Good project management is a the key ingredient in any successful house build, or anything that involves the creation or build of a any large object. We have over 20 years of project management experience, working on a diverse set of things from telecommunications research programmes, to commercial Internet services, consumer devices and even a a car. Note that we haven't mentioned building and construction in this list.
Deciding to project management your own house build is about balancing the risks and being prepared to commit the required time. Potential mistakes could easily result in unnecessary spend, that could have covered to costs of a professional project manager.
Resource Planning & Timelines
A good, clear project plan is essential and it needs to be documented in a form that is accessible and understandable by all. Everyone needs to know where it is and what the implications are to them. The various trades don't need to know or understand the whole plan but, they need to understand their role in it and the implications of not delivering against their parts.
A printed project plan is pretty much always out of date. It is a snapshot of what things looked like when it was printed. Version control is essential and regular review and communication of any updates and changes even more so. It's a lot like herding sheep. You need to redirect those that are wondering off in their own direction and keep them all moving in the right direction together.
A regular review of the costs is also essential. This may help identify cost and time savings that were not apparent at the project outset.
Roles & Responsibilities
Be very clear on who is responsible for what. This should also help complete the lists of 'whats'. Things like purchasing of materials and chasing orders can often fall down 'between the cracks' of a project plan.
Make sure you have a realistic estimate of cost and the budget (and contingency) in place to complete the build.
A figure of around 10-15% is typically set aside as contingency in most house builds but, the figure required depends very much on the nature of the build and the risks involved. Sites with difficult terrain or access will require more. So will builds involving new and innovative materials or construction methods.
Contingency is also required in the plan and time scales. Deliveries coming from other countries may introduce big impacts on the overall plan.
- Good project management will save money in the long run, through better use of resources and less 'down time' or 'idle time'.
- Using multiple suppliers means increased management overheads but, it will enable you to 'shop around' and get better prices on each phase of the build (ground works, foundations, roofing, etc.), materials and fixtures and fittings.
- Buying direct from manufacturers cuts out the 'middle man' and saves money. It also shifts responsibility of choice, specification and delivery back to you though.
Project managers need to be physically close to the project. Sometimes you need to see, touch, or feel things to understand situations and this is much more important on projects that delivery physical goods. It also helps to see things in the context of their surroundings, in order to better assess the situation and understand the potential solutions.
We have also project managed large software development teams, some off-shore in countries like India and the Ukraine. We have also project managed globally distributed teams, with sub-teams in the UK and USA. Different time zones are a huge hurdle and something that should hopefully be avoided on any house build.
Good project managers are invaluable but, good project managers with experience of the task in hand are much better. In our current innovation and technology role it helps enormously to be able to understand not just the challenge but the technical elements involved in delivering it. It enables the project manager to better validate estimates on complexity, cost and time scales. It enables the project manager have a much more effective 'bull shit' radar.
That said, we knew little about cars when we embarked on our kitcar build and we don't claim to know a huge amount about house building either. Whilst we will make some mistakes (hopefully none too costly in terms of time or money), we see the project management of our house build as an interesting challenge (one for which we have been researching a long time) and a fantastic learning and life experience.
Completing the build is not the end of the project. The plan needs to have a phase to allow snagging and certification and sign-off to be completed. Contracts need to be closed and invoices settled.
Project Management Services
If you plan to employ a professional project manager, then get them on-board as early as possible.