How This Podcast Came About
Ben Adam-Smith talks about his passion for certain historical buildings and a dislike for a few recent housing developments in his home town of Hertford, UK. Ben wants to build his own house in the next 4 years and find out first-hand what this will entail, increasing his knowledge with each expert he interviews.
Interview with Simon Lewis
Simon explains how he got into the industry, initially studying architecture before deciding he preferred the construction side. Even with all the qualifications, it took a lot of years of hard graft to work his way up through the ranks.
You Get What You Pay For
The industry is driven by cost and most of the contractors are trying to bid for the work cheaply. However it is then difficult to produce the best quality work for the minimum amount of money. Tradesmen on low wages thus lack focus and dedication. Of course, there are good individuals, but they tend to charge more than the lowest going rate.
Quality Construction Can Exist With Smaller Budgets But…
Nice commercial buildings and public sector projects do go on, but they are often pre-fabricated and built in an industrial warehouse, brought to site and put together. Simpler forms are easier to get right. Simon went on to say that RW Armstrong's sector of market is much more bespoke – it's traditional, labour intensive and uses skilled craftsman.
Factors That Make a Successful Builder
Dedication to producing high quality construction, providing a good level of personal service. Support your clients and make sure you can understand their expectations and deliver the construction project to meet them. The logistics of finding the right sub-contractors mixed in with their own direct tradespeople and management team is one of the key skills. If you don't get that right you become inefficient and then you don't deliver the service the clients are expecting.
There's a huge drive on energy efficiency due to rising fuel prices and that it's up to you to consider how much to invest to get above the building regulations threshold (where you live). Simon also pointed out certain renewable sources haven't been through a full life cycle to see if there are maintenance or reliability issues. A lot of the bigger mechanical and electrical systems need to be designed into projects from the outset in order to minimise expense.
Complications of Listed Properties
There are limitations as to how much you can and can't do. If you're not doing a full strip out and refit of a listed building then you are restricted to how much insulation etc. you can put in a building. Simon gave an example of how the listed building officer may or may not let you change from single glazing to double glazing… and how this may impact on the project.
Control your budget carefully. It's very easy to appoint an architect, tell him or her the budget, and that architect will design the biggest house for the amount of money you've got. Then you'll find the build cost will increase and you start going over budget. At that point the only way to get back on track is to reduce the floor area of the building so that you can afford to put in the right products and build it the right way.
Tips For Choosing a Good Builder
1. Get a list from the CIOB – The Chartered Institute of Builders
2. If you have someone in mind, drive by a site to see how organised it looks. This should help you gauge how efficient they are.
3. Contact those contractors, the architects they use, and get references from existing clients. It will take time but it will be worth it.
4. Check out their financial status. You don't want the contractor going bust in the middle of a project.
Don't Believe Everything People Say
Listen to what people have to say and then evaluate it and make your own mind up. There are lots of people who will tell you what they think you want to hear and aren't totally truthful, be it budgets, timescales, quality etc. If you don't think somebody has told you the truth, ask the same question to someone else and see what they say.
RW Armstrong Portfolio
R W Armstrong is a residential builder in Hampshire, UK, providing high quality building services for the county as well as for most of south-east England. Its traditional ethos and expert craftsmanship has built a reputation for high class refurbishments and renovations of country homes, as well as period town houses and listed properties. The company also constructs bespoke new houses for private clients, both contemporary and traditional in style.
A Big Thank You
A special thanks to Mike Russell of Music Radio Creative for some great advice in getting this podcast live. He is a very knowledgeable man!
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