Joining us this week is Gary Barlow, a Chartered Surveyor and Project Manager for a firm in Piccadilly. Gary discusses how they work on projects that are primarily based in Central London and at what point you need to bring in which experts, with the consensus being the earlier the better.
They discuss how having something like an acoustic engineer can make or break a project particularly in Prime Central London, where the tube and train lines are often very close by and how the scope of a project will determine the type of team Gary and his colleagues need to put together for a client. Listed buildings for example will require a listed building consultant, and any projects requiring at home cinemas would involve an AV consultant. All collaborations are done with experienced professionals that have worked with them for over twenty years.
Whether your project is a smaller one or a full refurbishment, getting the right assistance as early as possible would be the recommended way to go.
As always we love to hear from you. What experiences have you had with project management in construction? Join the conversation online with us on our social media channels, or send in your thoughts to email@example.com.
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Interviewer - Farnaz Fazaipour | Property Investment & Ownership
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Hello, and welcome to London property, the home of super prime. I'm your host Farnaz Fazaipour. And today we're in conversation with Gary Barlow, who is a chartered surveyor and a prince to qualified project manager. Welcome to our show. Thanks. So Gary, tell us a little bit about yourself and what it is that you do. Okay, so
I'm a project manager chartered building surveyor, I work for leading real estate, and partner in the firm. I've been with him for about 12 years now. The firm is a multidisciplinary practice, we run out of Piccadilly in central London, our firm is central London, biassed we run projects and so on throughout Central London.
So Gary, what services do you offer,
we help clients with all aspects of their projects all the way through from inception to completion. So when they're looking for the building, we help them, obviously you're on your side of things, you're helping them find the building, we then help them with a pre acquisition digital and surveys, tell them what their building needs, and so on. And we can, we can tailor that report and that service to suit their needs. If they're going to strip the building out to do a full refurbishment, they obviously don't need to know the nuts and bolts and delicious that's going on with that building. But if they're buying it to as a turnkey property, then obviously they do so we tell her it tailor our reports to suit that their needs really then moving on from there. If they are buying the building to develop into to run a project, we can we can help them, find an architect, find a team, get the contracts together, and really start the ball rolling there.
So someone could use your services really at any stage of that process. So they could have found the building? Could you find them buildings too.
We we as our team do not find the buildings in in terms of residential, but our our firm is agency based so we can find industrial retail office space for them. Absolutely. We acquire land and investments opportunities for clients.
So really, from the foundation up, they can come to you. And you can get involved with a client at any stage of that project. So we've already discussed that they could come to you and just have a survey done so that they know when they're preparing for a bid, for example, what are the things that they need to take into consideration?
Absolutely. And as part of that, we can run into budget costs. So if we're looking at new roofs or air conditionings, or whatever it might be we budgeted cost, that's they can factor that into their bids.
And then if they are not planning to refurbish, and they're buying land, or they're buying something that they can knock down, it's still wise to engage your services early on,
I'd say it's always best to get us involved as early as possible. If we are involved at the early stages, we know what you want to do with that property, we can advise the level of survey that you require, it may be asked if you're buying land, you may want land surveys, environmental surveys, and so on, that wouldn't be asked we'd subcontract that out, we can do that for you, we can put you in touch with the right partners, and talk you through that process. So if you're buying in central London, and you're buying, let's say a residential property, for example, we can help you with that. We tailor our surveys to suit what you need. So if you need a full building survey with mechanical with lift consultants, environmental and so on, we can do all of that. If you're just buying a property and you want an overview, so survey light as it were, then absolutely, we can pick that up as well. And we, we speak with you before the surveys so we know exactly what you want, then we'll give you a bit of feedback, a phone call or meeting afterwards, just to run through the survey report and make sure you get the right information.
So at London property, we obviously speak to lots of different experts. And when it comes to managing a build project, sometimes we get told by the interior designers bring us in first. Because then we can tell you where everything needs to go so that you can tell the interior architect, that's what needs to happen. And then a build. Project Manager will say bring us in first. And I can understand that they will be different approaches to a project, but from where you're sitting. And apart from the fact that obviously it is what you do. But do you actually think, you know, in order of priority, if a novice is looking at this, you know, does it start with the Building Survey? Yes, yes.
