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Old 24.01.2011, 18:05
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Building in Simmental

Hello.

We have recently purchased a piece land in Simmental, limited to the 1000sqm for foreigners, but nonetheless a nice plot with good views and suitable for a home to use at least part of the year.

A local architect is currently preparing plans for submission to the Commune in February and the intention would be to start work this Spring.

The design is for a detached wooden chalet style building of 200sqm, net, over three floors (basement, living and bedroom) with garage attached to the side. The site slopes, but not unduly so, and as a result the building can be set into the hillside so that at the back the 1st floor (living area) is level with the ground whereas at the front there is height for a basement with windows. The floor plan is 11.0x12.0 and their will be 3 bedrooms.

My question is really in regard to procurement. The architect says it is normal for him to appoint and manage a series of contract tradesmen all on individual contracts. He has calculated a Cost Plan for the work and as I understand he is obliged to be within 10% of this. Needless to say his figure seems very high.

The other option of employing a General Contractor he does not favour!

Does anyone have a view on this? How great is the risk of letting the Architect manage the process, albeit with his hand in my wallet? What is common practice in Switzerland. For sure this is just a single house so would not warrant a major contractor but if it were in UK I am sure it would be done by a General Contractor who would co ordinate all the sub contractors.

And while I accept it is as long a piece of string, some sense of what the all in cost. construction, fees and permits, connections to utilities etc would be for good quality but not Designer Label.

Last edited by Longbyt; 24.01.2011 at 20:23. Reason: OP request
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Old 24.01.2011, 18:16
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Re: Building in Simmental

We had/have (moved in, but work still ongoing) a general project manager. I've also heard of architects doing that here - it is fairly common.

I'm not going to comment on one set-up over the other, as I've only had once house built, so a sample of n=1.

I'll say the following though:

1) our house had a fixed price - everything in the contract was included to that price

2) additional elements, after the contracts were signed (and we made a lot of changes before the contracts were signed) were paid for separately (but also went on the mortgage

3) if you are a professional and have high standards, used to project management, then you need to harass them every step of the way. Maybe we were unlucky - although he's a nice guy, we have several examples of screw-ups and delays that would have been avoided with just a basic of bit of foresight and project planning

4) don't assume that he's a professional, so he knows what he is doing. Examine every single bit of the plans in minute details, every step of the way. Some of the suggestions that our architect came up with were just plain dumb, and you could see that they had not thought the process through

back to money

5) plan for an additional 10-15% above the additional 10% mark-up the architect has told you about

Good luck.
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Old 24.01.2011, 18:42
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Re: Building in Simmental

I wouldn't dream of employing a general contractor. Your architect is a practitioner who will and legally has, through the SIA rules, to defend your interests. and he is the only one in the building process to do so...

He will indeed appoint tradesmen on the basis of a financial offer. He probably is very well integrated in the village, he knows the local market and he knows who is OK, who is not. You can and you should insist on having 2 or 3 offers for every contract and discuss the offers with him, see if it fits the general cost plan. He will then manage the contracts and the planning of your house. During this procedure, you'll also have to choose a lot of items, from tiles over window panes to doorknobs. He will assist you with that. From time to time, he will present the financial situation and you will discuss it, maybe make another decision for some items, try to economise somewhere, adapt something... You will have to interact with him and it will ask you some time. Building a house is unlike buying a car with options, (try to add some options once you ordered your car). You will have to go through the process with him.

The general contractor will be the one having his hand in your pocket. You'll have no control at all over all the little items to choose, or the model you choose will be more expensive and he will adapt his price. What on earth makes you think a general contractor will have your interests in mind???

It is still fairly common practice to do as your architect proposes. And it is the sensible thing to do. General contracting however is finding its way. If it is finding its way, it is because someone is making money doing it.
Do you really honestly think it is you?
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Old 24.01.2011, 19:53
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Re: Building in Simmental

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4) don't assume that he's a professional, so he knows what he is doing. Examine every single bit of the plans in minute details, every step of the way. Some of the suggestions that our architect came up with were just plain dumb, and you could see that they had not thought the process through

back to money

5) plan for an additional 10-15% above the additional 10% mark-up the architect has told you about

Good luck.
Thank you for your helpful comments.

