Every project should employ a Cost Consultant. Here’s why…

So, you’re wondering – how much will this dormer loft conversion cost? What will be the cost of a single story extension to my Victorian house? Will I need a party wall agreement? Will I need to find a local builder myself in Hampstead, Notting Hill, Kensington, Chelsea, Hoxton, Wandsworth, Wimbledon, Richmond or wherever my house is? 

You probably think the best thing to do is to contact an architect first

…or maybe even a builder – and you may be right.

Many small projects (say in the region of £100k) can be completed successfully (and maybe even on time and budget) without the need for anyone other than someone to help you obtain planning permission, and a builder to work with you directly to do the work.

However, if you have a budget of more than £100k, your first port of call should be an RICS accredited cost consultant. And here’s why…

Fleet House, our collaboration with Stanton Williams & Box Associates, photographed by Jack Hobhouse

When you engage a cost consultant first, they are going to take a “budget-first” approach to your project

…and they are going to quickly be able to tell you exactly what you are able to afford to do. Based upon your priorities, current market conditions and their recently completed tenders and projects, they are quickly going to be able to give you estimates for how much your loft conversion, single story extension, new basement, or even your new build house is going to cost. Once you have decided on what exactly you are able to afford to do…

The next step will be to find yourself a design team

Now, you may have already gotten excited having browsed the Architect’s Journal or Dezeen, and seen fantastic projects by the likes of Stanton Williams, Architecture for London, 6a Architects, or Eldridge Smerin – and if your budget allows, then why on earth not! 

But if your priorities and expectations aren’t quite there, your cost consultant will have worked with many architects, engineers and other designers. He will have seen them work through the pre-construction phase, seen whether they can design to a budget and programme, if they can achieve planning successfully, or if your project is too big or too small for them – and will be able to provide you with a shortlist of options to consider, and may even be able to assist you with appointment, and act as project manager during the pre-construction phase, to ensure everything is delivered on time.

Primrose Hill House, our collaboration with Architecture for London & David Parker MRICS, photographed by Christian Brailey

But what if you’ve already appointed your design team?

Well, it is certainly not too late to get a cost consultant appointed. 

Many architects will tell you that you don’t need a cost consultant. That they are more than capable of all the necessary project management, contract administration and cost consultancy required for a project like yours. And, honestly, many are. However, consider one simple question…

What do you want your architect focused on?

Architecture, surely!?

By employing a cost consultant, you will free your architect up to deliver the information required to get your project on site, and completed, as successfully as possible, whatever your metrics for success are. If you employ your architect to undertake all the additional tasks required to get your project from conception to completion, they will of course be rewarded with that juicy fee, but they will be distracted from what they are good at, and your project will suffer as a result.

Why not employ someone who has been specifically trained in these additional duties, who can focus solely on them and undertake them professionally and diligently?

Juergen Teller’s Studio, our collaboration with 6a Architects & Gleeds, photographed by Ryan von Ruben

So, your architect has delivered your set of information…

Maybe obtained planning consent, your cost consultant has provided you budget estimates, and everything is looking good. Now comes the difficult part. How do we get this thing built?

This is where your cost consultant really becomes absolutely vital, and where their skills, training and experience really are indispensable.

From here on, your cost consultant should do the following;

  1. Provide you with a short list of pre-qualified building contractors, 
  2. Develop a tender package on the basis of the design team information that will allow those contractors to provide you with an accurate tender bid, 
  3. Interrogate those tender bids to ensure each of them is a true representation of what is shown on the design team information and what could reasonably be expected for the construction phase, and de-risk the bids as far as possible
  4. Assist you in selection of one of those contractors, advising varying risk factors of each bid
  5. Engage one of those contractors, and execute a contract between you that properly distributes the risks of the project between you and your chosen contractor
  6. Administer the contract from handover, through construction, to practical completion and end of defects period, ensuring that the contractor does not take advantage of your position unfairly, but also that the contractor is treated fairly and reasonably on various matters, so that they can stay focused on delivering your project

Again, your architect will probably tell you that they are more than capable of doing all of this, and many indeed are. But architects are highly trained professionals at architecture, whereas cost consultants are highly trained professionals at cost consultancy, contract administration and project management.

House in Highgate Cemetery, our collaboration with Eldridge Smerin and Richard Collis MRICS, photographed by Lyndon Douglas

So, why not employ one to do so?

Here are some links to some cost consultants that we have worked with over the years, who we have found to be professional and diligent in their work – provided alphabetically, without fear or favour. The RICS “Find a Surveyor” tool (link) is also very helpful.

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