Renovations: Where to Start?

Renovations: Where to Start?

With the scarcity of open spaces, the high concentration of empty buildings in areas already consolidated in cities, and an awareness of the impact of new constructions on the environment, refurbishments are increasingly part of both the architect's work routine and the client's choice. At the same time, they are often synonymous with unexpected surprises and problems, causing delays and discomfort. This text presents four pre-work strategies that can help you better prepare for this moment.

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Although all types of works are susceptible to accidents and imponderables, when making alterations to an already completed building, it is necessary to deal with a series of elements that do not exist in a new construction. In a reform, it is necessary to deal with something pre-existing, which has two main obstacles. The first is the common lack of information about what has been built, and what is masked behind the finishing layers. The second is how long that building has existed and its consequent degradation. In addition, because they are renovations, many problems are discovered and resolved during the work, which opens up a gap of uncertainty, both for the client and for those who monitor and manage it.

However, there is a part of the problems that can be anticipated and a series of precautions that can be taken before the works begin, seeking to reduce the imponderables, without exhausting them:

Full Survey

It is essential that, before starting any renovation work, the technical team carries out a complete survey of the building that will be renovated, not only measuring and generating plans, cuts and elevations, but also collecting information about the hydraulic and electrical networks, as well as on the status of the structural system. This information can be obtained from the analysis of the original projects and the compatibility with what was built, through prospecting, which are tears in the walls, and even machines that scan the wall in search of water pipes. This type of work, known as as-built, can have an assigned technical responsibility and in the case of refurbishments that intend to remove pillars or other structural elements, for example, it is important that there is also a signed report, to legally protect it. The as-built is part of the architect's scope of work in a renovation, which can also count on the support of engineers to complement the information.

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© Guilherme Cunha on Unsplash

To Define a Requirements Program and Adapt It to the Existing One

Despite the initial enthusiasm of the clients to start the refurbishment thinking about the finishes and decoration, it is important to start the project with an architect, focusing mainly on what are the needs of the family, or the group of people who will benefit from the project. This conversation step is what provides information so that the architect can come up with a proposal that meets all the client's demands, making the project more accurate and not subject to changes during the course of the work. In addition, the renovation project needs to combine these demands with the existing space, evidenced in the as-bult, seeking to optimize the structure and hydraulic installations, so that they undergo the least possible changes, saving resources and time. As well as the as-built stage, the renovation project is also ensured by a technical responsibility signed by the architect and can also count on the participation of complementary ones, such as electricians, plumbers and structural engineers.

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© Daniel McCullough on Unsplash

Bureaucratic Procedures

Before the refurbishment work begins, it is important to understand which are the inspection and control bodies that act on the property, as well as what are the rules and laws that regulate construction in that place, checking what is possible or not to be changed and built. Usually the refurbishments need to be approved by the city hall and also by the condominium where they are located. In the case of old buildings that are listed as historical heritage, they must also be approved by the current heritage bodies, municipal, state or federal. In some cases, especially in office or residential projects, the project also needs to pass approvals by agencies such as the fire department, to ensure fire protection and also by water, energy and gas concessionaires. These approvals may require the collaboration of consultants or architects and engineers specialized in these instances, and the lack of these approvals can cause problems, including work stoppage and infeasibility. Therefore, it is essential that, in the survey stage, a list of these bodies is made and that, during the project, the laws and regulations are considered to define design guidelines, reducing the possibility of problems facing these bodies.

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Douradores Residential Building Renovation / José Adrião Arquitetos. Image © Nuno Almendra

Financial Planning

One of the main strategies of a renovation is to do the financial planning of the project, based on a budget and a work schedule. Based on the project, the technical team in charge prepares a preliminary budget, which consists of an estimate of the cost of the complete work, as well as a schedule of activities, which shows when each stage of the work will be carried out and completed, signaling financial disbursements. In a renovation project, however, even if careful planning is carried out and all precautions are taken, it is still possible to have unforeseen events that require greater disbursements or a longer execution time. Therefore, it is important that the contractors have a financial reserve, which must be foreseen in the initial budget, but that is only for exceptions.

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© Sven Mieke on Unsplash

Finally, although refurbishments involve a high degree of anxiety and concern, the process becomes more fluid if, before the beginning of everything, the client and the architect have, together and in common: knowledge of the actual situation of the existing space (as-built), what is the objective to be achieved (project), what needs to be done to be achieved (approvals and schedule) and how much it will cost (budget). With this information in hand and an aligned monitoring and execution team, refurbishments can flow better, even if susceptible to imponderables.

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Cite: Martino, Giovana. "Renovations: Where to Start?" [Reformas: por onde começar?] 02 Oct 2022. ArchDaily. (Trans. Simões, Diogo) Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/987388/renovations-where-to-start> ISSN 0719-8884

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