Although I have no experience of building an individual house in Switzerland, or anywhere else for that matter, I am not unfamiliar with the construction and development industry per se. Therefore I find certain aspects of the Swiss system very organised and easy to understand; the Cost Plan numerical structure for example.

What has surprised me somewhat is the lack of detailed analysis in what is put forward by the Architect. For example they show a plan of a driveway and turning circle for backing out of the garage. However, it was clear to me from the contours that this would not work in 3D and the car would ground due to level differences. Having pointed it out they modified the plan. In another example the main stair was located in a position that made circulation difficult and wasted space. Again I pointed it out and they made the change which greatly improved the layout. I should say at this point this is not a one man band of Architects but a successful practice well known in the area. My impression is they just don't give that much thought to what they do. Which is why I wonder how they will get on when construction starts. At the moment it is fairly cheap to alter a drawing. It is much more difficult once foundations are in.

Your point about contingency is noted. For sure we have allocated rather more than we are telling the Architect. It sounds as though it will be needed.
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Old 24.01.2011, 20:15
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Re: Building in Simmental

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I wouldn't dream of employing a general contractor. Your architect is a practitioner who will and legally has, through the SIA rules, to defend your interests. and he is the only one in the building process to do so...

He will indeed appoint tradesmen on the basis of a financial offer. He probably is very well integrated in the village, he knows the local market and he knows who is OK, who is not. You can and you should insist on having 2 or 3 offers for every contract and discuss the offers with him, see if it fits the general cost plan. He will then manage the contracts and the planning of your house. During this procedure, you'll also have to choose a lot of items, from tiles over window panes to doorknobs. He will assist you with that. From time to time, he will present the financial situation and you will discuss it, maybe make another decision for some items, try to economise somewhere, adapt something... You will have to interact with him and it will ask you some time. Building a house is unlike buying a car with options, (try to add some options once you ordered your car). You will have to go through the process with him.

The general contractor will be the one having his hand in your pocket. You'll have no control at all over all the little items to choose, or the model you choose will be more expensive and he will adapt his price. What on earth makes you think a general contractor will have your interests in mind???

It is still fairly common practice to do as your architect proposes. And it is the sensible thing to do. General contracting however is finding its way. If it is finding its way, it is because someone is making money doing it.
Do you really honestly think it is you?
That is most interesting. Thank you for your comments.

Your point about the obligations of the Architect under SIA provides some comfort and I was broadly aware of the situation.

Your second point about the Architect being well known in the town is very much the case here. Of course it is something of a double edged sword and I have no doubt that resolution of problems which arise along the way will not always be decided in favour of a foreigner. But that is OK as long as there is a decent element of reasonableness.

The central point about a General Contractor is that provided there are no changes it is a fixed price built to a detailed specification. Risk in co ordination and delay are with the GC. Also in the event of defects I would have not only the GC as a single point of contact but also collateral warranties with the tradesmen.

Although I do not believe the GC to be on my side, save to the extent it is in both our interests for the project to go smoothly, at least he will only have his hand in my pocket if I chose to make changes once the contract has been awarded.

Notwithstanding my preference for fixed price lump sum, I do accept that it makes sense to adopt local practices where possible. It is just a matter of making sure there are sufficient checks and balances in place.
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Old 24.01.2011, 20:49
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Re: Building in Simmental


This is our "Oberland Chalet".
It was constructed by Bärtschi Holzbau from Frutigen.
They acted as General Contracter for everything.
If you are going to build a chalet, you should do it direct with the Holzbau company.
The Swiss Wood Building companys in the mountains, have a great tradition, of which they are very proud.
Salut Zämma
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Old 28.01.2011, 18:39
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Re: Building in Simmental

Thought I might just drop by with an update.

