When it comes to refurbishments, we’ve found that it pays to take a close look at the existing building and give the clients more than they’re expecting: more insight, more information and better value.
1. Using the correct construction method
Understanding what you’re trying to do and what purpose it will serve in the overall scheme of things is a big part of getting it right. For example, consider an office refurbishment. There are the straightforward projects where the space is old and drab and has gotten to a stage where it is not fit for purpose. Or there are new commercial build that require a new technology based fit-out.
If the building is very old, then it might be a good idea to get an overall perspective on things and start thinking long-term. What are the goals for the business and what are the spaces trying to achieve? The result of this can then be broken down into a building life cycle plan that might include refurbishment, renovation and/or a building program.
As always, it is vital for the head contractor to fully understand the client’s needs and situation. The contractor acts as the client’s representative, and we can only do that effectively when we have all of the relevant information.
2. Clearly defining the budget
Never keep your budget a secret and don’t skimp on planning or design. Getting your friendly builder or architect on board is the key here, because without the ability to work out costs properly, the scope of work can’t be properly defined. You really are just shooting into the wind if you can’t say “this is what I need to accomplish, this is what I have to work with and this is how much I want to spend.”
You may choose to engage a client-side project manager or an architect to give you some guidance on alternative schemes and preliminary costs. Yes, the costs are usually higher at the start of the design phase, but this is only because of all the unknown elements that need to be discovered, defined and integrated into the project. With good design that incorporates detailed information on the nature and condition of the property, the cost of the construction phase will likely be lower than expected. Good pre-project investigation and planning puts the odds in your favour. This is true in every type of construction project, but it’s especially true for refurbishments.
3. Allowing for a contingency; managing RISK
It’s a fact that older buildings can be expensive to refurbish and that they often present unexpected challenges. Sometimes, they were built with older methods that cost more to repair or require more detailed work than modern construction. The methods and materials that were used back when they were built may no longer be familiar and readily available, so older buildings sometimes require bespoke, made-to-measure assemblies and specialised tradeswork.
That’s why fully evaluating the existing building before commencing a refurbishment project is so important. Even with good preparation, there can be surprises. Allow for the unknown and try to take as much risk as possible out of your office renovation. Identify and investigate potential complications and come up with contingency plans. Pinpointing areas of risk and uncertainty is an art form, but with the advice of your project professionals – builders, architects and/or engineers – it is possible to minimise the risks involved in the project. Sometimes, the most complex, troublesome refurbishments will reward you with a high quality building that’s full of beauty and character.
4. Paying attention to aesthetics and psychology
When you walk into a newly refurbished building, you can clearly see where the new sections start and where the old, untouched, sections end. Keep that in mind when planning the work. It’s important to keep the users informed of the refurbishment schedule and to avoid jarring transitions and the appearance of favouritism. Patchwork refurbishment can give the building’s users a strange feeling that something is being attempted, but failing. If possible, do the whole refurbishment at once or on a fast-paced schedule. If that isn’t an option, then a fair and consistent strategy is the key.
In a similar vein, a workplace should have a consistent, or at least deliberately constructed, character. Trying to maintain a look, whether it’s charming and old-fashioned or slick and modern, will allow the occupants to connect with the space. Spaces that combine elements of different periods and styles in a way that seems random can be confusing and uncomfortable for users. However, contrasting different elements can work well if it’s properly planned and has a vision behind it. That type of sophisticated design is best tackled by an architect or an interior designer.
It is always best to work closely with your principal consultant, whether it is an interior designer, builder or architect. Their advice is based on years of experience. Getting the right professionals on board will always save you money in the long term and will allow you to make decisions with the full expertise and support of your team, minimising stress and bringing peace of mind.