Yet More Support.... by Graeme Fan

The development in Mt Albert continues to gain support. http://www.newshub.co.nz/home/opinion/2017/06/opinion-whinging-homeowners-wilfully-dense-on-density.html

It's absolutely fantastic to see so much support for the very thing that I fundamentally believe the city needs and wants. People want to be close to their place of work, we need a greater reliance on and access to public transport. The majority of residents don't want nor have the time to spend their weekends tending to their expansive gardens. Residents want quality, low maintenance, well designed and sustainable homes.

It was a 6 month battle with council but well worth it in the end...

Up and Running... by Graeme Fan

Our consultancy is up and running and we have already taken clients on.  

We haven’t done any real marketing to get on the board so this is a great feeling. It’s nice to know we can add value to your journeys.

The consultancy service is for those of you who want to realise the potential of an opportunity that you have. We can help you understand what’s possible, particularly in light of recent planning changes, which I will blog about in other posts.

We have rapidly built a track record of delivering quality work, being passionate about design and outstanding quality. This can also underpin the projects you undertake with us.

Get in touch if you’d like to know more. It’s great working for clients and not just future home-owners or residents. From a purely selfish perspective we’re finding it to be a genuinely rewarding experience of just being able to help and share our knowledge.

Media Attention Continues by Graeme Fan

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=11883171

We have recently been granted consent to develop 5 terraced homes on a section in Mt Albert where currently one dilapidated weatherboard house sits. This is the Unitary Plan working. It was a long road, we followed due process and achieved our aim. Our mission is to deliver better quality homes to Auckland.

To us, this change is necessary and is a significant piece of the answer to solving Auckland’s housing crisis. 

We have long been advocates of replacing old stock that no longer serves the community with better outcomes, inefficient with the efficient. Today’s lifestyles are vastly different from 100 years ago. Moreover, we’re demanding better quality homes from even 20 years ago – think leaky buildings.

We’ve had a swath of support for what we’re doing. This is heartening and affirms that we’re doing good and delivering what the market not only needs but also wants.

We advocate quality buildings, homes that encourage walking to public amenities like transport, parks, schools and shops, even places of work. We advocate insulation, sustainable and new technologies that can improve the lives and wellbeing of residents. 

I intend to write more on this subject as it warrants discussion and to hopefully share why I think, despite the initial pain of change, it is the only way you grow.

Attention (non) Seekers by Graeme Fan

We have attracted unexpected attention in the media. In a nutshell, it’s because we’ve been at the forefront of understanding the Unitary Plan and maximising development potential.

Below is a link to an article that featured in the national paper. It was disheartening though understandable that we attracted negativity. Personally I was concerned when informed that the story was going to make the headlines, when we genuinely believe in the good that this type of development will do.

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=11854629

It’s turned out to be a challenging experience and has added to the lively debate. There are sections in the community who do not want change and to adapt. I understand that. But for the city of Auckland to become a truly international city and to accommodate it’s growing population, whether we like it or not, change must happen.

Learnings: 3 by Graeme Fan

Drainage

We had challenges during the construction phase of this project with the drainage. Whilst we followed the design, we still felt the design could have been better. With the benefit of hindsight, we could have invested more time into exploring alternative drainage designs and will take this learning into our next developments.

Drainage and stormwater management are such hot topics given the pressures on Auckland’s infrastructure. It’s therefore critical to work with civils consultants who can provide best in class drainage design and management strategies.

As a result of our continual search to improve, we believe we have now found the best civils consultants in terms of their knowledge and value for money. We look forward to working with them on our current and future developments.

We continue to seek out the best development design team possible which will make our schemes best in class and superior than those around us.

Learnings: 2 by Graeme Fan

Landscaping

The gardens were given the opportunity to mature through the marketing campaign. And we got to see how beautiful a landscaped garden that had been given the chance to flourish really adds tremendous value to the visual experience of a property. We thank Natural Habitats for their expert design of the landscapes that were installed at this site.

During installation, it wasn’t the easiest as there were competing priorities with various trades wanting to carry out their work, so sequencing without disruption was challenging. But we got there in the end and it was well worth it.

An expert designed landscape adds so much to the wow of a property and eventual well-being of its occupants that whilst many developments cut corners and do things on the cheap, we genuinely get a huge amount of appreciation by investing that much more in this often budget constrained yet in our opinion all important component of a development.

Perhaps paradoxically to some, we believe there is a massive return on investment in not cutting corners on landscaping. You get what you pay for and it’s important not to restrict yourself unnecessarily in this area.

