How we build

A.   Appraisal

Our client presents an initial brief (we usually help with this) and then we work to make sure that the requirements are attainable and affordable. Our initial feasibility study is prepared to help our client gain a greater understanding of the opportunities presented by the project than they sometimes expect, and to help them decide the most appropriate approach to design and construction. We usually suggest options and provide our information to a cost consultant to obtain budget guidance for discussion with our client at this early stage. At this point in the project we often show precedents to our clients and, if cost and time permits, we may even take them on guided tours or trips to visit buildings that we feel will help develop the holistic and environmental aspects of the brief. It is important that we build a deep understanding between our clients and ourselves. This is an essential start to a successful project.

B.   Strategic Briefing

The client prepares or has prepared a strategic brief, which identifies the key requirements and constraints. Any additional consultants that are required will also be identified. This is likely to include a cost consultant or quantity surveyor, structural engineer and a mechanical and electrical engineer, though our client may also wish to appoint a landscape architect or lighting consultant. Where a passivhaus (or passive house) building is involved, we are experienced and highly qualified, certified passivhaus designers and we include and fully integrate the specialist services of European Certified Passivhaus Planners, cold-bridging analysis and thermal imaging analysis, so there is usually no need to employ outside consultants for this work.

C.   Outline Proposals

At this point the strategic brief is developed into a full project brief to enable sketch designs and initial cost estimates to be produced. We usually feel that this is also a good stage to start engaging in discussions with neighbours and other interested parties if a planning application is envisaged to be necessary. It is important to communicate ideas to those affected by them; both as a matter of courtesy and to avoid causing unproductive distress. We listen to the interests and concerns of neighbours and we respond positively and helpfully wherever possible. This careful approach reflects well on the integrity of our clients, builds happy, healthy, long term relationships, and always results in successful Planning Permission applications. Our planning applications are often supported in writing by numerous owners and occupiers of neighbouring buildings. We develop an inclusive neighbourhood consultation plan with our clients and provide full support and guidance based on many years of successfully supported planning applications.

D.   Detailed Proposals

We develop the sketch designs to a further level of detail and provide the information to a cost consultant for cost checking. This is often called the scheme design stage. The statutory authorities are consulted and documentation is prepared for a full application for planning approval. Our planning applications have been submitted with up to 20 letters of support. This, combined with our genuine and authoritative approach to environmental sustainability, often results in quick planning approvals granted under delegated powers (avoiding confrontational committee decisions).

E.   Final Proposals

We develop the scheme designs to ensure co-ordination of all the building components. At this stage it is often suitable to submit the plans to the council’s Building Control for approval under the statutory Building Regulations. This approval gives a degree of comfort but the application can be made up to 24 hours before the work starts on site if necessary.

F.   Production Information

At this stage the detailed designs are developed to tender drawings and it is customary for schedules of work and specifications to be drawn up so that tendering contractors can price the building elements accurately. Our client's cost consultant should also finalise the cost plan based on the updated information.

G.   Tender Documentation

The documents produced in the previous stage are collated and further tender documents are prepared in collaboration with the cost consultant to enable tenders from potential contractors to be obtained. This final documentation must also be given to the CDM co-ordinator who will then draw up a pre-tender Health and Safety plan.

H.   Tender Action

Potential tenderers are identified and evaluated, tenders are obtained and negotiations of the tender sums can be started if necessary. Revisions to the production information can also be made to meet adjustments in the tender sum

J.   Mobilisation

With an approved tender sum and tenderer the contract can now be let and a contractor appointed, the production information is issued to the contractor and the client arranges for the site to be handed over.

K.   Construction to Practical Completion

This stage involves the actual work on site, during which the architect administers the building contract, issuing instructions, certifying amounts to be paid to the contractor and inspecting the works regularly.

L.   After Practical Completion

The architect continues to administer the contract after practical completion of the works, makes the final inspections and provides information to the quantity surveyor or cost consultant to enable them to settle the final account with the contractor. We always adopt Soft Landings protocols; we help the occupants get used to their new building; and we carry out a programme of visits and feedback to ensure complete user satisfaction. A number of our buildings are currently undergoing comprehensive government funded performance evaluation and this provides our clients with a comprehensive feedback and evaluation process for at least two years after the buiding is occupied.