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It may not be immediately obvious; but this is the area of 'self-build' projects where potentially the greatest waste of money occurs, primarily because it requires a combination of particular 'expertise' with a willingness to make the necessary effort to prevent it happening!  Unfortunately; even when that 'expertise' and willingness exist; many clients seem unable to grasp that the grossly over-priced 'self-build' projects regularly featured in the magazines and on 'Grand Designs' are just that ~ grossly, and unnecessarily, 'over-priced'; because of the lack of proper design 'expertise' and a similar 'blank-cheque' mentality.

 

It doesn't have to be like that!

 

The 'introduction' on our 'Professional Services' page emphasized the dangers of the typical 'blank cheque' approach used for getting quotes for service installations; however there are deeper, more fundamental problems which can also have huge cost implications.  Whilst acknowledging that the way most professional consultants obtain 'service installation' quotes from 'specialist sub-contractors' leaves a great deal to be desired in terms of protecting the client's best interests; that doesn't of itself negate the value of having impartial expert advice about what is the most cost-effective solution to achieve any given objective or outcome ~ when you do have a professional consultant both willing and able to provide such a service.

  • Such 'solutions' are rarely found by using the typically 'piece-meal' approach to residential design that the industry is used to!

'Service installations' is a generic term that covers an increasingly wide range of things which collectively can have a huge impact upon the overall 'build' costs of any 'self-build' project or housing development; but they don't have to.

 

FACT:  It is always cheaper and more efficient to reduce, or design 'out', the need for anything than it is to let 'vested' interests dictate what you should do!

 

NB: That simple fact applies as much to what goes into, or is 'bolted-onto', a new house as it does to how efficiently the house is designed and built.

 

Some service installations are fundamental necessities for any modern property; e.g. every property requires service installations to distribute electrical light & power and hot & cold water to where it is needed.  However; most other 'service installations' aren't automatically necessary ~ despite the 'weight' of media coverage and expensive advertising used to convince us that they are essential and/or highly beneficial!

  • An "obvious" necessity for any modern property might seem to be a heating installation; you would certainly think so judging by the amount of advertising being done for central heating boilers, UFH (underfloor heating), 'heat-pumps', etc.  Yet we have had many clients state quite categorically that they don't want 'UFH', etc. installed ~ generally because they know somebody who has whatever it is and has rarely, if ever, needed to use it because the house is so well insulated!

It's a classic example of the dangers of relying upon 'advice' from 'vested' interests; because they are never going to tell you it is cheaper to simply insulate the house than install their heating system nor will they ever tell you that it is pointless to install a heating system in your highly-insulated house; because they need to sell those heating systems in order to stay in business!

 

They couldn't care less whether the heating system is more expensive than the cost of simply insulating to a higher level or whether it will ever actually get used!  They are in business simply to sell and install the heating systems.  It is truly amazing that manufacturers, suppliers and installers can relieve so many people of so much money simply by 'hyping up' the products until people are stupefied enough to believe whatever they claim and say!

EXAMPLE: When virtually any new house can be insulated to a level where it doesn't need to have a heating system installed ~ especially if it is well designed ~ AND it costs upwards of 25,000 to have a ground-source heat-pump system installed; WHAT DOES IT MATTER that the heat-pump can produce the equivalent of around four times as much 'power' as it consumes?  Not only is insulating much cheaper ~ unlike a heat-pump; it never costs anything to 'run' ~ nor does it ever stop working; even during a power-cut!

Some type of heating will be required for virtually every property, but; increasingly it doesn't, and won't, involve the need for a 'fixed' heat-distribution installation ~ increasingly high levels of thermal insulation and 'airtightness' are successfully negating the need for anything more than portable and/or 'stand-alone' heat-sources for occasional use as and when necessary!  (It would also be very sensible not to rely solely upon electrical heat-sources ~ power-cuts are much more likely in the depths of winter!)

  • Unfortunately; there is an extremely serious risk that achieving high levels of 'airtightness' will destroy most of the financial and environmental advantages gained by removing the need for any form of central heating installation because it is likely to create a potential health problem for the occupants!

