Richard Perry

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Absent Without Leave - Changes with Work

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  1. Absent Without Leave - Changes with Work
  2. Diploma in Arbitration

It is now more than 2 years since I last posted on this blog. There has been a lot going on and the blog has unfortunately taken a back seat. Now that the craziness has settled down, I am planning to start writing again a bit more regularly. I think a good place to start would be to write about what’s been going on whilst I have been absent without leave. There has been a lot going on so I think I’ll make this into a bit of series to break it up a bit. I’ll cover the following topics:

  1. Changes with Work (this article);
  2. Diploma in Arbitration; and
  3. Taekwondo.

At the back end of 2017, after a difficult period in work, the tough decision was made to downsize to almost nothing before the business collapsed. It was a really tough time for everyone given most people had worked there for at least 10 year, but some over 25 years. By the end of the year there were only a few of us left wrapping things up and trying to sell off the leftover stock before the final stage of the downsize completed at the beginning of 2018.

All this meant that I had to look for a new job as soon as I could. Thankfully I had seen an appeal for main contractor’s quantity surveyors for a small consultancy business in Bristol a few months earlier. I was under no illusion that getting a new job would be easy, but it sounded interesting, so I sent in my CV with the expectation of at least getting some experience applying for jobs. After a couple of good meetings with the existing partners of the business I officially became a partner at VOLOCO LLP on 1st January 2018.

An interesting opportunity presented itself fairly early in January. ISG Construction Ltd were looking for a project surveyor to work on a student accommodation and hotel refurbishment project in Hatfield for approximately 18 months. Now Hatfield is a fair way away, but the prospect of a guaranteed income for the next 18 months was very appealing. I visited site to meet with the team and discuss their requirements, and within 2 weeks I had started my first project with VOLOCO. The main downside to that was that I had to spend three days a week away from home. It was great to be back working on a large construction project. I hadn’t realised it beforehand, but I did miss large scale construction.

It was definitely a new experience working away from home, but it wasn’t anywhere as difficult as we thought it might be. Given that George was that little bit older, he was able to understand what was going on and why, so he dealt with it really well. I made the decision to travel by train given the M4 and M25 were part of the commute. I generally left very early on a Tuesday morning and returned just before bed time on a Thursday. I was then able to work from home on a Monday and Friday. In the main, the train was fairly uneventful and consistent. Once I learnt the best time to be at the station to ensure I got a seat, it was even easier. I did have a couple of issues with delays, or broken down trains, and one fairly major issue with the snow virtually shutting down Paddington station, but otherwise it was a good choice. Some of the other guys on site had problems with the traffic on the roads almost every week.

I am still doing little bits of work on the project in Hatfield, but I stopped commuting at the end of May 2019. It felt strange not spending a couple of hours on the train each week, but I’ve learnt to manage :joy:.

In October 2018, a new groundworks contractor, Ingenium Civil Engineering Ltd, in Bristol approached VOLOCO looking for some commercial support as they were struggling to cope since winning a few projects. As I was actually only working 4 days a week with ISG, and they were only looking for a little bit of extra support, I took on the challenge. I initially got involved with carrying out valuations and pricing variations for a large mixed use development in Bristol and have since helped them out on a number of other project in the same vein. These have included:

  • general builders work package, basement box and external finishes at The Old General Hospital, a mixed use development in Bristol;
  • enabling works at The Wave, Bristol;
  • basement construction and external works at a new private house in Bath;
  • rendering and paving works at Factory No. 1, a mixed use development in Bristol.

It’s been really interesting working on behalf of a subcontractor and seeing the industry from a completely different perspective. I now have an even better appreciation for the position of subcontractors, and I’m enjoying working with this growing business.

As I was nearing the end of my stint away from home, another opportunity cropped up with a developer in a town called Freshford just south of Bath. This meant that once the workload dropped at Hatfield, I had somewhere else to go. Therefore, at the start of June I started working 2 days a week on the Freshford Mill development. The project involves the construction of 24 high end residential units on a heavily contaminated site on the edge of the river Rackham Court at Freshford Mill
Rackham Court at Freshford Mill
Avon across 2 phases. This was again a completely different perspective on the quantity surveying role. On this occassion the developer took the decision to take on the construction works themselves instead of employing a main contractor. This meant that there wasn’t really a top level client so the usual cost value reconciliation process was very different. Each of the subcontractors were employed as trade contractors by the developer meaning they were all essentially employed by the client who was also managing the project (in simple terms). This also meant there was never going to be any discussions of variations with a PQS, or asking for instructions from the employers agent/contract administrator etc. It was certainly a learning experience, but it has also been very interesting seeing things from another viewpoint again.

Unfortunately, there have been a number of problems that have lead to some significant delays on the project. Not least of these being the level and variety of contaminated material that has been discovered on the site prior to my involvement. Phase 1 of the project (the first 10 units) was nearing completion when I got involved, and in theory was due to be complete by mid September. However the bank then made the decision to put the SPV into administration and bring in Fixed Charge Receiver’s to complete the project. This meant there were a number of additional delays to the works, like renegotiating contract’s, reassuring the subcontractors that they would still be paid etc. This is why I am still involved in the project now. Phase 1 of the project should be complete by the end of January and my involvement will cease fairly soon after that.

By the middle of the summer I was fairly busy, but looking for some work to move onto once Freshford was complete. As it turned out, ISG had won a number of projects in South Wales which immediately piqued my interest given the proximity to home :smile: . After a few discussions, we have managed to get involved in The Interchange, Central Square project in Cardiff city centre right next to the train station. This could not be better placed for me as it means that I can get the train from just down the road basically straight to site. It’s even quicker than driving. So I am now providing senior quantity surveying services on a number of the larger packages in this £89m multi use development project for ISG Construction and really enjoying it so far.

In summary:

  • I lost my job at the beginning of 2018;
  • I managed to join a consultancy basically straight away;
  • Through VOLOCO LLP, I am currently providing:
    • commercial support services to a groundworks contractor;
    • commercial support services to a Fixed Charge Receiver for a housing development;
    • senior quantity surveying services to a main contractor for a project in Cardiff.

Despite the rather difficult end to 2017, it hasn’t been all bad news. I was looking forward to taking over the family business, however I am now enjoying my new position and the challenges involved with this new way of working :smile:.

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