5 Steps to Success for your next Facade Refurbishment Project

At a time when refurbishment and re-clad projects are on the increase, we asked our in-house experts and innovation team to consider what makes the difference between good and great and what they believe to be the key factors for success.

We believe this is a crucial time for the facade industry to build on what we know, share our knowledge, deliver projects with conscience and innovation, and significantly transform the client and end user experience.

Whether you’re upgrading to enhance aesthetics, building performance, including fire safety, or a full repurpose, we’ve taken this opportunity to convert our learning into a 5-step model of success that we believe has been a game changer in our work.

Benjamin Franklin once said; “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”, so what exactly are the preparations that make a refurbishment project a success?

1.0 Safety & Compliance – No Compromise, No Relegation

Michael Clarke, Company Chairman at Clarke Facades has watched the industry develop since 1983;

Health and Safety is utterly indispensable, not only on site but across all business operations. Conducting risk assessments, building surveys and engaging early on a project is key to the success – I’m passionate about safety and at Clarke Facades we drive our approach upon this basis from the top down, a contributing factor to our excellent safety record”.

It’s highly likely that refurbishment projects will now re-emerge to bolster a recovering economy and therefore vitally important that the facade industry lead the way in safeguarding those we serve, both clients and end users.  We must continue to drive forward safe and conscious buildings as our number one priority regardless of squeezed margins and rapid delivery programmes.

We see safety being upgraded at three distinct intervals in the project:

(I) Design and Innovation in Safety

Building regulations, specifications, installing quality certified products with diligence and partnering with the best in the industry are commonplace considerations, however we can go further with innovation and design, this is perhaps an area where we’ve made and can continue to make our greatest contribution to refurbishment projects.

Gary Madden, our Principal Designer notes;

“Every designer relishes the opportunity to build a client’s dream and more, furthermore we know that a vital part of our work is to remove risk in design by all means possible, this is where our dedicated and regular in-house technical and design reviews make that vital difference”.

II) Engineered Safety

Our in-house Structural Engineer, Sathish Bhaskar considers our end to end safety approach: “Cladding in particular requires a careful assessment of every component that goes into the construction for the absolute safety of the end user. It goes without saying it is crucial to use properly engineered materials to ensure safety and life expectancy of the building”.

(III) Supply Chain Partners

On all projects including refurbishment and re-clads, partnering with quality, committed and reputable suppliers and knowing their product specifications is a must. Building long term trusted relations with high levels of scrutiny and lessons learnt ensures we continue to use products we can guarantee.

2.0 Design and the Law of Attraction

We’ve all heard that like attracts like, (or you attract what you are), if you want great, then be great. Refurbishment projects present a unique opportunity to attract your ideal end-user through design and repurpose of the existing space. It often presents a once in a lifetime opportunity for specialist façade contractors to help the client realise the full potential of their building.

Eugene Clarke, our Managing Director puts it this way;

“Refurbishment projects offer a world of opportunity when we keep the end user in mind, it’s a chance to give a building a whole new lease of life, create a landmark building and exponentially increase the expected return on investment’.

It’s also worth remembering that in addition to improved aesthetics, significant efficiencies can be gained through improved acoustics, thermal performance, energy consumption and overall running costs. As the refurbishment and reclad industry grows and develops we need to constantly innovate our processes and systems to explore additional opportunities for added value or increased end-user possibilities. 

Additionally, with the advancement of smart technology and offsite fabrication, the façade industry has greater scope to create bespoke and unique designs for the future that substantially reduce our carbon footprint.

Sathish agrees that re-cladding provides an opportunity to re-engineer the entire envelope whilst using the latest modern technology engineered material, stating;

“It’s so fulfilling to see how new skeletal frames and cladding transforms an existing building into a modern building”.

Eugene goes further to say;

“Our industry is in a great position to take advantage of all the new possibilities in terms of specialist design and manufacture and to serve clients in a way we never envisaged, this is largely down to our built up expertise and recent advances in digital, design, and engineering. Our team are excited about where this might go for clients’.

3.0 Cost Assurance

Budget and cost plans are front and centre for everyone and never more important than now. It is vital that clients have belief in our capabilities to deliver effective, dependable and robust solutions, matched to their vision and aspirations and crucially, within programme and budget. 

We know that the biggest factor to influence this on a refurb project lies in the hidden costs that can become apparent when layers are pulled back. Over time, we have learnt that cost creep and programme slippage can be effectively mitigated in 3 ways – cross-examine, take control and collaborate.

