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Charting your project’s road map

There are many people who like to read a road map when they travel. Maps can be indispensable aids to help one get from point A to point B. 

Construction projects are similar to a road trip. We call the road map the brief. To get to your destination you need an up to date map; for a successful project to finish on time and within your budget you need a clear brief. It comes down to good project management.

Before starting any project, you must decide which overriding factor controls your project? Commonly there are three. 

Is it cost driven? Do you have a limited amount of money you wish to spend? 

Is it time driven? Must your new extension be finished before your in laws arrive? 

Is it quality driven? Cost and time are secondary to achieving exactly what you want.

Projects never fall into just one category. More often one of these factors will dominate and your brief must indicate this.  

The brief provides you, the owner or developer, the opportunity to be clear about your needs. For example, do you prefer to cook with gas or electricity? It will also address the issues of time, quality and budget. 

To carry the travel analogy one step further, would you ask your travel agent to book you a trip without telling her where you want to go and how you want to get there?

It is also important to add any other relevant information about your project. For example, if you like a heated towel rack in the bathroom you will need a dedicated electrical supply. It pays to spend time and effort producing the brief as it is the road map for the project. 

Without the brief, designers, like the traveller without a map, will have little idea where to start. They will not be as productive and focused, increasing the cost and time of design.

There have been too many times when the documents produced failed to meet the owner’s wishes or they exceed the owner’s budget. However, with good project management and a little time, you can prepare an accurate brief to provide the guidance to produce a good set of documents and avoid these problems.  

The most important thing to realize is that the beginning of your project is when you have an idea and not when you have plans. Most of your money is committed before the plans are drawn, so make sure you are in control at that time.

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By Chris Potter

Chris is the owner and founder of Chris Potter Associates. He is a highly experienced construction professional with experience as a contractor and consultant quantity surveyor and project manager in the UK and Caribbean construction markets.

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