If ear defenders, Pot Noodles and Wet Wipes aren't your thing then you ought to consider decanting to better accommodation for the duration. However if you’re prepared to accept some disruption, then you might be considering the implications of occupation during building works.
The aim of this post is to help you to make a decision on this question...
Should I stay or should I go during building works?
If you are asking the question, you've already recognised that there may be a need to move out and let the building works proceed unhindered. It doesn't always have to be that way, but there are a number of things that you should consider, firstly to decide whether or not to stay within the property, and secondly the effect on you and the building works of each option.
Can the builder get to do his work while the building is occupied?
Generally speaking, it isn't a great idea to mix building occupiers and contractors for a number of reasons, not just the health and safety implications, but also the effect of occupation on the finish of the works.
The last thing anyone wants is for little fingerprints in the paint work, or paw prints across the floor screed... you get the idea.
Consider also whether the area of works can be suitably sealed off for the duration. Building dust has a habit of getting everywhere, and for a healthy and safe environment, particularly where you have children in occupation, you would want to properly separate the area of works. Building contractors will also love this because they can get on with the job unhindered.
If for example the roof is being taken off the building, you know that weatherproofing and heat loss for that period of time are most likely going to make your mind up for you. Move out, stay warm, and benefit from a generally faster building programme.
Health and Safety
If you are considering the question of occupation in a building that is not your own home, then you would be well advised to read our posts about Construction Design and Management (CDM). Your Architect and CDM co-ordinator should be advising you to ensure that you have a safe environment during the construction works.
Legislation requires Asbestos surveys to be undertaken for even simple works. There is a whole different subject topic in asbestos, but suffice to say that invasive asbestos checks can mean that an area of the property needs to be sealed off until a negative test result is confirmed or removal is made, and clearly the building cannot be occupied during removal of asbestos.
Phasing of building works
Assuming all affected areas of a building are occupied by the building works simultaneously; could you function in the remaining areas without too much trouble? If not then phasing the works or moving out would be necessary.
It's best to speak to your Architect at an early stage regarding the phasing of works because this can have all sorts of implications on design, tender and even the building contract.
Phased work is best used when there are clearly defined or separable elements of work. An example might be the refurbishment of one area of a building that is vacant for the works, and then re-occupied to vacate another area for refurbishment. We’ve often taken this approach when refurbishing working hospitals and clinics which need to stay open for the duration of the works.
This can be a more expensive solution if trades are returning to do lots of smaller works rather than one larger project at once which benefits from the economies of scale.
Generally this approach can also take longer. Try to gauge whether the effect of this both financially and in terms of bother would be equivalent or greater to vacating the property.
So we're shipping out, what do I need to know?
You need to be fairly sure of what period of time that you will need to vacate the property for. This will clearly have an impact on your other activities, your finances, and your arrangements for alternative accommodation.
It is highly likely that any delay in delivery of the project will have a cost implication to either the client or the contractor, so it is well worth taking account of potential delays either from the weather, from impacts on the programme or a number of other items provided for in the building contract.
If the delay in delivery of the project is at the fault of the contractor, then Liquidated and Ascertained Damages (LADs) can be levied to cover the cost of the delay. If the delay is for other reasons, an extension of time to the project may be issued, and you may be required to cover costs.
Minimising time out of the property
You should consider with your Architect whether fast track methods of construction would prove a viable option for your project. Getting up and running as soon as possible can be the priority for some projects. On such projects, a fast track build can save money in the costs of alternative accommodation, preliminaries such as plant and equipment hire, and loss of profits etc. which can often justify a more expensive product to achieve a faster completion.
Alternative means of accommodation
Clearly if you are vacating the premises for any period of time, viability of this arrangement will depend upon the type and duration of the alternative means of accommodation which can vary greatly in cost and quality.
In a domestic project one might be considering a short term rent against a static caravan, or staying with family.
In a non-domestic venture, accommodation can vary from a portable business unit, through to a relocatable hospital surgical theatre or temporary accommodation elsewhere.
We've decided we're staying put! What do we need to know?
Safety on a working site must be a priority. Physical separation of the working area from the functioning parts of the property must be in place when undertaking any work that would not be considered simply finishing off works.
Issues of noise, dirt and dust, heat loss, weather protection, protection from the possibility of falling objects etc. are all considerations.
It is a good idea to retain a separation until the project is practically complete so as to avoid any possibility of damage to finishes, equipment etc. by either party on either side of the separation.
If the works involve a substantial part of the building, or more than you would need in space to facilitate you staying resident then it is well worth considering with your Architect if, and how the project might be phased.
Clear areas for contractors to work within are a must, even for the simplest of works, and phasing can often allow the flexibility for occupants to manoeuvre around the areas of works.
If your Architect's services are retained for the duration of the contract, then your Architect will often be the principal point of contact for all communication. You should avoid engaging the contractor in discussions about the works that could be considered instructions, or commenting about quality of installations, and instead direct the questions or comments to the Architect who will address these items in accordance with the contract.
While under the contract, a building contractor should take instructions formally through the issue of Architect's Instructions, it can be difficult for a contractor to refuse a client's instructions. This can lead to anomalies and confusion in the smooth running of the contract, additional cost or delays which might not be appreciated at the point of discussion.
Hours of operation and access
It is necessary to establish at the outset, whether there are any restrictions on noisy works, traffic access and egress, and any other site restrictions that would affect the smooth progress of the contractor. When planned for, the contractor can usually comply with the restrictions, making for a more comfortable client occupation during ongoing works.
Typically when we are working on schools, contractors site access and egress (if this cannot be physically separated) are to avoid school rush hours, and commonly noisy work is often restricted during exam periods etc. The key to it all is planning and communication.
So in summary, if you can vacate the property and let your contractor get on and do the work quickly and unhindered by occupancy, that will commonly be favourable, particularly on smaller buildings or buildings with extensive works.
If you have a larger building, where the works can easily be separated, phased, or are relatively minor in nature, then staying put is probably an acceptable and more cost effective solution. Just don't forget the Ear defenders, Pot Noodle and Wet wipes!