Managing Commercial Refurbishment Projects

Mark Finlayson
As building surveyors we are routinely appointed to manage commercial refurbishment projects and, to ensure successful delivery, it is important to understand the rationale behind the refurbishment.

There are generally three main reasons to undertake refurbishments:

  • Sales: To market a brand, boost sales and/or increase revenue
  • Necessity: Operation driven e.g. to cope with an increase in staff numbers
  • Refresh: Refurbish property as per the terms of a lease or to boost staff moral

Early Engagement

Depending upon the timing of appointment, we are ideally qualified to assist in the pre-acquisition survey and investigation process. Such projects tend to move quickly with the works carried out over a short timescale, and for the Building Surveyor it is especially important to engage with the client at the earliest opportunity and develop a robust project brief. Early engagement of consultants is also critical to ensure all parties are clear on the objectives of the project, to establish lines of communication and agree an appropriate change management process that suits the pace of the project.

Client's involved with refurbishment contracts generally come in three forms:

  • Landlords: Refurbishment related to their own commercial interests
  • Landlords: Undertaking refurbishment with or on behalf of their tenants
  • Tenants: Tenant fit-out of a landlord’s demise

Early stakeholder engagement is critical to project success, and the level of engagement will vary depending on the nature of the client. For example, landlord direct refurbishment can be relatively straightforward with a single set of requirements and single-point control over the project budget.

Much more complex is managing a project for a client who is undertaking a refurbishment with or on behalf of their tenant. Multi stakeholders can create indecision, confusion and ultimately cost time and money. Therefore it is vital that both parties are fully engaged in early discussions with their consultants to set the project off well. The difficulty with this arrangement lies in the management of the expectations of the tenant, late variations to the scope of the project as a result of communication breakdown between the landlord and tenant can put project delivery at significant risk. It is therefore essential to agree the finalised design at the earliest stage and set a date for design freeze.

Early stakeholder engagement is critical to project success, and the level of engagement will vary depending on the nature of the client.

Such early engagement can be used to highlight design issues or project risks and allows the design team the necessary time to make changes to the scope of the project and, where required, undertake the necessary value engineering exercises to streamline budgets or allocate adequate financial contingencies.

Appointment by the Tenant

We are often also appointed directly by the tenant to design and/or manage refurbishment projects. If appointed early enough we can also provide front-end lease and survey advice which can assist in the negotiation of lease terms. We can produce schedules of condition at lease commencement and pre-refurbishment which capture the condition of the building before work is commenced; this assists with the reinstatement process and the future negotiation of dilapidation claims.

In such instances our involvement in the pre-acquisition survey process and our management of the refurbishment project provides continuity to the benefit of the project. We not only form early relationships with the various parties, but also have a detailed understanding of the building and our client’s expectations/ambitions before commencing the design phase.

Roles and Responsibilities

One factor which must be considered in all projects, regardless of appointment route, is clear allocation of project responsibilities where there are multi stakeholders or phases of work. For example, in relation to the strip out of the existing fixtures and supply/installation of tenant fixtures and fittings whilst the refurbishment works are underway. When we are appointed as the lead consultant, it is important that we incorporate such works into our master programme to avoid confusion and delay. The coordination of their design and then attendance with the principal contractor must be considered whilst ensuring all parties are aware of and complying with their duties under the CDM Regulations 2015. Faithful+Gould’s experienced Health & Safety team are on hand to provide Principal Designer support to our clients where required.

The appointment of a commercially astute building surveyor at the earliest opportunity will provide the client with a number of benefits...

This is a more simple delivery model, with a single set of objectives and a sole point of contact. We can assist in appointing the correct design team from Faithful+Gould's network of sub consultants and establish the perfect chemistry for successful project delivery. We are in place to ensure the design brief is met effectively whilst simultaneously protecting the client’s position under the terms of the lease.


In summary, the key to the successful delivery of a refurbishment project is the development of a clear and concise client brief, early stakeholder engagement to quickly establish risks and project constraints and the adoption of an adequate change management process and clearly established lines of communication. The appointment of a commercially astute building surveyor at the earliest opportunity will provide the client with a number of benefits translating to added value over the entire life cycle of the process from the initial survey, through the fit-out, during occupation and finally at expiry of the lease term.

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