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Completing the Jigsaw: RedBook’s Contractor Selection

20 Jan 2024
Clients increasingly ask us for recommendations of contractors who will be right for their project, which is why it is the obvious area for RedBook to step in and offer expert help.

By Aidan Mortimer, RedBook's Advisory Board member for Construction and Architecture

As anyone who has tackled even a small renovation project recently will know, the costs have shot up in the past few years. A heady mix of the impacts of Brexit, the energy crisis, inflation and the pandemic are all to blame. 

According to the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, between 2015 and 2022, the cost of materials, including cement, timber and steel, increased by 60% in this country. At the same time, the cost of labour in the UK went up by 30%. By other estimates, even the cost of renovating a bathroom shot up 40% between 2020 and the start of this year. 

There is some light on the horizon with figures suggesting that this period of intense supply chain pressure is over, and prices are now falling across the board, especially for timber and steel, due to lower overall demand across the sector. Last month saw the sharpest reduction in prices since 2009.

This could point to 2024 being the right year to embark on a substantial property project—and here’s how we can help. 

RedBook started out by matching clients tackling renovation or building work at the top of the private residential market with design teams and technical specialists. But the most significant element of any project, in terms of time and money, will inevitably be the build itself. This is where the greatest challenges and risks lie. 

A strong relationship between the various professional parties is fundamental to the success of any project. Our founder, Sandy, has often likened the process of appointing the right team to being akin to a movie director casting actors for a film. 

What typically comes together, however, is a cast that must take a project forward without possibly having met or worked together before. When it goes wrong, it is not just you as the owner; everyone involved suffers. From our holistic position, we can help bring together the right team for your project. That is why we have expanded our offering by introducing contractors to you during our so-called “beauty parades” alongside design teams.

Part I – How we select contractors as Partners 

The process of choosing contractors to become RedBook Partners is exhaustive. Here’s how it works.

Size: First, we look at the size of their business, including the company’s financial turnover and number of employees on staff.

Skills: Then—and this is critical—we assess the skills within the company. This involves interrogating the level of experience and qualifications within the site and project management teams as well as establishing which craft and technical skills are based within the company.

Strengths: Inevitably, contractors have particular strengths whether that is working on listed buildings in central London (a particularly challenging environment) or creating new-build country houses.

Suitability: Alongside the geographical reach, we will also investigate references from professionals who have worked alongside the contractor before to ensure the contractor is robust enough and has capacity.

Selection: RedBook finally discusses the contractor recommendations with its in-house projects team and Advisory Board to ensure that everyone agrees with the selections.

Finally: Nothing remains static—this information is refreshed periodically. And the contractor Partners are reviewed each year to ensure their continued suitability.

Part II – How contractors are selected for a project 

We work with nearly 20 of the very best super-prime residential contractors, who are prequalified as previously explained.

Pre-Selection: Based on the project requirements, we initially select up to five contractors that fit the project criteria.

Pre-Qualification Questionnaire, or PQQ: RedBook uses the PQQ to establish that the contractors have the necessary experience and qualifications to complete the job smoothly. 

Beauty Parades: RedBook then arranges tours of relevant past projects proposed by the three shortlisted contractors, with the design team present for the tour.

Interview: Following this, the client is invited to be part of the interview process alongside the appointed design team. If the client or the design team wish to see another contractor, this can be arranged.

Tender: Once concluded, and when construction information is available, RedBook will assist the project manager and quantity surveyor with assessing the tender.

Recommendation: Only when this process is completed would RedBook, alongside its design and delivery partners, recommend a contractor to be appointed by the client. We then advise on the procurement strategy and appointment contracts. Finally, we invite the clients to undertake a final interview and visit one or more past projects from the selected contractor before signing the contract.

Who benefits?

When a team works well together, the owner is the ultimate winner. We know that taking on a significant project is emotionally charged and highly challenging; the patience required to tackle the multitude of micro-decisions to be made is significant. Our goal is to make the journey as smooth and enjoyable as possible.

But by establishing a relationship between you as the client, the right design team and the right contractor as early as possible, the wider team wins, too. Everyone is on an equal footing, and there’s collective ownership of the project. Key players are introduced early in the process, and important decisions can be made promptly.

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