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Check, check — and check again

08 April 2016

After your description of the steps necessary in working with the church’s architect (26 February), we realised that we would like to know how the stages of our building project would unfold.

BUILDING projects on churches usually begin with the realisation, based on the quinquennial inspection report, that repairs are needed, or that to develop use of the church for local people some adaptations are needed.

The first task is to determine the scope of your building project. Consult with your inspecting architect to ensure that the project tackles the most urgent need, and is tackled in a sensible way: for example, high-level external repairs are tackled first.

Once you together have a rough idea of the scope, meet the architect and a quantity surveyor. The latter’s task will be to create a detailed indicative budget that will allow you to decide how much work you can go ahead with, depending on the funds you have available. Again, some desirable work may be left until later.

Once you have identified the funds to undertake the building project, make the formal appointment of your architect, and other essential members of the design team; the quantity surveyor; and perhaps a stone consultant, structural engineer, or other specialism that the project requires.

When you have appointed the architect, he or she becomes your project manager, and will lead you through the rest of the process, but keep asking your questions until you understand what is going on, as there will be moments when the PCC has to make a decision — and that should be an informed decision.

This design team draws up the detailed project sufficiently for the work to be submitted for faculty. With repair work, especially like-for-like repairs, this may be quite straightforward, but for alterations the DAC may wish to visit and have a good look at the plans in situ. Check that any minor alterations recommended by the DAC or anyone else are still within your budget, and within funds available.

Accompanying the drawings there will be a booklet of detailed specifications for the work, down to the type of nails or screws that may be used, and this is usually worked on by both the architect and the quantity surveyor. The drawings and the details specification are sent out to as many as five or six contractors who will tender for the work.

The quantity surveyor will lead on examining the returned tenders to ensure that you get the best value, and, with the architect, will give you a tender report recommending which contractor’s bid you accept. It is usually, but not always, the least expensive one.

At this point, two or three of you will join the architect at a meeting with the contractor to go over principles and details of how the project will proceed, including agreeing the date that the contractor will start work on site. A contract will be signed between the contractor and the church.

Once the contractor is working on site, expect a monthly site-meeting that will review what has been done, agree what is coming next, and clear up any outstanding questions. The church should have one or two people at this meeting to take questions back to the PCC, or its building committee, if that committee has power to make decisions.

At this meeting, and with the architect separately, check that everything is still being contained within the budget. There may be items that tap into your budgeted contingency, but you should be asked to agree to each one, and the architect and quantity surveyor should ensure that there is no overspend. You will make a monthly payment to the contractor for work to date, within the contracted payment window.

Towards the end of the project, checking for snags — small faults — will take place, and then the architect produces a Certificate of Practical Completion. The contractor will invoice for all the remaining payment, minus a small percentage that is retained for one year by the church.

Send your issues and questions to maggiedurran@virginmedia.com.

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