One of the most frequent questions that a homeowner has after deciding to embark on a building project is whether they need an independent project manager to supervise the work of their builder. For some, they relish the idea of taking a ‘hands-on’ role in the management and creation of their build, for others, they want to sign the contract with the builder and trust them to design and execute the plan that meets with their dreams and expectations. Other homeowners feel more comfortable hiring a project manager to ensure that everything runs smoothly.
There isnʼt a right or wrong answer to this question: ultimately it depends on 2 key factors – the size and complexity of the build, and the experience and expertise of the building contractor.
Letʼs look at these in turn.
How big is your building project?
For smaller projects, such as a bathroom or kitchen renovation, or even a relatively straightforward house extension, such as a simple side return or a single-storey rear extension, then hiring an external project manager may not be necessary, and will just add unnecessary costs to your build.
Your building contractor will, in conjunction with your architect, prepare the necessary plans and specifications for the project. The client can monitor the progress of the project against a pre-agreed schedule of works.
So, for smaller, discrete building projects, more often than not, a homeowner would be advised to leave the management of the building project to the builder.
After all, the homeowner will have conducted their due diligence on the building company – they will have requested quotes from different construction companies, requested to see previous work of the builder, and checked that they have the relevant qualifications and expertise for the work that they will undertake. In addition, before signing any contract, a client should ensure that the building company has the requisite product and liability insurance in place in case anything should go wrong.
However, for bigger, complex building works, then it may be advisable to hire an independent project manager to work with your builder and other contractors.
Complex and high-value building works often involve various specialised contractors. Letʼs take the example of owner of a large Victorian property in central London who wants to excavate two stories underground in order to build an underground swimming pool, parking garage, and entertainment room. Or perhaps a client wishes to build a recording studio in their home as part of their renovation, then you will need to contract professionals specialised in this particular area.
These types of building works will involve highly specialised and often complex contracts. It is unlikely that a single building contractor will have experience of all these highly specialised professions. Therefore, in such unique cases as these, hiring a project manager will be advisable to effectively manage all contractors involved in the build process to ensure a smooth build.
How experienced is your builder?
A key factor in determining whether you should leave the build management to your builder, or hire an independent manager, will depend on the experience and expertise of the building company you have contracted.
As part of your due diligence when selecting your building contractor, a key factor is to enquire as to how they work with other professions, such as plumbers, electricians, architects. Most reputable builders will have a deep network of construction professionals that they work with, either in-house or externally. These long standing and trusted working relationships can often eliminate the need for hiring a project manager to oversee all the different relationships, as the builder can easily oversee these works, at no additional cost to the client.
What are the potential benefits of hiring a project manager for your building works?
There can be a number of potential advantages to hiring an independent manager for your build. A project manager is a trained and qualified professional in managing complex construction works, from start to finish.
They come into their own in complex, high value construction works, where there may be several high value contracts involved, often of a specialised nature. A professional project manager will have experience in all types of contracts, and will help ensure that all contractors fulfill their obligations on time, and on budget.
Another potential advantage of using a project manager is that they will have an extensive network of reputable trade professionals they can utilise to ensure that a complex build runs smoothly and on time.
In complex construction works, the project manager can provide a single point of contact for all communication between all parties.
Project managers are also skilled problem solvers, and during a complex build, working with several contractors, problems will inevitably arise. An experienced manager will be able to pinpoint the problem, and suggest a solution which to ensure that the build proceeds with minimal time delays or budget overruns.
So, is a Project Manager really necessary?
For most building works, you will not need a project manager, and you can leave this role to your main building contractor – provided of course you have undertaken your due diligence on your chosen builder to ensure they have the necessary experience and qualifications for your particular build, and have the required liability insurance in place.
There may be certain situations, involving high end, bespoke building works, where no one company can offer all services. These will tend to be high-end, luxury refurbishment projects, involving highly specialised services. In such cases, a project manager can offer a lot of value, and give you peace of mind.
However, in the vast majority of cases, provided that you work with a reputable and experienced building company, all aspects of the build, from the initial design, planning, and all aspects of the build, can be left to your builder.