It doesn't start with the interior designer. Because you got to build what's there first, I think you need to get as involved in as early as possible. Everybody wants to be as involved as early as possible. Because the more information you get, the more time you've got, the better the project's going to run, the less risk you're going to have. And the better it's gonna be when you get it to site. Now, in terms of buildings, we will help pull you that team together. So we'll help you put the interior designer the architect the Structural Engineers if need be, or the list of Building Consultants, there's a myriad of consultants you'll need within a project, we can pull them together, we can get you competitive quotes for each of those services and say we can bring and bring them in house. Or you can appoint them directly. We're happy with that. But I think the key is the earliest, it's often the early we get involved, the easier it isn't, we can sort of help you develop that brief, and put it to the right people in the right way.
And in this world of collaboration that we we live in, when you are bringing in all these other experts? Are they all entering into a contract? And I think this is a nuance that is really quite important. Are they all entering into a contract directly with the client? In which case the buck stops with the client? Or are they actually entering into contract with yourselves, and you are fully responsible for everybody else does,
we can work this either way, the if the client would like to have us deal with all of the consultants because they want to have one point of communication, then we can certainly go out get quotes, share those quotes with the clients, then go into contract with with, let's say, the mechanical electrical engineer. And we can then charge their fees a disbursement and, and we manage the whole process for them. So there's no confusion there. If the client wants to, its client wants to run with it directly. Once you appoint the consultants, or at least that's absolutely fine. We can we can we can put them in touch with two or three different policies, or we can do the tender and then get them to appoint them directly. That's that's not the problem.
So we've spoken about what services it is that that you offer? What type of projects do you actually get involved in?
We do a full range of projects. We work with industrial office and residential properties. If we stick with residential for the moment, it really depends on on the the scope of the client's request, you know, if it's, if they just want a, say, a kitchen design and platoon, then we're not going to have full project management over that, and not what the client wants to pay for it. But we can put them in touch with the right contractors and designers and so on. And they can then probably run that themselves. If it is feasible projects in our basement build or lateral conversion or whatever it might be, then absolutely, we would get involved in that into a full full project management scope.
And at what stage did you get involved in the project?
What was earliest possible? So I think we as we mentioned previously, it's really about getting the information together and collated as early as possible within that within the within the project so that the client gets the brief across to the architect cross there are many engineers there a V consultants and so on in the right format, and then the contractor can then price that clearly and concisely. So it is itemised, and then the client can see exactly what they're getting pound for pound.
And how do you go about collating a team.
So Tim really comes about with us pulling upon the consultants that we use on a day to day basis. Throughout the last 1520 years, we've built relationships with them. So not each project is going to require each consultant. And not each Emily consultant on each architecture is going to work with every client directly. So it's about looking at the client reading the client's brief, and what the client wants it there's an end product product and then taking that and trying to collect the right people, putting them in front of the client, making sure they work and then obviously making sure the fees work to to round the circle as it were.
So there'll be a Myra do consultants beyond the architect needed to deliver a successful project? What are the some of the essential ones that we need more or less,
I'd say you're gonna need an MEP engineer. So that's mechanical electrical plant, they'll do with your air conditioning, they'll do with your electrics and so on. You're probably need an AV consultant, if you're looking at putting in cinema screens and so on, you will need on the construction side, you'll need a structural engineer, you might need a listed building consultant, you might need an acoustic engineer in London, we have a lot of properties that are right on top of each other, they might be on top of a tube line or train line. We did a project a little while ago and they were right on top of the Eurostar line. So just looking at the acoustic glass that goes into the the external fenestration meant that we could we could reduce the noise internally quite considerably. So there's lots and lots of different consultants that we could we bring on board and we will look at each project individually. Look at what the client needs, and then we can we can propose a team together.
So really, the advantages of bringing on somebody who comes from your position early is that you can look at all the different considerations that might not be apparent. Further down the line. Like you just mentioned with Glass, if you're on top of the Euro star, you know, once you've built the property and you haven't actually done something about the noise pollution, then it becomes far more expensive to repair it. So this is this is why you advise that, you know, get us in early.
Absolutely. And that's the nuances of that particular project. I mean, if you look at a standard, standard project, they're all different than they but if you look at a standard project, you can you think of the planning process that goes forward, you know, do Do you need a historic building consultant? Do you need Grosvenor approval? If you're in central London? Do you need a structural engineer on board? You know, there's, there's all sorts of people that you look at the early to get them involved, the older they get involved with the architects, and the more seamless the design becomes.
And like anything, it's all about the experience, right? The more experience your team have, the more things they know that they need to preempt for. Exactly, right. Yeah. And how do the contracts work? So you've got the client sits at the top? And then where do we go from there?
