What is buildability and how does it help a project run smoothly?

Buildability is a vital pre-construction stage whereby we assess the architect’s design from the perspective of physically building or renovating the property concerned. We interrogate the design, not just to make sure we understand what’s involved and that we can follow it. We also want to ensure we run the project in the most economical and efficient way possible. The recommendations we make ensure a positive outcome from every angle.

The main objective of buildability is to ensure the build reflects the design 100%, but also that the project progresses on time and within budget. Buildability embraces the whole construction process – manufacture, installation, logistics, scheduling, cost, etc.

We’re immensely proud that a Galower building project will match exactly the design envisioned by the architect and their client – however complicated or ambitious that design. When we’ve ticked the buildability box, it means we’re green for ‘go’ on construction.

It’s how we approach a project, and meet its inherent and emerging challenges, that marks us out from other construction companies. Our experience, knowledge and skill guide us on getting every detail correct – from the massive structural decisions on quantities of steel to the size of screw head needed on every item of carpentry.

What’s involved in buildability?

These are some of the considerations during our buildability stage:

Sequence of events

We map out the various stages and main events taking place both on and off-site. Starting out with simple milestone events, this gradually builds into a more detailed schedule of activity. It then becomes the basis of our project management for the actual construction stage.

Timing is massively important on a project so this exercise ensures it progresses as efficiently and economically as possible. There’s an obvious order in which some work has to be undertaken, such as setting out, excavation and foundation work. However, the real skill lies in anticipating the different elements of a build that can be worked on simultaneously. For example, propping and supporting a property which means excavation can take place in the basement at the same time as comprehensive renovation above ground. That’s where buildability offers efficiency in terms of time and money.

Buildability is the foundation to the meticulous planning and project management we operate once we’ve received the go ahead to build.

Access and storage

On-site access and storage conditions can have an great impact on the logistics of a project. It’s important to assess the ease (or otherwise) of getting various vehicles and plant on and off site at different times of the day. Also, being able to store materials as the build progresses is incredibly useful but not always possible. Both access and storage are issues that depend largely on the nature of the project and the location of the site. For example, urban locations pose logistical problems because of the density of buildings, population and traffic.

Suppliers and specialist trades

The buildability stage is where we need to be accurate about the number and nature of specialist trades needed for a project. In a residential property, this is likely to include kitchen fitters, window suppliers and home entertainment specialists. As the preferred construction partner, we manage these suppliers in terms of scheduling them into the programme as well as making sure their needs are met on site.

Temporary works

Temporary works are necessary on most of our projects due to their size and complexity. They include propping, façade retention, retaining facilities, scaffolding, etc. We therefore need to factor in contracting specialist suppliers and machinery, and the impact such temporary works will have on both the schedule and budget.

Tolerances

In construction, tolerances allow us to specify ‘allowable’ variations in strength, stability, the mix of a material, the performance of a system, temperature ranges, etc. So, calculating tolerances could impact on the level of specialism involved.

Some components may have very little flexibility when it comes to adjoining items. For example, it may be relatively straight forward to adjust the setting out of brickwork to accommodate a slight variation in the size of a timber beam. But if a glazed unit is even a millimetre larger than the opening for which it is intended, it simply will not fit. These are calculations we need to make at the buildability stage rather later when they could cause delay and extra cost.

Specification for accurate procurement

Specifications dictate the level of detail required which is very much concerned with buildability. This includes the use of plant and machinery as well as the range of materials required. In consultation with the structural engineer, it’s vital we use our experience to calculate exactly the amount of steel required for a large extension, for example. Volume alone will dictate how we manage the logistics during this stage of the build.

Health & safety on site

At the buildability stage, we have to establish the specific steps involved in managing the site throughout the life cycle of the project. This ranges from security to weatherproofing and minimising dust and noise, to the physical safety and welfare of everyone affected by the project – on-site workers, visitors and neighbouring properties.

We identify the required H&S policies as dictated by the project: lifting, working at height, using compressed air, control of asbestos, gas safety, etc.

Buildability equals reassurance

Sophisticated CAD and CAM (computer-aided design / manufacture) as well as BIM (building information modelling) are immensely helpful in visualising many aspects of buildability. However, technology is no substitute for the knowledge and experience Galower offers at the buildability stage of a project. Essentially, we provide the ability to build.

The buildability stage is also a excellent opportunity for us to reassure the property owner that their architect has chosen the right construction partner.