The decision on whether to go with a series of trade contractors or a General Contractor has been deferred while we sort out the differences between Kostenschatzung (Estimate) and Kostenvoranschlag (Quotation) and which level of cost certainty it is prudent to have at the time the we apply for Permission from the Commune.

An issue that has arisen is that the SIA has a method of assessing ballpark costs on a per m3 basis. In UK we tend to use m2 so it is a different approach.

For a good quality 4 bed chalet of 1500m3 I have had two different Architects give quite different estimates. One at 800 CHF per m3 and the other 1200 CHF per m3. This is a large range! Needless to say the one employed on the Project is at 1200!

Does anyone have any comparable information to throw some light on this.
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Old 28.01.2011, 21:53
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Re: Building in Simmental

Hi again,

Yes, you have the m3 price, calculated according to SIA norm 416. Mind that it is not the volume you'll build. A covered surface can be counted only half, or a flat roof counts differently if accessible or not.
I hope both architects can assure you the counted the SIA volume with respect of SIA 416 norm. And consequently, they should come up with the same volume. I hope this is so in your case.

Then I hope you have heard of the BKP 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 9. It is the cost classification in order to make things comparable.

BKP 1 is for all preparational costs on your parsel. If you build as far as possible from the road, it will cost more to bring everything (electricity, sewage, water, gaz, telecom,... to your house; if your parsel is very steep and rocky, you will have another excavation cost than on a flat sandy parsel.
It is a cost which should not be taken into your m3 cost. Let's presume it costs 10 frs.

BKP 2 is the actual building cost of the house; from basement to roof, from concrete to roof beams over insulation, tiles, paintings, bathroom and kitchen, windows, doors,...
BKP 3 is for equipment. You could put your heat production in it, but very often there is so little of BKP 3 in a house that everyone puts the 2 and 3 together. Let's presume BKP 2 and 3 cost 75 frs.

BKP 4 is for the garden works. You could also have a precast garage on BKP 4. Let's presume it costs 5 frs.

BKP 5 is all for procedures, 'Baubewilligung'. Let's presume it costs 5 frs.

BKP 9 is for 'furniture', some small stuff you might want to buy with your construction credit. It is possible you may not have a BKP 9, it depends on your decision. Let's presume it costs 5 frs also.

Presuming your house measures 100 m3 SIA416, then your m3 cost should be BKP2-(3)-cost/m3, which in our case is 75/100=0.75 fr/m3SIA416 and BKP2-(3).
It is the effective building cost of the house as an isolated item.
Then, for yourself, you can always take the total building cost and divide it by your volume, which will give you a cost of 100/100= 1.00 fr/m3SIA416.

So in order to be comparable, both architects need to have the same volume and the same way of presenting BKP price.

You have to check that out, otherwise, you simply can't compare.

Then, a difference of 800 to 1200 fr/m3, presuming these values are presented on an identical basis, can be due to different factors...
- The level of finishing or the price of the building materials; if you have Carrara marble on all walls and ceilings, a kitchen the price of a Porsche and golden fittings in the bathroom, 1200fr/m2 is not difficult to obtain...
- Your architect is over-prudent: in announcing 1200, he might obtain 1000, which you will appreciate a lot more than the one announcing 800 and arriving at 1000...

You should talk to your architect and be sure about the BKP and m3 SIA416 bases and values, to obtain clear, comparable figures. If to high, you have to tell him to lower the price, to find ways of economizing money.

I don't want to add another figure; I don't know the region you live in and I don't build houses, so I would only add confusion.

The best thing to do, if you are sure to a certain extent that the house will be build, ( you could presume you could build the house between 800 and 95o frs/m3 and decide to go on that basis), would be to clarify and rediscuss these matters, settle for the Estimate as an intermediate step, go for the Baubewilligung and make the Quotation while waiting for the building permit.
The risk you would take by doing so has to be weighed by you against the time line to get into your new house and maybe some other factors.
You may presume to control the budget once you have 70 to 80 % of the effective costs of BKP 1 and 2 at your disposal.

