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Revitalising a practice: plan B's MD Sean Mooney relates how his company helped an independent build a new practice site.

Although Kelchers Opticians of Great Wyrley, Walsall, has been trading successfully for over four decades, senior partner Graham Kelcher could see that business was stagnating.

The 'natural' loss of customers at the senior end of the market was not being replaced with new clientele.

A potential larger property became available within the same area, but it was an unusual shaped corner plot with a relatively huge glazed frontage. Nevertheless, Mr Kelcher contacted me and we stepped in to review the property for its suitability for purpose, develop plans and advise of potential costs.

Through detailed discussions with the staff and a review of working procedures, an outline layout was quickly agreed for the potential new site, but the survey revealed a lot of essential building and mechanical work was required to bring the premises up to standard. The entire property needed to be re-wired and new distribution boards fitted. New walls, ceiling, roofing, an entrance door, ramp, handrails, flooring, alarm system, plumbing, fascia, signage, fixtures and fittings, lighting and decorations were required--along with the repositioning and commissioning of the air conditioning and adding power to an existing roller shutter. A new toilet was required but perversely the first item agreed for disposal was a redundant kitchen sink.

It took two weeks to reach the point where the concept plans, estimated costs and work schedule were at a point where Mr Kelcher was confident to give the go-ahead.

Plan-B was appointed as project manager for the work--costing in this instance 8% of the total budget which was in the region of 70k [pounds sterling]. Once agreement had been reached with the landlords and keys exchanged, work started on-site within the first week of January by stripping out the interior. A schedule of planned work was complete by the end of March--when Mr Kelcher was required to vacate his existing premises.

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One part of an existing partition wall was retained to form a small stock room to the rear of the premises--but otherwise all of the partitions, fixtures, wall panelling, flooring and ceiling were removed at the outset. This enabled each of the individual trades to attend site to quote for the work. Between two to four contractors quoted on each part of the job--they were appointed not just on cost but on their ability to complete their work on-schedule, their willingness to work with the other trades on-site, and how professionally they managed their site visit and quoting procedure. Some specialised contractors were appointed because of their particular skills.

Naturally, there were variations of costs at this stage compared to the estimates, but these all fell within 5% of estimate in all cases.

One of the largest site issues that had to be addressed quickly was that of access. Although a ramp and steps were in place, they were not going to meet current DDA Guidelines (Disability Discrimination Act--updated 2005). Preliminary discussions were held between ourselves, the Planning Department and Building Control where it was agreed that a solution was possible. Although it would not initially fully comply with DDA recommendations, it was the best practice/cost effective solution. Building Control even suggested a revision to the layout to eliminate the 'appeal' of the ramp to local skateboarders and that was taken on board.

Early discussions with the authorities were essential to keep the work schedule on target as gaining approval was the longest 'lead' item on the list of work. In this instance it took six weeks to gain approval, but this was largely because the departments were 'quiet'. Even in this instance, orders had to be placed with, for example, the manufacturers of the Stainless Steel Handrail prior to approval in order to guarantee manufacturing and delivery on time. To allow for any change the Planning Department may have required, the order was placed with drawings 'Subject to Change' to allow for late modifications to the plans by others. It is wise to have an understanding relationship with suppliers, contractors and authorities in every instance--and keep them informed of every change that may affect them at all times.

Site works for the Kelchers progressed largely to schedule. An unusual situation arose when the decorators could not finish painting before the new floor was laid, possibly due to excess moisture in the interior due to the floor screed curing--which adds moisture to the atmosphere--slowing the paint drying. Finishing the painting then took twice as long as extra care had to be taken with the new floor in situ. Otherwise, the move took place on time. Plan-B fitters were on-hand to assist with the move including fitting some of the consulting room equipment on the day.

The next instalment will look at the design process and the results of the work.
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Title Annotation:REFURBISHMENT; Kelchers Opticians
Publication:Optometry Today
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:May 7, 2010
Words:792
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