Potential Disadvantages Associated With Refurbishment Construction Essay

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From reading the chapter on the advantages of refurbishment, you could be thinking that refurbishment is the way to go because of all the positives surrounding it like, the social advantages, shorter time scale, environmental considerations, less money etc. But as we all know, for every argument, there is an up side and a down side. This chapter highlights the potential disadvantages, risks and problems that can occur on refurbishment projects so you can see the other side of the coin. 'To Refurbish or not to Refurbish ?'.

A fixed price contract to be constructed by a certain date involves alot of risks. These risks include whether the work can be performed at the agreed price, future price increases, weather conditions during the course of construction, competency of the contractor's management, supervisors and workers. (Taggart, 2010)

All of these risks and potential problems are taken into account on new build and refurbishment projects. But I will only be looking into the whole area of the potential problems and disadvantages that are associated with refurbishment projects, such as:

Problems at tender stage.

Added Health And Safety Considerations.

Difficulty of locating data which requires investigations

Added workload required to upgrade to meet existing regulations

Problems involved with old/existing components and practices

Extremely difficult to define accurate scope of works and accurate programme.

2.1 Problems at tender stage

One of the disadvantages that come with refurbishment projects is the difficulty that can arise at tender stage. New build construction holds an advantage in this area as there are more procurement options available on a new build project than on a refurbishment project. This means that the principal disadvantage that refurbishment projects have at tender stage, is that the client's choice of tender options is limited for a number of reasons which will be stated below.

An example of a procurement option that realistically would not be viable on a refurbishment project, would be 'Traditional Lump Sum Tendering'. Some of the reasons as to why this would be an inappropriate method of procurement is as follows:

It requires the work to be accurately foreseen and detailed (This is difficult on a refurbishment project as scope of work could prove difficult to predict).

It fosters confrontation between employer and contractor (This is an important point as flexibility and good working relations are vital on a refurbishment contract). (Murphy, 2007)

Another procurement option, which is not viable on a refurbishment project, is 'Open Tendering'. Even though this option ensures maximum competition, there is the disadvantage that tenders may be received from firms who have neither the necessary financial resources nor the adequate technical knowledge and experience involved. Also other disadvantages associated with this type of tendering are that:

There is a lack of control by the client over the competency of the builder he is employing.

There is a waste of resources when many firms tender for the same job. (Seeley,1976)

Even though there are a few options left for tendering on refurbishment projects, there are 2 main types which principally are better (typically on housing projects), which are (1) Selective tendering and (2) Negotiation with a selected contractor

(1) Selective Tendering: This option is mainly referred on projects that are of great magnitude and complexity. But if selective tendering is chosen on a basic housing refurbishment scheme then the number of firms invited to tender should be 3 or 4.

(2) Negotiation: This should be the principal option on a housing project because there is less time wasting involved. It also offers advantages as it allows for an early start to be made as less time is wasted at tender stage and also where the contractor chosen has exceptional experience of the scope of work covered by the type of work in question. (Seeley,1976))

This section should adequately describe how the limitation of procurement options at tender stage, is a disadvantage associated with the option of refurbishment.

2.2 Added Health and Safety Considerations

Another one of the main disadvantages with Refurbishment is the added Health and Safety aspects, which have to be taken into consideration. The reason as to why the area of health and safety is so important is because, on a refurbishment project there are all of the considerations, which occur on a new build site, for example:


Working at heights

Danger of electrocution

Working with dangerous instruments/ machines

Danger of falling objects. Etc

But also there are many more considerations, which have to be taken into account on a refurbishment project, which will not occur on a new build project, such as:

Removal of asbestos

Shoring (although this may be needed on rare occasions on new build contracts to support surrounding buildings).

Danger of collapsing of old unstable houses

Supporting decaying structural members so as to provide a safe place of work

Danger of existing services

All of these considerations are added to the general considerations, which means that the health and safety risk is almost doubled on refurbishment projects.

I will address these health and safety considerations in much more detail in a separate chapter later on in this dissertation.

2.3 Difficulty of locating data, which requires investigations

Another Disadvantage of refurbishing buildings is, the fact that when it comes to refurbishing older houses and buildings it is very difficult to locate data on the existing building which means that many different inspections and surveys must be carried out on the building before any type of works can commence which causes a loss in time and also these investigations and surveys can cost a lot of money to carry out, as the reports of these surveys can determine the scope and nature of the works to be carried out.

There are many reasons as to why a survey is required, when a house or building is being refurbished such as:

To prepare a measured drawing of the building to enable a scheme for alterations, improvements or extensions to be prepared.

To advise on the repair and preservation of a building (including listed buildings).

Work to be carried out to satisfy the requirements of the local or other authority, i.e. dangerous structure notices or public health notices.

To prepare plans in connection with party wall agreements. This is usually required where alterations to a party wall are contemplated. (Noy, 1997)

As you can see from above these surveys require great detail and could take a long time to carry out and also for the results to be drawn up which proves to be a large disadvantage. The procedure, which is involved in a typical survey of a house, is described below.