Learnings: 1 by Graeme Fan

It’s a good time to document what we learnt from our recent development and also to give ourselves a rare pat on the back on what we feel we did well at. In summary, despite the success, we can always do better and strive to do so everyday.

Supplier Beware - Bathroom ware

We have experienced, despite extensive research on suppliers, issues post-installation on key contract supply items. It goes to show how important doing your homework on suppliers is, yet despite this, there are still no guarantees to their performance in terms of service and reliability.  We have had some issues with the bathroom hardware and also the joinery. I can say that the service levels during installation weren’t to the standard we expect either. It means we’d probably not use them again nor recommend them within our network.

We can not say whether we were simply unlucky on this particular project on these named items, but it has very much emphasized the cost and potential loss of goodwill that can ensue if you get just one thing wrong. All we can do is act immediately on any issues, even if they extend beyond our contracted warranty period, as we have a duty of care to our new owners of their homes as we want to ensure that their experience is best in class and they understand that we’re doing everything in our control to remedy any issues that arise, which given the complexity of any build, will invariably arise.

Fortunately, due to the research carried out on suppliers, we can happily report that the vast majority of the items that goes into a build are of a high quality and we have had no problems.

Western Springs Update by Graeme Fan

The Finch St project has concluded very successfully. The two remaining townhouses have found their new owners and they are incredibly happy living in their new amazing spaces. We keep in contact with them and I’m delighted to share some comments that were passed on to us by one of the new families living there.

“We recently purchased a property developed by Graeme Fan and wanted to put on record both how much we love the design of the property and also how impressed we’ve been with the post settlement service that Graeme has provided.” - GT

What we have found most rewarding is that we achieved our goal of creating quality homes that the new owners are delighted with and will cherish for years to come.

I promised to update you on the learnings taken from the Finch St project and I will do that in subsequent posts. I just wished to say that I’m going to try and write some more over the next few weeks to update you on what’s been happening here at Beaudomus.

Development Services by Graeme Fan

Happy New Year to you all! I hope you had a lovely break over the festive period.

Having had some time away to reflect on the successes and challenges of the past year, I've been thinking about how I could help make a greater impact. Maybe there's an opportunity to help others realise their goals and make a positive impact in that way also. 

We've had unbelievable feedback on our recent development. And I thank all of you have been able to come through the properties and really experience them.

We've had incredible comments from the viewings and a real appreciation for all the design considerations we've incorporated and the quality we've ensured throughout. It makes all the hard work and expense worthwhile.

As a result, we're going to trial a new consultancy service where we help others achieve their property aspirations. If this interests you, I'd love your feedback on how we can best serve you. 

This would ideally help actual or prospective owners who are considering undertaking a development, but unsure how best to go about it. 

Watch this space!

Private Preview... by Graeme Fan

We are about to launch two properties we have recently completed in Western Springs. We are really excited about the result! We hope the public enjoys them as much as we had creating them. 

We are also pleased to have stayed true to our ethos of creating beautiful homes in our local market with a real focus on wellbeing and excitement for the eventual owner.

I will cover in detail some of the things we achieved and challenges we faced throughout in upcoming posts. I hope you find these informative and interesting, and potentially lessons for projects you might be undertaking.

Project Manage or Not...? Part 3 by Graeme Fan

2 minute read...

My aim is to outline what you should expect from a project manager if you decide to outsource this to someone else.

A good project manager will add a lot of value to your project. They will give you a great advantage in ensuring your project priorities and goals are met. Whether that's quality, time to complete and / or cost. Normally all three aspects come into play, it's how you prioritise these and ensure your project manager is aware of these that will result in how successful your project is.

A good project manager should give you the following advantages:

  1. Experience of planning and sequencing work so that the programme is efficient and done in the most effective way
  2. Access to a well established network of consultants, professionals and suppliers. Depending on your relationship with the project manager, you may benefit from cost efficiencies as they could pass the beneficial rates they benefit from directly on to you.
  3. Experience of running projects to completion, so a good resource for advice on the entire sequence and what things you should be thinking about in advance. Being your navigator in your process, they will keep you updated on the upcoming areas of work, so you have time to prepare and provide your deliverables at the right time.
  4. A wealth of knowledge in construction who will act as your eyes and ears during the construction phase. They can monitor and point out quality aspects to your project. They are your guardian against the suppliers and contractors, so that when issues arise, they will be on your side in determining the core issue and helping you arrive at workable solutions to get through it.

