We have a breakthrough

 
The bifold doors will go here. The external ground will be lowered by about 600mm and the new insulated floor slab will be about a foot higher than the sand. A nice project. 

On another matter, I was able to help the builder (we help each other really) to resolve issues for the drainage, structure and the spatial arrangement.  I attend site partly because I am a nosey person, but also because my role as the architect is monitor the progress of the works and assist with the technical design. So I am there assure the quality of the work. I like that too. 

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Small but perfectly formed

Site progress at Eastlands Road. The scheme is for a little extension and internal alterations to bring much goodness to this compact family home. By going out just 3.5m under larger permitted development we are moving out of the tiny kitchen and into a garden facing kitchen dining room. The existing dining room will become the full time home office / part time guest bedroom / formal dining which will gain glazed pocket doors (that slide away into a false wall) to give a borrowed view into the garden through the new room. The old kitchen becomes a utility / laundry room and a separate larder. This takes two space hungry functions out of the kitchen so that it does not need to be big to be great. Our lovely (really lovely) builder is working to suit the client’s school holiday cycle and has split the work into phases, taking out a bulky redundant chimney from bedroom 3 and the old kitchen during the autumn term break so that the children can be away during the dusty work.

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For the first time, in forever

As a small project architect I often get to tender with contractors who have never used an architect led contract before. This doesn’t mean that they are bad people, they just work on direct to client agreements using their own payment and quality terms. If you come from big practice you might be surprised, but there is a lot of really beautiful work being done by great builders with no legal training.

I had a tender meeting recently with a local contractor with glowing references and, as I was explaining the contract terms, I could feel that he was not comfortable finding out about the contract from the client’s representative at the contract signing. This is not the time to learn about contract. So what I have done is write my own short guide to the contract which I like to use, the JCT Minor Works 2011. It’s a beautiful thing. There are plenty of books about it out there, but my contractors are the kind that have to pick up the boys in the van on the way to site, not the ones with in house QS’s.

If you are a contractor reading this, when was the last time that you did something extra that the client had asked for, as a favour, and then get into trouble because the project ran over? Or your client was unhappy because they remembered your payment terms in a way that was… different? Using a JCT contract imposes responsibilities on both parties (the main ones being that you promise to do the work and the Employer promises to pay you), but these are set out fairly in clear terms. Sadly, when things go really wrong, do you think that your “green print” is binding in the small claims or construction court?

You might not know that even if the project is not architect designed, you can ask an architect to act as contract administrator for the project to ensure that the payments and progress are properly controlled. You can buy a copy of the contract from the RICS website, it’s less than £30.

Here’s my guide to the JCT Minor Works contract for contractors using it for the first time, in forever. 

guidance for contractors using a JCT contract for the first time

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Let’s go to tender

This set of prints will be sorted into packs and sent out today for a project in Solihull. Plans, elevations, sections and a specification showing all the work to be priced. When the prices come back I will set up an interview with the client’s preferred contractor and if we have a match, we sign the contract showing the start date, completion date and the price. It is not always the cheapest contractor who wins, they have to win the heart of the client as well!

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P.S. I am working out of the kitchen… Because we have a new puppy! Say hi to Lacey. One day she will make a fine architect’s dog