Project Priority

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Why do some building projects fail and others succeed?

In the words of Amory Lovins:
“All the important design mistakes are made on the first day.”

I don’t know about you but I cringe when I watch Grand Designs and see another self-builder go over budget half way through the build - or worse the owners left broken, in debt and disappointed with the result.

These mistakes can all be avoided of course. It all comes down to how much time you spend planning for the different eventualities and how well you manage your project.

…All too often building projects start without sufficient preparation.

If you were going on an expedition, say a mountain climb, you’d spend time planning, wouldn’t you? You’d plan every last detail. Where you’d start, where you’d finish and the route in between. You’d also make sure you have the right supplies, the right clothing and, if you were going into uncharted territory you’d find a guide with the right experience to help you find your way and keep you out of trouble.      

As your guide one of my roles is to help you plan your project appropriately. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned over the 20 or so years I’ve been involved in the building industry is - gather all the information together BEFORE starting a design (and ideally before a site is chosen).

Only then can you determine the best course of action.

Time and time again I’ve seen architects and clients dive in without being prepared. (I know, I used to do it myself. …We all love to design, but it can get the better of us.)

These days, to protect my clients from costly mistakes, I require my them to spend time planning their project - this is NOT negotiable. They don’t just consider what they want to achieve, they think about how they can overcome potential obstacles.

The process of planning begins with a diagnostic. For instance, if you were suffering an intense, skull-splitting headache for days on end, you’d expect a full examination before receiving a diagnosis and a prescription from your doctor. Particularly if that prescription meant going for brain surgery. In fact, after your doctor referred you to a brain surgeon, you’d expect more tests and more analysis before the most appropriate course of action could be determined.

In my experience successful building projects undergo a similar diagnostic phase before design begins. (This is true for both projects with contentious planning constraints and successful Passivhaus oriented design.) It takes time to gather all the relevant information together, go through a detailed diagnostic and finally develop a suitable action plan. 

Because of the way a diagnostic process like this can reduce financial risk, improve quality, save time and create piece of mind, I have always wanted to make a process like this more widely available. Now, with advances in technology, I have figured out a way to give self-builders and home owner’s access to all the benefits of a robust diagnostic process, at a fraction of the normal cost.

I’ve distilled them into what I call Project Priority Packs. There are 5 options to choose from, and they can be customised to suit your specific needs.

As we discussed, I can help you answer your important questions when you select the most relevant Project Priority Pack, and at the end of the process you’ll have made informed intelligent decisions that will give you the confidence you need to be able to move your project forward.

An advantage of each Project Priority Pack is that they are a standalone piece of work, this means – should you change your mind – you are not locked into using me as your architect. Another benefit is that you get tools you can use for assessing any site that you may be considering.

What is the Project Priority Audit?

It’s the culmination of over 20 years’ experience and creates a complete, proven, field-tested road-map for your project. It lays out a step-by-step process that prepares you for building your own home, by helping you develop a well-engineered project execution plan that puts you firmly in control.

As a diagnostic tool the Project Priority Audit is a bridge between not having built before, lacking experience, or having had difficulties on an earlier construction project, and knowing how to get a house designed and built properly - especially when obtaining planning permission could be particularly difficult or when it’s going to be a Passivhaus.

The Project Priority Audit achieves three things: 
•    First of all, it is clarifying. It distils the very essence of what you want to achieve onto paper. This is a vital first step because everyone discussing the project gains a common frame of reference.
With my support you can then review your goals and ambitions and develop the most appropriate course of action.  
•    Secondly, it creates a great opportunity for us to formulate the basis of a fruitful working relationship – without forcing you to commit to working with me in the long term.
•    Thirdly, it provides the foundation stone upon which all other aspects of your project may be built. Once it’s in place we are in a good position to consider the next stage in the design process.

By working together, we don’t just establish your pragmatic requirements, we will enquire more deeply. To do this I’ll need to understand the emotional requirements you have from your home – not just the technical ones.
That’s why, from the very beginning we need to get clear about your expectations. I want to know about the rooms where you desire solitude, peace and quiet, and those places that will be busy lively spaces brimming with the hustle and bustle of family life, visitors and the occasional party. …We can also explore how different layouts, room designs and aesthetics can create very different kinds of home.

I believe the Project Priority Audit is the most valuable aspect of any project. My clients appreciate it because it helps them gain clarity about their goals, avoids delays and prevents many budget sapping design changes. Once completed they can move their project forwards with much greater confidence.

Little Hinges Swing Big Doors:

In my experience the key to a successful construction project begins and ends with good communication. Conveying your message clearly is pivotal. Use the right language and terminology, and everything becomes possible. Do it poorly, and even with the best of intentions, the person receiving the message will get it wrong. Getting your message across is particularly difficult when you are unfamiliar with the construction industry - the array of terms and choices can often be bewildering.

If a builder misunderstands the drawings and specifications you give them, it can cost thousands to put right. It’s the same with an architect.

If you don’t clearly describe what you want an architect to do, and what you don’t want them to do, then there is no way for them to gauge how they can help you. But if you give an architect a robust brief and a thorough schedule explaining the roles and responsibilities they will need to fulfil, then an architect will be able understand your expectations and prepare work (and their fee) accordingly – and if you find them explaining that they can’t fulfil the roles you expect of them, you get a measure of their capability.

If you structure your thoughts in the right way, and convey that message successfully, then you’ll be able to get what you need.

What happens after the Project Priority Audit?
Safe in the knowledge that you have clearly expressed your needs and wants you can appoint me, or another architect, to undertake the design of your home. Each step forward increases your commitment to the project. If at any point along the way your situation changes (for any reason) there is no obligation for you to make further progress.

A Quick Review:
I have outlined the importance of planning and preparation so you can get the most out of designing and building your forever home. In the words of Dr. Joseph Romm:

“Although building and design costs represent only a fraction of the building’s life-cycle costs, when just 1% of a project’s up-front costs are spent, up to 70% of its life-cycle costs may already be committed.”

This means, if you want to avoid making expensive mistakes, time spent planning your project is crucial. The Project Priority Audit enables you to prepare for your project by clarifying your thinking and helping you get to grips with your needs and wants. It also enables you to develop an understanding about how you can manage and overcome the obstructions and risks your project will encounter along the way.

By gathering all the relevant, case specific, information together and then reviewing it (including relevant planning policy documentation), this appraisal will help you gain the clarity and confidence you will need before you take your project forward.

If you find the Project Priority Audit doesn’t work out for you then you are covered by my Right Fit Guarantee. I’ll give you a full refund. Also, when you proceed with me as your architect, the cost of the Project Priority Audit will be deducted from the design fees associated with your home.

Here’s How To Move Your Project Forward Quickly:
I understand that right now you are trying to determine how you can move your project forward but at the same you feel you don’t know what is feasible. That’s why I have developed a specific range of Project Starter Packs to help you choose the best way ahead.  

Book a call so that I can learn about your project and we can work together and figure out which Project Starter Pack is right for you.