Industry Insights #18: Phil Allen – Proficiency

Industry Insights - Proficiency

This time we’re chatting to Phil Allen, the Contracts Manager at Proficiency.

Q1: We’ve heard a lot about people moving house during pandemic, how has the home improvement market fared?

We found that there was a massive increase in enquires for home improvement which directly correlated with people purchasing new homes that were in a poor state of repair.

Due to increases in material costs, labour shortages and general uncertainty there wasn’t a huge amount of larger value new work that started during the pandemic.

It was apparent that more people were carrying out home improvements themselves because of the shortage in labour and the cost of having qualified professionals carry out the work.

Q2: There’s been lots of reports about the rising costs of building materials due to a combination of Brexit and the pandemic, do you expect prices to drop back to ‘normal’ levels at all in the near future?

Due to energy costs and fuel increases the costs of producing and transporting materials will continue to rise in line with these costs.

If anything, these costs will continue to rise in the near future and the goal post for normal will continue to change.

As the supply chain continues to recover there may be small changes in material costs as supply come back in line with demand.

At the moment demand is so strong that suppliers keep increasing costs to counteract the drop in sales volume due to supply shortage.

Q3: What’s currently ‘on trend’? What type of home improvements are you finding are the most popular at the moment?

The use of crittall style glazing has continued to be popular and in terms of interiors the use of raw materials and natural products is becoming more common in renovation projects.

There are some trends which are short lived but ones that remain popular are classic designs, this includes shaker kitchens, parquet style flooring and brushed brass fixtures and fittings.

Q4: How have things changed in the last 10 years in your market?

Less people are moving homes and therefore looking to extend and renovate what they already have, this has seen a sharp increase in projects such as loft conversions and kitchen extensions. Especially in London where the value of property per m2 is so high people are looking to maximise this where possible.

The introduction of planning rules such as permitted development has helped increase this market and make it more accessible for home owners to gain permissions. 

One of the big changes is how everything is going digital and online, this means a lot more emphasis is put towards having a reputable and trustworthy online presence.

It is very easy now for a client to search the internet for local builders whereas in the past people would go on word of mouth or recommendations from friends and family.  

Q5:  Tell us a little about the services you provide at Proficiency. Why would someone use you?

Proficiency is a turnkey design and build company, we cover all aspects from planning permission, technical drawings, interior design to then physically building the project.

We employ all our own builders so we don’t have to rely on subcontractors and can therefore complete projects quickly and control costs easier. 

The advantage of a design and build model like ours is that when in the design stage we keep clients budgets in mind and know how much it will cost to build their vision.

Whereas architects regularly overdesign leaving clients with designs and projects they can’t afford to build. With years of experience working on London residential projects we are able to advise clients on costs at an early stage.

One of our unique selling points is the showroom and studio we have in West Hampstead, this enables to source all materials for clients at excellent rates which in the end help lower project costs significantly.

Q6: What’s been the most enjoyable project you’ve worked on, and why?

Our favorite was a project in South West London which involved the extension, loft conversion and renovation of the entire property.

There was good access to site with parking outside and space to have skips, this enabled us to get on with the project without worrying about delays having to double handle materials.

In terms of project, the client allowed us freedom to suggest design ideas and alternative solutions to the design, in the end it felt like a collaborative project where we would work with the client.

Q7: And what about the most challenging one?

The most challenging project would be one of the new build houses we are carrying out in Hackney, the site is very small and the new walls are to sit on the edge of the boundary on all sides, this means there is no space on site to have storage, welfare facilities or even hoarding.

These site constraints make everything slower and inevitably more expensive for the client.

The build consists of a new basement which requires excavating 4m below current ground level, the big problem with this is the water table sits at only 1.5m below ground level and therefore water ingress is a major problem during construction.

Once the superstructure starts to go up this becomes a far more manageable project because the works will be contained inside and the site restrictions become less of a problem.

Q8: Finally, what’s the single most important thing people need to consider when planning a large home improvement project?

I always say the most important aspect of any project is to spend time planning, designing and specifying everything you want. If you try and do this once the build works have started the costs can escalate and creates a lot of uncertainty.

On site the phrase measure twice cut once is used a lot and the same can be applied for design and planning. Double check everything before you start and make sure you are limiting the number of changes during the build.

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