Okay, so the different ways of working, obviously, were appointed directly with the clients. Normally, the architect is also appointed directly. And then the other consultants that sort of trickle down, they can either be appointed by us, we can charge them back as disbursements. Or they can be appointed directly with the client depends on the project. And it depends on how the client wants to invoice. The key is clarity and making sure there's transparency between the service they're being offered, and the fee, they're being charged as long as they can see a pathway there. And then make sure that there's clarity there, I think its way forward.
So if somebody was to instruct you and say, I don't want to talk to anybody else, Gary, I just want to talk to you. And I'm going to hold you responsible for everything. So when the mechanical engineer Miss designs, a one way system, two way system, which was an experience that I had learned from but anyway, in that case, the architect said to me will speak to the mechanical engineers off, I'm like, sorry, but what am I supposed to understand about this? So if somebody is holding you responsible, and you're the only person that they speak to, when something goes wrong with the MEP guy, the buck stops with, you.
Know, doesn't stop. So it definitely stops with the definitely stops with the with the engineer, because the engineer, is the designer, yeah, engineer, have his liability insurance and his want to go for if there is a problem. Yeah. And they do happen occasionally make these things happen, yeah, then we will help you, we will hold your hand and we will make sure that you are working with that consultant to get the best out of it. Now, the consultants not one that wants to get sued. So and normally we've got a good working relationship with with consultants that we use. So we try to get work around and we try to fix it. And we try to make sure that everybody's happy when we get with the inputs. That's
right. Okay. So how the contracts work is that you're, you'll be managing them, but actually, ultimately, each individual part of that kind of wheel is responsible for their own bit.
Absolutely, yeah, you're on there. If they're especially they're doing design work, they're responsible for that survey or that design.
Right. So just so that I can understand it. The way that contracts generally tend to work is that you have a project manager, who then instructs all the subcontractors and manages them. But if something goes wrong, then it's not really the project managers remit to be held responsible, contractually. They're there to be the nice guy holds your hand who knows what they're doing. But actually, the responsibility is with the individual contractors, it's within individual
consultants. So let's use m&e as a good example, if you design an air conditioning system that doesn't provide cooling or doesn't provide enough fresh air, then that design sits with the MEP consultant. And it's him who's liable for that. Now, obviously, with our experience, we'll be looking at designs, working with the consultants that we do use to make sure that they're delivering what they should be. And hopefully, within all of that, we don't get to that end problem where there's not enough cooling, and so on and so on, we always like to over engineer things a little bit to give ourselves a safety net.
Okay. So if a client is looking to hold one man responsible for everything that goes wrong, then that's a completely different business.
You can do that. But it would be a design and build contract. That's something we can administer as well. So you tend to put the responsibility and the risk back onto the contractor. He then appoints the consultants and so on, but but you pay a premium for that. And then, invariably, you end up taking on consultants to oversee the contractors, consultants, to make sure that they're telling the truth and so on. So if it's MEP engineer, you do the validations, first of all, and then they come and do their designs. And our m&e engineer would come back and check their designs and check their calculations and do some validations at the end. under the under the project, using m&e as an example.
Right, okay. And then when you're when you're actually budgeting for for a project, these are the ones you call the suits, right? Like, the all the other costs that are the actual raw material, and then there's the suits. And then there is the cost of money and so on when you're when you're budgeting for things. Okay? So what is your management technique
we're very hands on. So if I come in tender to you, and you meet me and I talked you through the project, we'd like to see that you would get me all the way through the project, until we're having a glass of champagne at the end. And during the handover. If you get David, my colleague or one of my other colleagues will, again, we like to say that through, we do support each other, but we don't hand you down to a graduate, we're there, we're on the end of a mobile, if it's an evening or weekend, you've got our number with a with a person you call, then we deal with projects from now all the problems if they arise.
So we've touched on the fact that you you take on various projects, whether it's retail, commercial, residential, etc. But what would you say is your unique selling point, as a firm
we are at we're a niche firm, we've been around for 80 years, we are privately owned. So there are a team of equity partners that sits at the top of the business, and they're very hands on, they don't sit in their little cubicles, they all sit on open plan floor with everybody else. Then there's the other salary partners that sit below us. And we are very top heavy. So in that respect, you're always getting experience, you're always getting someone who has been in the business for a long time and knows what they're talking about.