A good project manager does cost money, no doubt about it. But a better way to look at it, is how much they will save you and also gain you in terms of the positive outcomes of your project. Also consider the amount of stress and load they will take on their shoulders in place of yours. 

I imagine your life is already loaded with everyday other issues, tackling another project which (as mentioned previously) takes a minimum 50% of your working week if done well, may not be a time commitment you can reasonably afford.

I've only covered a few benefits of a good project manager. Subjectively, I do think the potential benefits hugely outweigh the cost, but it ultimately comes down to how good the project manager is. Do your due diligence and check references!

Analysing Sites - Geographic Information Systems by Graeme Fan

Auckland council provides free of charge a Geographic Information System (GIS) which is a valuable tool on the web showing Auckland in a geographic format - http://maps.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/aucklandcouncilviewer/ 

The website provides a wealth of free information that will help you determine important aspects about a sites viability when making your initial assessments. 

Infrastructure

I consider the proximity for all main services needed to enable a site and ultimately dwellings to function. These include stormwater run off, wastewater, potable water, electricity, gas and telecommunications. 

Wastewater lines are shown in red, stormwater lines in green, potable water in blue. It is important to analyse your site and determine how you will get these services to your site if they are not already serving it. Brownfield sites (existing use) will have services already available, but when increasing the number of units on the proposed location, additional/increased upgrading will almost certainly be required. You need to figure out how to get the recognised public lines in to serve your increased requirements.  An ideal scenario is where the necessary lines are already passing through your site or within a very near proximity. One also needs to look at capacity. A good point to discuss with your civil engineer about loadings.

More common is working out how to get the necessary services to your site which would typically require extending the line and/or connecting via a neighbouring (private) property. Both can be costly and time consuming. For the latter, neighbour's consent is required and can often require some financial contribution for their inconvenience and disruption. If that fails, there is the Local Government Act which albeit a longer process, can obligate the relevant neighbour to permit you to make the necessary connections.

It's quite common for a site to be unviable purely because services aren't able to be provided to the site economically and thereby crippling the financial viability of the project. 

Also the site topology is an important factor, as these services require sufficient 'fall' to enable the stormwater and wastewater to fall sufficiently in order not to block / cause disruption to the overall network. 

Here is a screenshot of the GIS system made available by the Auckland City Council...

Topology

The GIS illustrates the land topology. The topological lines are shown in 0.5 meter levels, so it is a relatively straightforward exercise to study the lay of the land. This will aid your determination of important considerations, notably how the development might look and also looking at how you will get services to your site. Specific planning development controls can also be determined to a certain extent.

Flood Risk

Flooding is an important issue to consider. Council will look at the risk of your proposed site in relation to flooding risk. The main risks are termed Flood Prone, Overland Flow Path, Flood Sensitive . These are events that are typically measured against a 1 in 100 year event and the council will want to know how you have mitigated this risk when this event occurs. These are typically not unassailable, just requiring good planning and strategies to address this. A good surveyor and geotechnical engineer can help you resolve this.  

Measurement Tools

The Auckland Council GIS has a useful measurement tool which help measure site size and determine critical planning controls that would need to be taken into consideration depending on your specific site requirements. When analysing a site, one can actually perform and layout rudimentary site schemes, rights of way etc. All can be done at no cost prior to engaging a landl surveyor. 

Note - This information above is my viewpoint alone and should not be construed as specific advice. I strongly advise that you seek professional advice from a qualified professional when conducting your own analysis. 

Project Manage or Not...? Part 2 by Graeme Fan

In my last post I touched on the advantages and disadvantages of project managing yourself. To expand on this, as in my opinion, it requires careful thought and can make or break your build.

As mentioned previously, I think the most important thing is time. If you have a lot of it, then this can compensate for some lack of experience. And as long as you are studious in your efforts, any challenge can usually be overcome with enough persistence. Leaning and searching for a good network to support you will be crucial in this endeavour.

Select carefully your project team to get you through the project successfully. Crucial in this team are a good architect, engineers and a main contractor. If you build a good relationship with them AND be respectful of their time, you will have a great chance of achieving a high quality build.

You must also be decisive. Dilly dallying over design issues, will delay progress and escalate costs. Accept that you will have to make compromises along the way and give yourself the benefit of understanding that you are doing your best. Only you will know whether this is the truth or not.

One way of deciding whether you should project manage or not, is to estimate your time (and therefore opportunity cost) involvement and whether it is more cost effective for you to outsource this to a professional. PM fees charge anywhere between 2-10% of the construction budget - depending on the level of involvement. It might seem like a lot of money, it is. But then your time is valuable too and you might wish to consider what your opportunity cost is.

