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Project Management for Home Owners & Selfbuilders

For self builders or home owners, planning to spend large sums of money on their property, it is vitally important to maximise the value received from that expenditure.

I know that many of you do a lot of research into what materials to use, how to use technology to minimise future expense, how to “ future proof “ your home. You look at getting the best prices for all of the materials you will be sourcing. You look at the sanitaryware, the tiles, kitchen and appliances. You will have chosen the form of heating, the windows and doors, the “ intelligent home “ systems and all of the myriad  things that you will be spending your hard earned on, to create your home. All valuable and potential money savers or value enhancers.

However there is one area which can potentially offer even better returns on the investment of your time and efforts. I am talking about Project Management.

Project Management is something many people never think about. Or you may have thought about it and dismissed it as an unnecessary expense or too time consuming. Even too complicated. Perhaps you believe it is only used for major projects or perhaps you see it as yet another profession, trying to make itself indispensable.

What I would like to do is take a look at the subject from a more down to earth viewpoint.

So what is Project Management and why is it so important? Well, at the level at which we are talking about, i.e your home extension, refurbishment or new build project, if we strip out all the jargon and the cloak of mystique which surrounds all professional bodies, I can summarise it like this:-

Effective Project Management is the logical and progressive implementation of a carefully structured and well thought out, previously prepared, plan.

Now let me make another statement:-

Project Management can be undertaken by anyone.

Let me explain. As a project manager myself, I know that effective management can make a real difference to the outcome of a project. However as a realist I am also aware that for a typical small construction project, i.e. anything from an extension to a new build home, it is highly unlikely that you will engage the services of a professional project manager. I also understand why – cost and perceived value amongst the main reasons.

However not using a Project Manager should not mean that you ignore the principle of effective management. If we agree that good management makes a difference then, as the client, it is in your own best interest to get involved.

The most important single influence in any project is the client. That’s you! Your involvement in the project, your interface with the others involved, your ideas, attitude, decisions and actions will have more influence on the success, or otherwise of your project, than almost anything else.

That is a double whammy – you have the most at stake and you have the most influence. So how to use that influence to ensure you get the most benefit.

Let’s consider the project as a journey, with the end result as the destination and the project stages as the route. As with any journey, you would not consider the route until you had decided on the destination. So with your project; you first need to decide on the result you want to achieve and the more detailed the planning of the end result is, the simpler it becomes to plan the route.

So there we have it. Project Management part one, is to plan the desired outcome. Before you talk to an architect, before you even think about building, set to with a pad and pencil and work out what you want to achieve. Do look at what your neighbours have done nearby and remember you can usually talk informally to the local Planning Officer about what is likely to get approval, then decide on the overall scope for your project, number and function of rooms, sizes etc. Work out what you like about your current living space and what you would improve. Look at friends homes and take inspiration from them. Look at property magazines and TV programs. Work out how you will use each part of your home and what you need to make that easier, more functional, more attractive, whatever is important to you and your lifestyle.

Use the available free information and services of others – there are plenty of resources out there, for example, companies that offer free kitchen or bathroom planning, online tools which will help you draw basic floor plans so you can determine room sizes.

Time spent at this stage will pay dividends later when you get others involved as the clearer their brief is, the more straightforward, therefore less costly, will be their job. Remember – any changes at any stage after the project has commenced, will cost, so the more you can do with your initial planning, the more effectively you can allocate your budget.