Brilliant. And there's nothing like deep rooted relationships and experience to get a project going on the right direction. And so to our listeners, who might be considering a build work at the moment, what are the challenges you're experiencing in this market?
The very seriously. At the moment, its materials and labour. You know, the world has gone bonkers precut post COVID. And obviously, the war in Russia is not helping things. So it is it's basically getting materials in and getting getting guys on site.
And are you finding that the people who are taking on these projects are actually seasoned investors and long term investors rather than newbies trying it out?
It's a real mixture, you know, people people have saved, if you know, if he's talking about Joe Public, you've got people who have saved money over over COVID, and therefore they've got money to spend, they don't want to go on holiday, and therefore they're developing their houses and so on.
So are you finding that post COVID with the challenge that we're facing in the building work for materials and labour? First of all, are you are you seeing kind of somewhat of a standard percentage increase in costs and delays in delivery?
I think it depends on the contract for using certainly there's materials, price increases across the board, everyone's trying to eke out a little bit of profit. Obviously, inflation's gone through the roof at the moment. So we're working to that sort of trajectory of price increases. In terms of delays on site, I think most contractors have seen this coming. They know what's, you know, they've had to face problems with contracts they had on during COVID. And they didn't really want to be in that position again, so they're very wary about what they take on and, and how they can deliver it. So it's about getting the right contractor in and getting the materials in early. One of the things we do as a project manager is we manage risk. So having that risk register, looking at the long leading items, looking at the items that are going to take procurement is going to take a little bit longer because it's coming in from overseas, or, you know, moment air conditioning units are very, very difficult to get hold of. So we're looking at those items and figuring out how early Can we order those Can we order them before we go into contracts, we get letters of intent in place and get them get them an order. So it's specific items that are causing problems. And that just needs to be managed through risk really.
And when you say it depends on what contractors you go with, I suppose certain contractors have warehouses where they're storing things or they have better relationships with suppliers. What are we looking at?
Absolutely, the bigger contracts you use, they generally have better credit links. And they'll obviously say they can get products to site quicker and they can store them if they need if need be.
So whichever way you look at it, you're paying more money now. So unfortunately so yeah, basically, you know, your your materials are costing what percentage more would you say?
It really depends on the products but somewhere between 10 1015 20% In certain circumstances,
okay, so if you if you put 20% increase in your in your costs for materials, you're you're pretty safe and doing your numbering
at the moment. Yes, but Moment.
And what about delayed? You know, because a successful project is on time on budget, right? So what about on time? How would you say that's being affected that or is that how long is a piece of string at the moment,
I think it comes back to that preparations to the very beginning. If you can, if you can get all of the information you need in place, if you're not sort of getting to site and still sort of running with designs, then you've got more of a chance of procuring the right items at the right time, and you've got less risks, you're less risk to your programme. Let's say for example, if you're gonna order a kitchen, 100,000 pounds, but you don't know where you're gonna get it from, you've got to manage the programme to make sure that you hit that at the critical path and and you're ordering at the right time. If you leave it too late, then then yes, you're gonna, you're gonna miss your programme. So
it is really quite challenging. If you know, all of those things need to be planned in advance, and then on top of it, securing the real estate, you've got to be really fast.
Absolutely, the securing the real estate is a big problem at the moment, right. So
securing the real estate, you've got to be really fast to beat the competition, but then your competition may or may not be prepared in knowing the time delay. So I would say that the advice to the listeners would probably be budget for time delay.
You're always gonna allow for a contingency, I think with any project, we will receive a 10% contingency in terms of funds. It's that triangle that we've always talked about that time, cost and quality. Something's going to have to give if you're not prepared, if you didn't, if you didn't go into the project prepared, you're going to risk one of those or one of those items.
And before we say thank you and goodbye. What is your advice to managing a client's expectations on day one?
I think just gonna be clear and concise and transparency. You know, if you if you've, if you tell a client that he has the risks, and they understand them, then I think you've got to build a relationship. If you're trying to excuse my friend, she's BS to get the job done. You're not going to win any favours or any friends.
Thank you very much, Gary. And no doubt our listeners will have questions that they can direct to you through our experts directory. Thank you for joining us.
Thanks for having me.
It was a pleasure speaking to Gary and if you have any questions, then please head over to our experts directory where you can find him and you can ask him your questions directly. And if you're not already following us, please follow us or subscribe on our usual social media platform. We do release masterclass podcast every Friday. Thanks for
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