Should you hire a project manager for a self build or home renovation project? The question should really be, ‘what does a project manager do, and do I need one?’. In the building industry the term ‘project manager’ often gets muddled. When a building professional refers to a ‘project manager’ their meaning could fall broadly in to one of three categories:
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1. Construction manager
Many self-builders are under the impression that a separate ‘project manager’ will be required to manage the job on site, including hiring the different tradespeople, oversee health and safety, deal with building regulation compliance, procure materials, schedule the works etc. However, in most situations (except perhaps where the client chooses to have a lead/physical role in the construction of the project), this type of project management will fall under the remit of the main contractor. The main contractor will be named in the building contract and therefore held accountable for their role to deliver the project to a specified time, cost and quality. The lead consultant, typically the architect, will oversee this (see 3. below).
2. Client representative
This type of project manager acts as the client’s representative to plan, schedule, manage and troubleshoot over the course of the project. They will bring technical expertise to all the decisions a client would otherwise need to make. Their role might involve interviewing and appointing consultants, such as your architect, structural engineer, party wall surveyor etc.
It’s worth noting that this type of project manager should have no role or influence in the building contract between you and the contractor (see project manager type 2 for this role). A project manager should therefore not be the ‘boss’ of everyone or give instructions to the contractor/other consultants, which may be in conflict with the building contract. The building contract is there to project all parties from disputes and has strict guidelines in terms of what can happen with cost, payments and timeframe.
3. Contract administrator / lead consultant
A contract administrator will oversee the work on site in relation to the building contract between you, the client, and the main contractor. This role is often taken by the lead consultant (typically your architect), who will have been trained in all aspects relating to contract administration. They will issue instructions to the builder and certify that the work is completed at different stages for payments to be made. They will also take the lead during site meetings to check on progress and help resolve issues.
Your architect (lead consultant) will be skilled in the following ways to take on this role:
- Construction and contract law
- Value engineering
- Cost control
- Building contract options/ how the builder will be hired and what role they will take
- Project planning
- Contract administration
- Dispute resolution
- Management of other consultants.
Aside from the professional training required to act as a contract administrator, a client wouldn’t be able to take on this role since there would be an obvious conflict of interest.
Do you need a project manager for your home building or renovation project?
For most self build or home renovation projects, it’s uncommon for a client to appoint a separate ‘project manager’, as the management responsibilities are instead taken on by the main contractor (type 1) and lead consultant – who is usually your architect (type 3). A type 2 ‘client representative’ project manager would usually be appointed on commercial projects, rather than domestic ones, to look after the interests of the client. For domestic projects then, the ‘technical advisory’ role described in type 2 would instead usually be assumed by your architect, to help you make sensible, informed decisions right from the start of the project.
Finding the right architect for your home building or renovation project
As well as being founder of Design for Me, I am also a qualified architect. I found that many homeowners search online to find well established or high-end practices (it makes sense – these companies have bigger marketing budgets with stylish websites). However, such practices are often too busy, too expensive and, in fact, often less experienced in dealing with small residential projects on ‘normal’ budgets.
So I wanted to create this platform for those design professionals I know who are suitable, experienced and eager to take on domestic projects like yours. They are often small practices or freelancers. The problem was that, before Design for Me, they were very difficult to find. All you need to do is tell us a bit about your project.
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