FEATURE: GOOD WORKING RELATIONSHIPS26th February 2018
As many building projects start on site at this time of year, we are sometimes asked by clients. Does it matter if the architect and the builder don’t really get along on site? Or if a stonemason simplifies an intricate moulding without checking with anyone?
The short answer is yes. It may sound like a fluffy part of the building process – ensuring harmonious relationships – but good relationships are about communication and are crucial to the success of the project.
There is no single project management solution to fit every job. Our practice has been involved in a variety of procurement models and contractual arrangements to get projects built. What we have noticed though is that when things are set up well, people behave respectfully to each other, are motivated to get on with the work, and better finished projects result.
It’s not always easy, of course. Some of the clichés are true. For example, we designers tend to think of the construction stage as the messy bit, the dangerous stage when so much could potentially go wrong. For the builders, this is where they get stuck in, and they don’t want the architect poking his or her nose in every 5 minutes!
The trick is to set up protocols right at the beginning. If the builder knows exactly who to direct a particular query to, that helps – and all his workers know to flag up issues as they arise. If the architect and client source builders and specialists whom they know and trust, that helps considerably. Getting the right people for each job is critical – if you’re creating a traditional country house, you may need a specialist stonemason, or a joiner with classical-design training. It’s in these details that we really strive to get it right every time.
So, to achieve the successful realisation of a design your team must understand that working well with other people is essential. Sometimes it’s an absolute joy. You may have drawn an intricate detail, for example, involving precise three-dimensional geometry, and you discover that the stonemason is completely familiar with how to form it and knows the vocabulary of classical mouldings inside-out. Or you may find that the lead workers suggest touches of detail that bring life to an otherwise utilitarian waterproofing detail, or a joiner who explains how to finish a jib door in some panelling to make it truly secret. If this is what is happening on your site then you have found good people.
Harmonious relationships such as these can be hard to find in the building industry. We prioritise getting this aspect right. The structure of contracts is sometimes blamed for relationship problems when one side seeks to unfairly take advantage of a situation. The secret to creating a favourable environment for a building project where things go well on site for both sides of a building contract, is for both sides to understand what the other needs to get out of it, and to care that the other party does in fact get what he needs. We know that organising that right at the beginning makes for a happy build.