Here is an example of a typical investigation procedure, which would be carried out on a typical 2-storey dwelling house.

A preliminary inspection of the whole property to familiarise the surveyor with the type and layout.

A detailed inspection of the main roof space and any subsidiary roof voids which are accessible.

A room-by-room inspection at each floor level starting from the topmost floor.

Inspection of accessible basements, cellars and sub floor areas.

An examination of the elevations, including structure and finishes.

Inspection of the site boundaries, outbuildings and surroundings.

An examination of the elevations, including structure and finishes.

Examination and testing of drainage and services. (Glover, 2001)

You can see from above that these procedures must be carried out by a very competent and qualified person with an acquired knowledge of old properties and refurbishment techniques. Invariably it could cost you a large amount of money as well as time, depending on the complexity and size of the dwelling house in question.

2.4 Added workload required to upgrade to meet existing regulations.

This is another potentially large disadvantage, as there can be a large possibility that the problem of 'the amount of work that is required to upgrade to meet regulations' could cause you a lot of hardship and difficulties on refurbishment projects as there are so many regulations and requirements to comply with, that it could end up costing the client a lot of extra time and money depending on the age and condition of the building.

Here, is a list of the main parts of the building regulations, which the building that is being refurbished will have to conform with:

Part A- Structure

Part B- Fire Safety

Part C- Resistance to Moisture

Part E- Sound

Part F- Ventilation

Part L- Conservation of Fuel and Energy

Part M- Access for the Disabled

Because there are so many parts to comply with, it could prove to be more beneficial to demolish and rebuild a house rather than refurbish the existing building as the costs involved in upgrading the building may result in the refurbishment project spending way over budget, and the client wishing that he had demolished and rebuilt the house rather than refurbishing it. This is why this particular section can prove to be a disadvantage of the refurbishment option.

Because of the importance of this section I will be describing the whole area of upgrading buildings to meet regulations in a later chapter in this dissertation.

2.5 Problems involved with old/ existing practices.

A large advantage that new build construction has over refurbishment is, because you are totally building a new structure from scratch, there are no problems associated with interaction between old building, temporary works, services and new work as well as having to match existing components with new components. (Murphy, 2007)

This may not be a problem when refurbishing newer properties, but for example if you were refurbishing an old house with architectural details such as: old craft processes and old style antique details that are intended to be maintained and restored as well as repeated by the client in the refurbishment project that is to be undertaken, then this will cause many hold ups and time lost on the overall programme as well as much more money being spent because of the following reasons:

Old processes such as specialist plastering and antique joinery are very time consuming and costly to reproduce because of the specialist nature of these processes.

There are not many contractors around which carry out these types of old crafts which means that you could be a long time waiting.

Because of the hold ups in these areas the rest of the project will suffer as a result, so therefore the project could drastically fall behind in time and could also go way over budget.

This whole area could prove to be a big disadvantage if you are refurbishing a project under similar restrictions and restraints but these types of refurbishment are very rare unless you are refurbishing a listed building, but I will not be going into detail in the whole area of listed buildings in this dissertation.

2.6 Extremely difficult to define accurate scope of works and accurate programme.

In my opinion, this problem is probably one of the biggest disadvantages associated with refurbishment as it affects the project in a lot of different fields. Firstly, when the scope of works and the programme cannot be specifically defined or finalised, then it means that there could be difficulties with regards to tendering and also planning as the contractor does not know for definite, what type of project that he is getting himself into. Secondly, if a particular detail occurs that is different from the planning specifications, then an investigation by the planning authorities may occur, which would directly affect the project.

The statement ' Extremely difficult to define accurate scope of works and accurate programme' can be proved by looking at the situations, which affect this problem that are:

Late discovery of new circumstances: this is a feature that can occur on any size or type of refurbishment project. For example if you are refurbishing a house and you discover late into the project that you find that some aspect of the project does not comply with standards or regulations, which in turn means that alterations to the scope of works and maybe changes to plans will have to be carried out. Something like this could totally change the programme of the job and also the final accounts.

Discovery of unforeseen conditions possible for almost entire project: This problem is another factor that proves the difficulty involved with trying to draw up an exact scope of works and programme. Even though a general site investigation may have been carried out at the start of the project, it is still entirely possible that unforeseen conditions may appear throughout the project. Some of these conditions may include: late discovery of decaying structural members, late discovery of absence of wall insulation,, dpc etc. Late discoveries similar to these are a constant feature of refurbishment work, that add to the problem of producing an accurate scope of works and programme for the project.

After reading this section the reasons are apparent as to why an accurate scope of works and accurate programmes are very hard to predict due to the reasons stated above. You can also see how these areas in turn, affect other aspects of the project such as tendering, procurement and the adequate selection of a contractor for a refurbishment project.