ingredients are:

·         A detailed survey of the building and specification for the works

·         Making sure the works comply with health & safety and statutory requirements

Let’s now look at these elements in more detail.

PMP/Capex Plan

A good PMP/Capex Plan is the backbone for any major works project. It provides a clear and comprehensive schedule for the upkeep, renewal, repair and maintenance of all of a building’s elements and services over a given time period, usually five, 10 or 15 years plus. The plan will include a detailed assessment by a chartered building surveyor of the condition of the building or site, from roofs, masonry, windows and doors to services and utilities.

The surveyor gives each element a priority rating and allocates it to a specific year in the plan, together with associated costs. A PMP/Capex Plan should also include an assessment of mechanical and electrical plant by an approved M&E consultant.

By having a proper prioritised schedule of works and associated expenditure, property owners can budget more accurately and effectively, setting reliable levels of service charge and helping to avoid nasty surprises.

However, a PMP/Capex Plan is o
ood by all decision makers and become a focal point of all repair and maintenance agendas and discussions.

Finally, it should be reviewed and updated regularly.

Detailed survey and specification

Before embarking on any major works project it is essential to make sure that the proposals are covered under the terms of the lease. If they are not, the costs of the works may not be recoverable.  Also failure to comply with the lease terms can leave the freeholder open to claims from lessees about the rate of service charge. It is therefore vitally important to ensure compliance with the statutory Section 20 consultation process, as stipulated in the Landlord & Tenant Act 1985.

Once it has been established that the works will not contravene the lease and the necessary consultations can begin, the next steps are to agree the scope of  works and commission a detailed survey of the building(s). If there is a PMP/Capex Plan, the scope of the work will already be outlined and the surveyor should have previously carried out detailed investigations.

In the absence of a PMP/Capex Plan, it is crucial to have a detailed survey of the property. This will include a thorough assessment of all the elements of the building and, in some cases, taking samples to analyse and determine the materials used.

Once the scope of the works has been agreed, they need to be formulated into a detailed specification that takes into account all of the building’s unique characteristics. This will enable contractors to quote a realistic price for the job and also allows room for manoeuvre, for example, if further site investigations are required.

It’s important to remember that, when projects go wrong, in the majority of cases it’s down to poor planning and specifications.

Health & Safety

Health and safety are paramount in any major works project and required by law under the Health & Safety Executive’s (HSE) CDM (Construction, Design and Management) Regulations.  Amended in 2015, they are designed to reduce the risks of harm to people who build, use, maintain and demolish structures. In other words, health & safety should be an integral part of a project’s development, not a bolt-on extra.

The regulations state that the client – the person or organisation commissioning the works – is ultimately responsible for making sure that health and safety is properly planned and managed from conception to completion. This includes checking that all those working on the project are sufficiently skilled and that the principal contractor has a written construction phase plan.  For projects involving more than one contractor on site, the client will need to appoint a principal designer and principal contractor.

In addition, if the work is likely to take longer than 30 working days, involve more than 20 people working simultaneously at any point in the project, or exceed 500 person days, then the client must notify the HSE.

If this sounds daunting, then it’s a good idea to seek expert advice before embarking on a major works project. A Chartered Building Surveyor can check that the landlord or property manager has taken all health & safety matters into account. They can also help with procuring independent professional expertise.

Once these preparations are complete, the next stage of the major works journey is putting the work out to competitive tender and selecting the best contractors for the job.

This aspect is covered in Appointing the right contractor


Posted on 21 October, 2015

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