We’ve all heard the Horror Stories. My brother just finished building a new home. He swore he’d never do it again. It was so stressful keeping track of everything, keeping everyone on track and of course the spiralling costs. When you look at the whole project, there is a myriad of different parts, companies and professionals involved but even still it seems to be more complex than it needs to be. Why is everyone moving in different directions and why is it all so stressful? Well, here are 5 key facts to begin with.

1. You Become the Project Manager!

When you set out to build a new home there are many professionals and tradespeople needed to complete the project from start to finish. If you ask around you realise that you need an architect (spacial design), an engineer (structural design), a quantity surveyor (costing). You would be forgiven for thinking that once you have all these people involved you can finally take a step back but unfortunately this is counterintuitive.
There is only one person common to all these appointed people and that’s you so you become the project manager. You have appointed all these people separately so you need to manage these people daily and you take all the risk if anything goes wrong. A project manager is a highly trained, experienced and seasoned professional who takes responsibility for delivering on all the key project goals of design, budget and time as well as planning permission, energy rating, quality, safety building regulation and many more constraints.

So in the absence of a project manager, you take up this position with little or no experience or training and juggle all these balls along with your day job or family responsibilities. This is how things can and do go wrong.

2. Everyone Is Working In Silos, Going In Different Directions

Have you ever watched Room to Improve on television? You notice that the architect Dermott Bannon essentially draws the floor plans and the externals of the building. Dermott enthusiastically presents his designs to the client who falls in love with this vision for their new home. Lisa the quantity surveyor is eventually introduced and quickly sets about pricing the drawings informing the client that the project is way over budget and serious compromises need to be made. The client has to take a step back and watch as al the features of their house are slowly removed so that their project is brought back on budget, albeit temporarily. It’s trial and error. Why does this happen? Essentially all, the professionals are working in silos. An architect can cost a building no more than a quantity surveyor design a house. These people are appointed separately so will naturally operate within the confines of their areas of expertise. This issue continues and gains momentum when you get on-site and introduce a myriad of additional professionals and tradespeople. It’s a wonder that houses get completed at all!

stress of building a home

3. Leaving Key Design Choices ‘To Be Agreed’ On-Site

One thing we have learned in managing projects is that the beginning of a project is by far the most important part. The very early design and budgeting phase is where key questions and decisions are made. If this is rushed, say to get drawings lodged for a planning application, key details get omitted or put on the long finger. Naturally these details get raised again during the building phase but at this point there is huge time pressure to stay on schedule and so these details get rushed and if your these items were not detailed with the builder during the quotation phase then he will likely not have included for them also, causing more difficulty on site.

Key decisions here may be finalising internal layouts so that furniture, bathroom and kitchen, utility and storage layouts work. Detailing heating systems to that optimum energy rating can be achieved or signing off on landscaping layouts so that you have ample outdoor leisure space, parking and of course a vital space for wheelie bins, recycling, clotheslines and renewables.

So take your time and don’t move to the next stage until you are happy that all queries have been answered and closed off, otherwise, they will surface on-site with the clock ticking!


4. Poor Communication Throughout the Project

Have you ever noticed that most misunderstandings are as a result of poor communication?
In a complex house building project where many trades and professionals need to interact and collaborate, communication is the very essence of success.

Popular questions on building projects are;
– Wasn’t the tiler supposed to be on site today?
– When are the slates arriving?
– How much money do we still owe the builder?
– We’ve chosen the flooring but have no idea how this affects our bottom line?
– Are there going to be extra costs?
– Will this job ever be finished?

In many cases, it may not be possible to get answers to these important questions as this information may not be available or if it is it is not all available in the one place at the right time. This can lead to misunderstandings, conflict and delays. With clearer lines of communication, documentation and experienced management all this could be avoided.

5. Not Getting Your Designs Cost-Checked at the Start

If you start designing your home with an architect it can seem like your dream house is fast becoming a reality. As the weeks go by the drawings develop and you are delighted to begin to mentally move into your new home design. Next, it’s time to lodge for planning permission and then finally time to find a builder. The builder looks at the drawings and says ‘how much did you say your budget was? I don’t see you doing it for that money.” and then it’s a full stop while you consider what your options are from here.

Do you look for a cheaper builder? Some builders are cheaper than others but they are unlikely to be the best builders with the best tradesmen, finishing dates and after-sales service. Do you try and balance the books by opting for cheaper windows, heating system, kitchen, flooring, stairs, perhaps put off doing the driveway for a few years? Do you go back to the architect and pay him to redesign the house and lodge for planning permission again, with more time lost. Not many palatable options there.

If there are budget issues to be dealt with, an upfront discussion at the beginning is the only way forward. Start as you mean to continue and plan for success!

So the common thread here is process. A disciplined and professionally managed process of upfront and clear communication, accountability and agreed deliverables. This process commonly referred to as “Project Management”.