To commit around 50% possibly more of your working week time to this build is a commitment not to be taken lightly. It's far more difficult for a project manager to pick up the pieces mid-way and having to rectify costly issues which might have been avoidable. I personally have had first hand experience being parachuted in to projects in disarray and being responsible for bringing them back on track. It's a highly stressful situation and not an enjoyable experience.

Beaudomus interior designs and main contracts our builds in-house, we achieve a lot of cost savings by doing this ourselves. But this is our core business and so in our interests to deliver this internally to ensure our brand and quality is executed in line with our vision.

Walk yourself through various scenarios that might occur such as issues on site. Do you have the character traits to diplomatically navigate through this, patience, persistence, openness, flexibility and dogged determination. Are you organised, have high levels of energy and enjoy juggling many overlapping deadlines at once, often with interdependencies and consequences following decision changes and an ability to re-organise following that.

There is no failure in handing over this responsibility to a dedicated project manager. You can always maintain control of aspects you wish to. There is sometimes a fear of losing control when appointing a project manager, that you might not have visibility/control over key aspects of the build. There is nothing stopping you providing a clear framework as to how important aspects of the project remain in your direct control.

Project Manage or Not? by Graeme Fan

What things should you consider when deciding whether to take on the project management yourself?

In this series, I will expand on things to consider when making this all important decision. Hopefully you will understand the ins and outs of what's involved to help you make a more informed decision whether this is for you or not.

Project management is a multi-disciplinary skill that requires a lot of dedication and organisational ability if to be done to a high standard. It also requires a lot of self-discipline as typically the project manager drives the project and co-ordinates all the various parties involved. Without this 'glue' the project can come unstuck quite quickly and result in a poor quality result. 

A decision about whether to take on a project as the project manager or have someone do this for you, will need to be made at some point. The earlier this decision is made, the better for the outcome of the project. I have seen instances where the client has tried to project manage themselves and due to being time poor or inexperienced or both, the project has suffered unnecessarily. The client is stressed and sometimes the outcome of the project is unsalvageable or at the least, requires substantial cost to retrospectively remedy.

As the client you will perform the role of project manager (or in most cases the sponsor) to some degree. You will need to co-ordinate and appoint roles, at the very least at the outset of the project. Whether by appointment of the architect/designer, planner and/or project manager to run the project for you.

The obvious advantages of project managing yourself are as follows:

  1. Save on the outright expense of the project managers fees
  2. Direct control and visibility of the project at all times. You are at the coalface.

Consequently the disadvantages are as follows:

  1. Time commitment on your part is raised... substantially. Goodbye weekdays, nights and weekends.
  2. Need for a network of suppliers and trades who will act quickly for you and to your standards
  3. Experience in handling technical and design matters that may be outside of your scope of experience and/or comfort

If you wanted to be directly involved in every decision and have the time to invest to ensure your project is a success, then project managing yourself is certainly a real consideration. Technical and design decisions can be met head on and if you deal with them in a timely manner should not have a material impact on the outcome - so long as you deal with them quickly and efficiently.

Leaning into and on networks and contacts who are reliable and of a high quality can also be overcome through the techniques I have covered in a previous blog.

But do not underestimate the time commitment - this I find is the single biggest factor that has resulted in people coming unstuck. The novelty wears off quickly and decisions needing to be made come thick and fast. And they're not all fun ones i.e. kitchen finishes, cladding types etc. They require a lot of homework and dedication to finding the right answer. 

I have worked for many clients in the past, where they have simply dumped a pile of papers and folders onto my desk and pleaded for help, because the commitment was too much.

Depending on the size of the project, expect to spend/invest a minimum 10-20 hours per week on the project. It sounds like a lot, but you must factor in site meetings, supplier management, procurement, issue handling, accounts, health & safety, regulatory matters at the least. And if you are not familiar with the process, there is the learning curve which means that tasks are not done as efficiently as someone who does this day in day out. It also depends on how hands-on your project management is, you could obviously outsource some of these discrete tasks to someone else which would reduce the overall commitment and then focus on the tasks you like and/or wish to have direct control over. 

Soon I'll try to cover off the advantages and disadvantages of outsourcing this critical function to someone else. It's not entirely advantageous in some cases and also comes down to your relationship with your project manager should you choose to outsource.

Ultimately there is no one size fits all. It just depends on what is right for you.