Although often regarded as just being a make-over job, renovation or refurbishment projects require as much planning and specification as a new building project.
In fact, they may need considerably more because, although the work is taking place on or in an existing building, it will invariably involve some disruption of the workplace, which is why industrial companies and factories always leave their major annual maintenance work until the year-end holiday shutdown period. So, for renovations a fixed time schedule needs to be agreed with the client before any tenders are accepted or work proceeds.
Also, any additional buildings or annexes to existing buildings that are included in any renovation programme will require planning application to be submitted and approval obtained before work can start.
Because there has been an economic squeeze over the past few years, the renovation and refurbishment of existing buildings (as opposed to building or moving into new premises) is a sector which has seen an increase.
Of course, the large property owners or property management companies, such as Growthpoint, Trafalgar and others, will always have a refurbishment requirement for their office buildings, as they strive to bring them up to date or in a renewed condition for incoming tenants, so these are a major target market for the renovation companies.
Likewise, the big insurance companies – Investec, Santam and Commercial & Industrial Acceptances – are always seen as big potential customers. However, although some of these large concerns still prefer to deal with the reputable contractors they have used in the past (often on a continuing contract basis), it is becoming more prevalent for this type of work to go out to tender, in order to obtain the best possible (lowest!) price.
Rob Henderson of Robenco (a Pretoria-based contractor with a vast experience in renovation projects) says that the market has contracted a little due to the economic situation, but recently he has undertaken projects for tertiary educational establishments, such as the University of Pretoria, and several upgrade projects for the Tshwane University of Technology.
Asked about the flooring to be used on these projects, Rob said, “We do have our favoured flooring subcontractors, but generally the flooring materials are specified by the client, with vinyl tiles and sheeting playing a prominent role in the educational sector. Ceramic tiles as well, because these are seen as being durable and low-maintenance floors.”
Hospitals also tend to favour these materials, and there is obviously a demand for them with the Government’s current drive to upgrade the major hospitals throughout the country.
Most renovation companies will tackle the entire refurbishment requirement for any building, although on occasions some areas may need special skills – such as roof waterproofing which becomes a ‘demand’ item once the rainy season gets into full swing. Also, some prefer to concentrate on internal refurbishment work, often completed to a high ‘shopfitting’ standard, which in general will entail the provision of ceilings, dry walling, plumbing, painting, or whatever is required.
One company that has gained a reputation as being one of South Africa’s leading and most respected waterproofing and building refurbishment organisations is the Pretoria-based Watcon Group.
Much in demand with its teams of specialist artisans and experienced project management personnel, operating from offices in Pretoria, Johannesburg and Fourways, Watcon is regularly used by many of the big corporates and property owners.
Watcon managing director James Nel says, “To meet the demands of the refurbishment market you must be flexible enough to handle single requirements such as painting or installing a drywall system, to being able to provide a full turnkey project service. Good planning and attention to the detail that the client requires, plus the use of quality materials and above average workmanship, are priorities for the service we provide.”
The FIFA Soccer World Cup held in South Africa last year gave parts of the renovation sector a boost, with major stadiums, hotels and entertainment centres all looking to present their best possible face to the incoming visitors, but 2011 has been a much tighter economic proposition, and only the well-organised and efficient renovation companies will survive and grow into 2012.