We’ve all watched the Grand Designs predictions of failure when there’s no project manager on the build, played the drinking games and witnessed the project complete in all its well cinematographed glory, so who needs a project manager? They are expensive and the build gets done without one anyway, doesn’t it?
Managing a project is, for the most part, common sense. There’s a project plan, a budget, some expert trades who know what they’re doing and a design that they can follow. It’s possible to do this yourself, but do you have the time? If you’re doing it at the same time as your day job, looking after the children etc., project managing your own build can be very stressful.
In addition, if you’re not focused on it, decisions and instructions take time and can cause project delays and missed details, each of which can result in cost escalations. A project manager is employed to focus on your project and can be relied on to do this. It’s therefore more likely that things will get done on time and on budget, just because that person isn’t doing anything else.
A build is a technical piece of work. A good project manager will have detailed technical knowledge of what it takes to get the build done and done well. They’ll be able to QA workmanship on site and should spot check for compliance with building regulations. They are likely to be able to spot issues that you might otherwise have not done.
When (and not if) unforeseen issues arise on site, they will have seen similar issues before, know what works and be able to deal with them efficiently.
On a recent retrofit the structural engineer’s solution to such an issue was priced at £3,000 by the contractor. Our Enhabit project manager was able to find an alternative solution that was also acceptable to the structural engineer, but which cost a third less!
It’s often helpful to have someone between you and your main contractor or your trades to provide you with a bit of independence. You’ll have someone with knowledge and experience who is not you (or your builder) fighting your corner in case of any disputes or quality issues. This means that your relationship with your contractor remains good, which is always important.
Many project managers also perform monthly valuations, so that you know exactly what you’re paying for and only for work that’s actually been completed.
A detailed timetable and programme of works provides certainty and structure to the build. Regular design team meetings run during the day by the project manager, followed by detailed minutes, list of actions and list of decisions will minimise disputes and provide a forum for raising issues that could cause delays or escalations in cost.
If the planning is done correctly, you’ll be given plenty of time to make decisions so that you can review all of your options, get what you really want and take your time to procure. Regular valuations mean that contractors can plan their cashflow and will also provide an incentive to get work done by the time of the valuation.
Pricing and payment structures have evolved significantly and it’s no longer common to pay a percentage of build costs to a project manager. Many work on fixed fees (subject to assumptions) and are willing to define the scope of work to fit with your project or budget.
If you’re thinking of appointing a project manager, or indeed doing it yourself, make sure you do your research, speak to others with experience of either, and see what suits you best. Project managers may seem a bit of an extravagance, but they can make all of the difference by saving money, adding value and most importantly by providing you with confidence that you’re getting what you should be.