(I) Cross-examine

Thoroughly review and explore original O&M Manuals, building surveys, building usage and history, to then reduce the risk of the unknown and ensure accurate pricing that can be relied upon.

(II) Take Control

As a client, it’s advantageous to engage a refurb partner who has the capability to undertake the full building envelope, thereby reducing the links in the chain and potential coordination headaches. This essentially means that control rests exclusively with one party rather than many.

This also extends to the services that your refurb partner can provide in-house, such as building surveys, structural engineering, fully affiliated design and scheduling packages, and fabrication, right through to project management, delivery/handover, and aftercare.

(III) Collaborate

It’s vital that both the client and the delivery team engage at the earliest opportunity. This provides clarity at the outset, leading to an efficient and agreed solution that meets both the client/contractor needs throughout the journey of the refurbishment project.

Laurence Rocks, Commercial Director at Clarke Facades comments “Having complete ownership of the full building envelope enables greater control of all interfaces, improves programme delivery and reduces the risk of defects”.

4.0 Quality – a Marathon not a Sprint

Our industry is always up against deadlines and yet the drive for quality sits far above short project sprints. It goes without saying that quality should be given wholehearted focus at every stage from the scope of works, design, procurement and installation, to handover of a project. Quality is our lifeblood and our people make that happen.

Not only does the material and finished building need to meet the standards of the client and regulations set by the governing bodies but our industry needs to adopt a zero defects culture.  We believe this is possible through stringent control measures in design and installation, whilst committing to the use of the highest standard of quality materials.

Our approach to quality enhancement throughout the project includes the consistent use of a fully digital inspection test plan specifically tailored to the individual project, overseen by our in-house quality management division.

Dominic Laverty our Quality Manager believes teamwork and real time information makes the greatest impact when it comes to quality.

“We have quality control measures in place using the latest software that ensures all members of our team have ownership of quality and opportunity to make rapid resolution possible, that level of response and teamwork produces high-quality results”.

5.0 Programme and Methodology – Planning is Everything!

Our best projects follow our best plans and those plans are shaped through early engagement. There is no alternative when it comes to preparing for all of the possibilities in a refurbishment project.

We all know that refurbishment projects bring their own set of unique circumstances which require a thorough review so that plans encompass all eventualities. For example, is there a need for temporary accommodation provision, what are the options for wall mounted façade services, how will the refurbishment impact on a live fully functioning building, and is there a need for the project to be screened for noise reduction, dust, debris or weathering? Not forgetting transport, logistics, just in time delivery, unloading and storage, if we miss a beat on any of this then our programme, costs and safety pay the price.

Our Operations manager John McDonnell reminds us;

“If the plan is clear, and goals agreed, then our methodology builds the programme and that essentially dictates the success of the project. Coupled with robust and early engagement with all parties and thorough preparation – this is how we ensure delivery dates and core requirements are met’.

Act now – Engage with your refurbishment team early, work with their checklists and ensure a full inventory is gathered so that the programme can reflect the reality of the project. Often when this happens, there are synergies and solutions to be found that positively benefit cost and programme.

6.0 Summary

The benefits of refurbishment are clear, it makes sense to reduce environmental impact, reduce cost outlay, achieve much more than first envisaged and lengthen the lifetime of the building.

We said at the outset that early engagement is a game-changer, it’s an area we’d like to see develop in our industry, and truly make an impact that can be felt throughout and after the project completes.

Eugene Clarke Managing Director of Clarke Facades comments;

“We recently finished a refurbishment project in the heart of Belfast. We’ve calculated that this work has doubled the life expectancy of that building. Early engagement allowed us to add value in terms of design innovation and efficiencies, through the adoption of a fully offsite and bespoke facade system. Some of the other benefits of this were a 20% reduction in project duration, a faster weathertight date, and no requirement for external access. This is what we are able to do when we engage early”.

We believe that this approach has changed ours and our client’s experience, and have seen a noticeable escalation in quality, safety, and cost control whilst coinciding with eliminating defects.

Our 5 steps cannot exist without our 3 layers of, trust, engagement and collaboration. This is our model of delivery that we apply to all our projects, whether new build, refurb or re-clad, it’s our map to success and proven to make a difference.

For more information about our refurbishment or reclad portfolio, access to our latest brochure or if you’d like to take part in our upcoming events please contact Ashlea; marketing@mclarke.co.uk.