A few years ago me and a group of 9 other friends did a charity house build in Romania (Cluj to be precise). Via our employer we (And 8 other teams) had to raise £7800 in 8 weeks to buy materials to fly out to Romania to build 4 houses for people who were living in poverty housing. Our team managed to pull this off and so went out to Romania to put together a new set of homes for these families.
It was a thought provoking experience. However much we complain in this country (Including me) about how bad we have it we really don’t need to look too far across the pond in Europe to see others who have it so much worse. As a team we managed to knock up 4, 2 bedroom flats built into a modular detached building (With 2 floors) in five days. Better yet because we were so quick we managed to knock up two extra semi detached 2 floor homes. All were made with wood framework, concrete base and foundations and sloping tiled roof. All rooms were plastered, electrics installed, full plumbing and a bunch of us clubbed together to contribute to some furnishings and gifts. On the day we handed over the keys to the four families there wasn’t a dry set of eyes on the building site.
I use this example firstly to show that my own situation whilst pants isn’t anywhere near as bad as plenty of others. But I also use it to show that with a motivated and dedicated team you can deliver something to time and budget without needing to let down the customer.
So I have a genuine question for Persimmon Homes.
How long does it take to build a home?
If you’ll have seen my previous blog you’ll understand that I mentioned I’m not particularly great at DIY. Which was something of a white lie. See I can plaster, can knock together a framework using wood pretty well, can do some basic plumbing and I’m a pretty dab hand at mixing cement. Skills I picked up over 5 days in Romania from qualified builders. I’m not for one minute saying I could go and knock together a block of flats tomorrow. But I am saying I have a small understanding of time elapsed to put together something resembling a home.
The first thing is to be very clear on three things:-
Budget, Materials and Resources
There is absolutely no point in starting a build of any of the above are missing. Only fools would start a major construction project without the right materials, money or people to do the work required. I mean no one would be this silly would they? Eh Persimmon? You wouldn’t get halfway through a site build and then find you’ve run out of bricks would you Persimmon? Or admit to customers that the reason for your delays this month are due to not having enough qualified builders of acceptable quality would you?
Anyway I digress.
You also need a decent project manager. Someone who understands the relationship between different bits of construction and how to work logistics into the plan. Which means making sure that when he has a construction team on site that they have materials to do something with, and also that these materials continue to flow into the estate as the build progresses.
One of the key skills of a project manager is being able to provide reliable and realistic estimates to their stakeholders and customers. Having done a bit of this myself I know there is nothing that pisses off people more than over promising and under delivering on dates. Which is why its always best to err on the side of caution and assume worst case. Again no decent project manager would keep releasing dates to customers for completion that are so ridiculously inaccurate as to be completely worthless. That just wouldn’t be good business, or a good customer experience for the home buyer. No one would do that, would they Persimmon?…
So now you have the budget, materials, staff and a decent project manager.
You need to prepare the ground. Ideally you’d do this by referencing existing plans for the site to ensure you don’t cut through a power cable and knock out power to the entire village (Again – no one would be this silly, would they Persimmon?, I mean you’d have to fork out some form of compensation to people for loss of power and potential damage to their homes, like food wasted in freezers?). You’d also do what I like to call ‘the common sense check’ of the site. i.e. if there are any structures, trees, hedges or cows on the site you’d ideally want to move them before spades go in the ground so that halfway through a build you don’t suddenly realise that you’ve got to move a power cable supplying the entire village from the existing above ground power cables to an underground set of cables.
Once you’ve done these basic things you can then start the actual build work. Its at this point your estimates start to firm up into realistic dates. Slippages do happen, suppliers will let the supply chain down, people will report in sick, accidents may well happen. One or two days delay at the start can translate into one or two weeks later once the full impact is realised. I know this, because I’ve had it happen on my own projects. Which is why any decent project manager will build in contingency to their plans. If you estimate a job will take 2 months then you probably want to add on 1-2 weeks contingency for delays or unexpected events. This is just good business practice.
I’ll leave you to work out how Persimmon seem to go about project management of their building sites. You don’t need to look very far on the internet to see how this impacts their customers…
A crucial part of a build is ensuring that plans are followed to the letter. The risks of not doing this are that you end up building something incorrectly, which may not be signed off as completed or could lead to costly repairs later. Your customer may decide that the build quality is so poor that they refuse to exchange, causing further delays and additional unexpected costs. What you really don’t need at this point is someone deciding for example to install a loft hatch in a bathroom (Over a bath and partway over an internal wall) instead of in a landing hall, like the house plan states… Again I’ll leave you to work out how Persimmon seem to approach build plans and quality workmanship…
Some readers may think I’m doing this to be glib. Part of me probably is, but a large part of me is doing this to show that simply expecting a customer to hand over a massive deposit and go away until you’ve build something isn’t and never has been acceptable. One last time I’ll let you work out what sort of approach Persimmon takes to customer experience…