Did you read my pm to you?
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Old 29.01.2011, 11:09
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Re: Building in Simmental

Hi pag157

Thank you for your extremely helpful commentary on cost estimation. Turning to the last point first, I have not been able to locate a pm from you although I have received one or two from other people. After posting this I will look again in both my forum messages and e mail address. But if you would be kind enough to resend that would be great.

Back to costs.

We are building in the Simmental Valley close to where it bifurcates, left to Lenk and right to Gstaad. So while we have some chic and ritzy neighbours, ours is a quite ordinary working town where for many years there was little new development. We have obtained a very nice site and no doubt set the locals tutting at the price we paid but there you go.

For reasons that are lost in the mists of time, there is a covenant running with the land to use a particular local architect. I knew this at the time. This local practice has I think enjoyed some money no object clients and because we paid a full price for the land no doubt thought they were on to a good thing. No doubt also the local entrepreneurs enjoy some fat rates by driving 25km to Gstaad!

However all is not lost, the covenant expires in 2012 so the Architect has to be sensible. Also I have appointed a second Architect, not local but builds in the area, to act as an adviser. This will be CHF10k very well spent in my view.

I have the detailed calculations Kubische Berechnung Nach SIA 416 so am reasonably confident the volume is correct. No doubt the checking Architect will pick up any errors.

So really it comes down to rate per m3 and whether or not the local tradesmen will be prepared to work at "normal" rates.

There is also a community issue that cannot be ignored and to some extent may cut both ways. For sure we don't want to pay through the nose and be ripped off, but equally bringing in outsiders "taking the bread out of the mouths of the locals" would not be a great way to build relationships with the community.

I am therefore trying to strike a balance and in an ideal outcome persuade the local industry that they can still make a decent profit without charging CHF1200.

At the moment I am holding back from signing the application to the Commune whilst I try to get much better definition on detail specification. Then as you suggest during the time the application is being considered we should be able to fix a good proportion of the costs with firm bids.

Thank you once again for your valuabe insights.
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Old 29.01.2011, 11:47
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Re: Building in Simmental

Hi,
It seems I can find no trace of my pm... I must have lost it at some stage... It was about GC or not GC, how cheap things may become expensive at the long run.

What would happen if you say to your architect that the top m3 price you can afford is 900 fr/m3 bkp2-(3) supposing this price is correct? If he says he can't do it, tell him to be very sorry but you are not able to continue on this terms.

Maybe ask your adviser to show you an 800-900frs/m3 SIA bkp2 example he has build...

As for the community issue, and as I presume you live in zw........, the community has a small dozen of architects, probably the same amount of enterpreneurs, so you'll always please someone. It is not a one-man-village.
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Old 22.02.2012, 16:04
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Re: Building in Simmental

Well it's been a while so I thought I ought to report back.

Taking into consideration the helpful advice received on here a year ago and weighing everything up, I decided to accept the local practice where the Architect acts as Project Manager and separate contracts are let for each individual element of the building work.

I collect the keys on Monday 5 March.

There has been slightly more to it than might be conveyed by these short paragraphs and if there were a level of general interest I could set out my experiences in a little more detail.
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Old 22.02.2012, 16:17
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Re: Building in Simmental

Beautiful area. You'll enjoy the sound of Avon engines blasting out of St. Stephan airfield in August.

Good luck to you and your goals.
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Old 22.02.2012, 18:55
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Re: Building in Simmental

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There has been slightly more to it than might be conveyed by these short paragraphs and if there were a level of general interest I could set out my experiences in a little more detail.
It would be very useful to others if you could mention a few of the pitfalls to be avoided and good tips etc. which helped. Every case and every commune is a bit different, but the more members can pick up on here (as you, too, did) the more possible difficulties they are made aware of and might be able to avoid.
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