What we really need is to design houses that achieve a level of 'airtightness' that limits 'heat-loss' but still allows sufficient air-changes to maintain a healthy environment within the house.  It is totally illogical and pointless to reduce natural air-changes to such an extent that you then have to spend thousands of pounds to install and run a system that will constantly pump air in or out of the house purely to avoid the problems created by reducing the rate of air-change in the first place!  Unfortunately; that's something else that will also stop working during any power-cut!

  • Sadly; what we have is a politically-driven obsession to demand that by 2016 every new house must have a 'whole-house' mechanical ventilation and heat-recovery system (MHRV) installed ~ in order to get permission to build at all!  Whether it is actually needed or not is apparently irrelevant.  It seems that Government ministers aren't immune to the persuasive 'advice' stemming from equipment manufacturers, suppliers and installers either!?

Unfortunately; the drive to force compliance with the Code for Sustainable Homes by linking it into the Building Regulations' requirements is also making things extremely prescriptive; e.g. even a 'Passivhaus' certified house can only achieve 'Code Level 3' unless you 'bolt-on' a solar thermal installation, etc. to it!

  • What is even worse is that the 'authors' of the Code for Sustainable Homes (the BRE ~ Building Research Establishment) now privately admit that it is virtually impossible for the vast majority of new homes to ever meet Code Level 6 ~ the statutory standard for 2016 onwards ~ because the location, local environment, physical size, orientation, etc. of well over 90% of all new homes will prevent them from ever achieving sufficient renewable-energy generation.

In practical terms; what they are saying is that unless you are building in a relatively isolated and exposed position; i.e. within a very substantial plot of land; well away from other buildings, trees, etc. with a considerable area of south-facing roof on a dwelling located within the south-west region of the country; i.e. south and/or west of an imaginary line running between Bristol and Portsmouth; it is extremely unlikely that domestic scale renewable-energy generation will be viable!

 

The reason for our somewhat dire warning at the top of the page; about the existence of deeper, more fundamental problems having huge financial implications for everybody building houses; stems from the obvious conflict of interest whenever commercial businesses offer 'advice' about whether buying what they sell and install is your best option ~ because that is exactly what the Government has inflicted upon everybody ~ the people who are "accredited" to advise upon which 'renewable-energy' generation method you should use, are exactly the same people whose commercial existence depends upon selling sufficient numbers of those installations in order to stay in business!

  • You should also note that they are "accredited" to advise everybody upon which system is the best option; but 'best' might simply mean that it is the only system that will fit into the available space; it might simply mean it is the least inefficient system for a given location; i.e. there doesn't seem to be any requirement whatsoever to actually give advice about whether any system should actually be fitted; unless fitting any system is physically impossible!

Nowadays; 'service installations' cover an extremely wide range of things which collectively have the potential to make a huge impact upon the overall 'build' costs of any 'self-build' project or housing development; but nothing is totally inevitable!  There are many options and alternatives that should be considered objectively; i.e. upon the basis of impartial, objective advice given solely to protect your best interests; before making any such decisions.  That is where our input can be invaluable and ensure the best possible overall solution is found for your project or development because service installations should never be treated separately; they should always be part of a 'holistic' (whole house) approach to the overall design process which provides the best opportunity to mitigate and/or 'bypass' the more onerous (expensive) statutory requirements too.

 

Statutory requirements exist and have to be complied with; but finding yourself relying and acting upon 'advice' given by commercially-motivated people is extremely short-sighted and akin to giving people a 'blank cheque' to name their own price; regardless of what the job is actually worth.

 

Whenever such decisions have to be made; whether during the 'design' stage or as an 'after-thought'; it is essential to understand and realise what is possible as well as what is actually required for any particular project or development.

  • Ultimately; the Government cannot afford to prevent houses being built in situations where NO domestic scale renewable-energy generator is viable.

That means MOST clients' new homes won't actually require large sums of money spent (and wasted) on the provision of renewable-energy generators!

