A Conversation With Patricia Power

Interviews
A Conversation With Patricia Power
Patricia Power Quantity Surveyor
Industry Expertise

Patricia Power of Patricia Power Quantity Surveying and Project Management

Patricia Power is a well-known Irish Quantity Surveyor. Having featured on RTE's much-loved TV show 'Room to Improve', she has a direct, honest approach backed up with years of experience. We sit down with Patricia to talk about the ins and outs of quantity surveying and project management and uncover everything a homeowner needs to know if thinking about enlisting the services she offers.

Patricia Power Quantity Surveying
Enlisting The Help of A Quantity Surveyor & Project Manager

At what point should a homeowner approach/appoint a Quantity Surveyor/Project Manager?

I would advise once you’ve selected your architect, then I would also select a QS and engage them to prepare a cost plan on the project at the early design stage/ before planning to ensure you get the plans accurately costed to ensure you can afford to build the dream before you lodge for planning permission. As this is the stage to take your time and get the plans to work with your budget, it takes time to get this right, but it is all on paper and it's only costing you time at this stage. Any projects over 200-250k should have a QS involved, projects under this range may require one-off advice or consultation from a QS.

What is the essential information a homeowner should be able to provide when initially enlisting a Quantity Surveyor?

Really for a QS to engage, they would need draft plans for the works proposed, sketch schemes are adequate, and an idea of the client budget and timelines.

How can you assist an Interior Designer and Architect during a residential project, whether a refurbishment or entirely new build?

My costs would always include for a completed building, that is in walk-in turn-key to include i.e. all floor finishes, wall tiling, kitchen units, sanitary ware down to shower doors, built-in furniture, wardrobes, etc and fully decorated. The budgets for these would be set at a very early stage of the project, as they have a big impact on the overall spend. I would liaise with the designer on the budgets and assist in keeping within the provisions. Items not in the cost would be curtains, blinds, loose furniture and fittings, electrical appliances, TV’s etc. Items that you bring to a home to put your personal stamp on it. So it would be worth chatting through these items with an interior designer earlier on and budgeting for them.

On RTÉ's TV series Room to Improve, you worked closely with architect Dermot Bannon. How would you describe the collaborative process with architects and engineers?

All projects require a design team, the architect for the plans and ideas, the engineer to make it stand up, and the QS to make the costs real. All construction professionals constantly work and circulate with different practices on ranges of projects, so they bring skill and expertise to the table, which in turn reduces mistakes and allows the projects to run as smoothly as possible on site.

Patricia Power Constructed Modern Home
Top Tips For Ensuring Your Renovation Stays Within Budget

What are your top tips for homeowners to ensure their building or renovation plans stay within budget?

1. Invest in the overall comfort levels of your home, i.e. money spent on insulation to walls, attic spaces, etc. may not be seen, but it will enhance the quality of your living experience in your home.

2. Review more energy-efficient heating and hot water options i.e. new high energy efficient boiler with heating controls, solar panels, heat pumps, etc. Even smaller items like a new stove, fitting lower energy light bulbs, adding lagging jackets to hot water cylinders all lead to reductions in utility bills.

3. Always ensure you are using VAT and grant registered contractors, so you can benefit from the government lead schemes and grants in place at the time of the works.

4. Always try and obtain at least 3 quotes, out of these you should get the contractor or tradesman that is genuinely interested and has priced it correctly. Do ask for references, from previous customers and any designers or surveyors they have worked with.

You’re Ireland's best-known quantity surveyors! How did you begin your career, and was it always something you wanted to do?

Yes, I always wanted to go into construction, I had a natural interest from an early age. I completed my CAO form and focused on the technical courses, as this was my area of preference.

What would you say to a potential client who is on the fence about whether to enlist a quantity surveyor or not?

The best money they will ever spend, we are practical, professional, and business-like and will cost manage your build to ensure value for money and cost control. Your professional quantity surveying practice works on new one-off houses, extensions, renovations, and general home improvements.

What are your favourite sorts of projects and why?

I have the pleasure of working with a lot of very talented professionals and designers, so I get to see the most amazing homes. However what I love is bringing back an old home to life, giving it the care and attention it needs, and making it new and special again.

At what stage in the project do you prefer to get involved for the most effective and accurate cost plan?

Before you go for planning, ensure you get the plans accurately costed to ensure you can afford to build the dream before you lodge for planning permission. As this is the stage to take your time and get the plans to work with your budget, it takes time to get this right, but it is all on paper and it's only costing you time at this stage.

Patricia Power
Choosing The Right Builders & Contractors

What information goes into a detailed tender and how does this reduce ambiguity in the planning and building process?

I like to call it the bible, it takes all the information from the architect and engineers drawings and quantifies the works, allowing the builder to price it at ease, it ensures there are no grey areas between the drawings, allows the client to set budgets for client items like windows, tiling, kitchen, etc. Then it allows ease of comparison when the prices are returned. It puts the client in control of the costs.

What should homeowners look for when choosing builders/contractors?

Always try and obtain at least 3-4 quotes, out of these you should get the contractor that is genuinely interested and will price it correctly. Do ask for references, from previous customers and any designers or surveyors they have worked with. And do go see recent projects, as you are as good as your last project.

Are you involved once the construction work starts on site and if so what role do you play here?

Yes, I attend the site to review progress against the program, check work in line with the contract, variation assessments, carry out and agree on monthly valuations of works done with the contractor. Cost manage any changes that may occur and advise the client of costs at all times. (minimum monthly cost reports) Agree and settle the final account and report to client and architect.

Labour and materials have seen a shortage since Covid-19. What implications have the pandemic had on residential construction in Ireland?

Its become a worldwide problem, material prices have greatly increased and it is now starting to have a dramatic effect on the overall build cost. I am seeing a bottom-line increase of 6-10% since March of this year.

What are the most popular home refurbishments, extensions or construction plans you have worked on?

Within the cities, it would be mainly refurbishment and extension, rare I would do one without the other and new builds would be in the greener areas. My projects would range in value from €500,000 up to €5,000,000. Changes and curveballs are almost an inevitability when it comes to residential construction.

How do you prepare for these and handle them when they come up, in order to keep a client reassured?

There is always a solution and a way forward, we can always look at alternatives way of building or materials, where there’s a will there's a way.

Patricia Power Quantity Surveying
Over-budgeting For Your Home Renovation

Are there certain areas of construction that you think homeowners should prepare to over-budget for?

Sometimes clients can get carried out when it comes to finishes, they visit the showrooms and can be blown away. Once budgets are set at the early stage and they are real, if a client wishes to spend more, that is their call, it is their home, it is my job to make them aware of the overall cost.

Have you seen any trends in the sorts of refurbishments people are looking for in Ireland at the moment?

There is always a new trend, at present, I am seeing a lot of charred larch cladding to exteriors. Mansion weave floors are coming back and so is wallpaper.