I receive an estimate from Build First for our Loft Conversion, and am beginning to realize two things:
1. My communication skills are about on a par with Icksy's
2. This project will be a severe test of my Project Management skills - there's no hiding behind critical analysis of how crap other people are at running projects.
Actually, there is also a third thing I realize, namely that the Red Haired Boffin and I are genetically, culturally and emotionally incapable of doing anything normal. Fortunately, BBC Radio 4, my daytime companion, informs me that new experiences, or 'novelism' as the interviewee on their otherwise excellent 'All in the Mind' (a programme about psychology and other brain matters), decides to label the phenomena, are, on the whole, a good thing. Apparently, living life by rote makes the apparent unfurling of your life seem a faster process, whereas doing things differently, and having new experiences extends your percieved lifespan. I can relate to this because it seems like a hundred years ago that we decided to buy this house, and do non-conventional things with it.
Build First is a revolutionary new system whereby I supply my plans online to a website, recieve a courtesy phone call to clarify a few details, and am then supplied with a quote that the company are guaranteed to honour. This sounds ideal to me.
Currently, I am devoting about an hour per day to meeting various tradespeople to discuss the work I require doing, and am finding the process a complete waste of my time. The reason I am finding the process a complete waste of time has, as it's roots, the pointless move to Urbanization five thousand years ago in ancient Uruk, one of the first cities. As an example, a brief synopsis of my conversation today with Gary, from Build-It-Now, a local company will suffice.
I meet Gary on-site, two days after he agreed to originally meet me, and I show him the plans for our proposed extension. We discuss details, clarifying a few points, and Gary asks me if Planning Permission has yet been granted. I tell him "No", and he is surprised.
"Did'nt your architect get the Planning Permission for you while he was drawing up the plans?" he asks.
"No," I tell him, "We did'nt use an architect. We did these plans ourselves."
Gary changes tack " I can't give you a quote based on these plans", he tells me.
"They have to be drawn up by architects" he says, continuing " I have the number of the guy we usually use. He could probably do these for about grand." [Note: ' a grand' = a thousand pounds].
I'm puzzled, so I ask, "What is there about my plans that's different form an architect's?"
"Well, nothing really" Gary tells me, " It's just that we work from architect's drawing's. The scale is different. And he uses little dots to represent the bricks. You've used little squares."
I agree to go home and change the little squares on my plans to little dots. After two weeks looking for a builder, it seems that every builder we've met knows a really good architect, one who will use dots not squares, and if we decide not to use these architects, the project becomes very difficult. I call a few architects to clarify the situation, and e-mail one my plans.
"The drawings are good" he tells me, "But we use little dots to represent the bricks, not little squares."
I decide to ask what I'd get for my money if I hired an architect, and the answer is that I'd get drawings, a few recommendations as to what builders to use and a few materials resources suggestions.
"And the structural calculations" I add to his description, "You know, design and specification of structural beams, specifications for the heating system that sort of thing...?"
"Well, no", he tells me "You'd have to get other people to do all that. Then you'd have to tell us what they specified, and we'd include it in the drawings."
"What, you mean exactly as I have already done?"
"Yes", says a member of the most highly overpaid professions on Earth (apart from pilots), "But the drawings we supply would be architectural".
I pass on his offer to do exactly what I have done at a cost of £1000 pounds. The reason this is the fault of the inhabitants of Uruk, is that it was there that the division of labour was invented. While I am all in favour of full qualifications and training to do a professional job, I do'nt like cartels.
I'm reviewing the quote for our loft conversion. It's originator is Build First, the fool-proof web based solution. I'm hoping they can take me out of the Hull cartel. I call them and point out their error in supplying me with a quote for a loft conversion, instead of an extension. They are apologetic and offer an immediate solution:
" We have contacts with some really good local architects who can draw the plans up for you".