  • Specialist sub-contractors cannot afford to pass-up work just because they don't get given the proverbial 'blank cheque'; they may not like it but there are ways to ensure that they cannot simply quote whatever they think they can get away with for doing an installation.

We can produce detailed schedules in a variety of formats to suit individual requirements and keep you in control of what is spent and why!

  • On the essential core 'service installations' such as electrical and plumbing work; there is tremendous scope to make huge cost-savings as 'DIY' work.  As with constructing the timber-frame; installing electrical circuits and/or plumbing systems is basically 'unskilled' work.

We can produce clear installation layout drawings showing exactly what size and type of cable or pipe to use where; together with simple 'step-by-step' installation instructions designed specifically for the 'DIY' enthusiast.  The work is quick, light and generally clean and an easy way to save thousands of pounds!  We can even provide practical 'Hands-ON' training to cover 'basic skills' such pipe-bending and jointing, etc. as well as advice on what 'tools' would be required.

NB:  'DIY' enthusiasts and/or prospective 'Hands-ON' enthusiasts should visit our "Hands-ON Training" page for more specific information by clicking on the highlighted blue 'link'.

Collectively; if the need for 'service installations' isn't tackled pragmatically, it is likely that the financial impact of the various 'service installations' and provision of 'renewable-energy' generation will 'dwarf' the cost of actually building the house ready for fitting out; fortunately, a combination of (a) having the house(s) designed properly to minimise the residual need for 'service installations' and/or 'renewable-energy' generation and (b) controlling how quotes are invited; can keep you in full control of the potential cost and avoiding the usual 'excesses' caused by piecemeal decision-making and 'blank cheque' invitations to quote.

  • It is sad but true that most of the 'self-build' projects that stay within 'budget' do so because the 'budget' is very generous, NOT because of the quality of design work or any 'expertise' used to design 'out' all unnecessary service installation work and/or ineffective 'renewable-energy' generators!

Whilst builders can develop an ongoing business relationship with good sub-contractors that ensures that both parties respect the mutual need for both parties to make a reasonable profit from the work; that isn't the case for 'self-builders'.  They are seen as being 'one-off' opportunities that can be exploited to maximum advantage with relative impunity!

  • We have used our 'alter-ego' as 'chartered quantity surveyors' to great advantage when undertaking our own projects because trade suppliers and sub-contractors alike assume that our request for a materials quote or invitation to tender for building work is on behalf of a "builder client" ~ and we get 'trade' prices quoted accordingly!  It is another strand of our unique professional services that is effectively 'free' because of the huge potential savings.

It is one of life's many ironies that; whilst I have yet to meet anybody who didn't want to 'Keep Control Of Costs'; most people I have met have 'happily' wasted thousands, sometimes tens of thousands, of pounds on a 'self-build' project.  Rather than accept that paying a bit 'extra' on fees to protect themselves; against being 'ripped-off' by greedy 'suppliers' and/or 'sub-contractors'; would save them thousands of pounds, many people seem to equate keeping 'control of costs' as simply a matter of trying to minimise what professional fees they have to pay!

The point being that no matter how great our 'expertise'; clients can only benefit to the extent that they allow us to use that 'expertise' on their behalf!  Ultimately; it is always our clients' choices that will determine the relative success or otherwise of any project or development!

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THE NEXT STEP?

Nobody can "Keep Control Of Costs" by accident, luck or chance; it stems from a conscious decision to go the 'extra mile' to ensure success!

For the vast majority of 'self-build' projects; that decision is never taken ~ hence the grossly inflated 'build' costs that most people are 'encouraged' to believe are inevitable!  It is strange how people will settle for getting 'half-a-job' done in order to minimise the 'professional fees' and yet blithely waste of thousands of pounds simply because they have been led to 'believe' that inflated 'build' costs are inevitable!

Whether they are or not seems to correlate rather closely with whether or not somebody decides to go that 'extra mile' to ensure success!

We can only offer these services; it is upto individual clients to decide whether they want to use them!

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To appreciate what our clients want and to provide an unique response that will create great 'added value' for them.


 

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