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Residential Construction

Brought to you by RFA Construction

Information provided by Cortez Forbes and Kieron Harry – Rufred Forbes & Associates, and BCQS Director Ben Butler

Construction of your property is comprised of key stages. It’s prudent to have an awareness when overseeing the development of your dream home, witnessing the translation of plans to production. This means staying in close contact with your building contractor on a daily basis to ensure the development of your dream home is kept on track, on budget, and that any issues are resolved immediately. Consistent communication is vital in addition to building personal awareness regarding the circumstances surrounding the construction procedure.

Building procurement, planning and building authority approvals, in addition to an overall structured timeline constitute the major components of the construction stage.

Rufred Forbes & Associates a building construction company local to the BVI, offers the following advice and top tips which if taken will ensure you secure optimum results in quality, value, and time-saved on the construction of your home or renovation project.

Building Procurement—Self-Management

The key to successfully managing your own project is to build a strong relationship with your CORE players, this consists of your Architect, Engineer and Contractor. Whether this is your first project or your fifth, management of such an undertaking will no doubt be challenging to say the least. To surmount this, we recommend that you implement weekly meetings and periodic progress reports in addition to forecasted progress reports to ensure everything goes according to schedule.

Bill of Quantities

This document shows the breakdown of costs associated with the building of the project. It is extremely helpful for both the client and the contractor. It allows the client to gain a better understanding of the different components of the building process and creates a level playing field insofar that it enables a fair comparison of the rates supplied by the contractors.

Knowing your Contractor

Your architect and engineer will more than likely have contractors that they will recommend you use. Get to know and evaluate each of these contractors individually. Meet with them and request a portfolio of recently completed works, which are comparable to the type of project you are about to undertake. This will allow you to get a full picture of the quality of work offered; you will also have the opportunity to relay any concerns you may have regarding the project.

A site visit is always a bonus! This will help the contractor gain a better grasp of the layout and provide a more accurate rate.

Tender Documents

After you receive the bill of quantities from your project manager, the tendering process will commence.

This involves the provision of the full set of construction drawings and bill of quantities to your selected contractors for pricing. In this field, having more is best. We suggest that you consider the bids from a few contractors—at least three—to ensure a fair comparison.


If your preferred contactor’s bid is too high, you can utilise the art of negotiation to ensure the ball lands in your court. There are a few ways to go about doing this. One way of doing this is to meet with your preferred contractor to discuss if there are opportunities to crunch costs or to minimise expenses within the bid.

Another way to cut costs is to source the finishing elements and components yourself. This would leave you with only the installation costs from the contractor’s side.

Getting Started

After acceptance of the bid and finalisation of a contract between you and your awarded contractor, it is customary that a mobilisation payment be issued. This is an advance payment which will be repaid by the contractor over the course of the contract. It consists of 10% of the contracted sum paid to the contractor, which enables them to procure materials, the insurance bond, and the setup of a site office and staging area.

Planning and Building Authority Procedure

The Planning and Building Authority procedure is not particularly onerous, but does need to be considered ahead of time. The property owner must appreciate that such procedures need to be followed and an adequate amount of time should be allowed to get through the process.

Typically, you will first apply for planning permission, based upon a basic set of floor plans and elevations. It is usual for your architect/designer to guide you through this process as they will have—hopefully—designed a house in the past that is in compliance with all of the planning regulations.

Once planning permission has been obtained, the architect/designer will then move forward with the construction drawings that will actually be used to build the house. These will typically include structural drawings and MEPF drawings, (Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing and Fire Protection). Once complete, these construction drawings will be submitted to the building authority who will review and ensure the drawings comply with all local codes. Again, your architect/designer would usually steer you though this process. Upon receipt of the building authority’s approval, you will be ready to break ground and start the construction phase.

During the building process

Familiarise yourself with ‘Requests for Information’ or RFIs so that you’re not alarmed when they arise, because they will. During the building process, there are many times when issues will emerge requiring clarification. In the event that this happens, an RFI will be raised and sent to your architect or engineer for explication. This may lead to change orders or variations being made.

There’s no need to be alarmed, however these requests will be sent to yourself as project manager/client for approval, should variations be necessary.

Sample Timeline

For an average size, single family home, allow an overall timeline of eighteen months, six months of pre-construction activities and twelve months of construction, broken down as follows:


Conceptual Design – 4 weeks

Design Development – 4 weeks

Submission to Planning Authority – 4 weeks

Construction Documents – 4 weeks (8 weeks, but can commence when planning submission is made)

Submission to Building Authority/Tendering/Procuring – 8 weeks

Contract Award/Negotiation – 26 weeks

Construction Period – 52 weeks

Total Timeframe 78 weeks or 18 months

Structurally Sound and Quality Control

When self-managing a project, ensuring that the contractor sticks to the drawings provided is essential to its success. Not only should the architectural drawings be followed in great detail, attention must also be paid to both the Structural and MEP drawings to avoid mishaps later on in the process. This may result in the disbursement of additional funds to rectify errors that may cause undesirable changes to the design of the property.

One way to avoid this is to ensure that an inspection is carried out before every major pour of concrete. Your engineer is responsible for ensuring that your property is structurally sound, inspection and subsequent approval is then carried out by the Building Authority.

Things to look out for are; correct rebar spacing and sizes, and structurally sound blockwork; ensuring that there is concrete filling in each block that contains a rebar.

Another way to protect the overall design of your property is to arrange weekly or bi-weekly meetings with your architect to ensure that what was designed is built as specified.


  • Familiarise yourself with your core team players: These consist of your Architect, Contractor and Structural Engineer. Maintaining a strong line of communication is the key to a successful project.
  • A full set of construction drawings should contain: an architectural set (including door & window schedules and the finishes’ elements & components), a construction set, a structural set, a mechanical, electrical, and plumbing set (MEP) and a finishes specifications book or outline construction specification booklet. Provision of these to the selected contractors, will ensure you get the most accurate quote for your project.
  • Establish how much bank financing you can get, if required, and ensure the total amount of equity and debt is more than the total budget and thus inclusive of contingency
  • Try and build to an enhanced building code, such as Dade County. This will inevitably increase the construction cost of your home, but should result in reduced home insurance premiums and will give you much greater peace of mind, should the island be subjected to a catastrophic event.
  • The lowest price isn’t always the best price. You should accept a bid based not only on its price, but also on the expertise and qualifications of the contractor. While keeping your base budget in mind, consider which contractor meets all of the qualifications for your project. Then consider the costs. Remember, there’s always room for negotiation.
  • If you choose the self-supply route for construction, be sure to consult with your awarded contractor to ascertain the schedule and corresponding dates by which the materials/items should be on site. In this scenario, liability lies with you and any delay caused is likely to cost you additional funds, as time spent waiting is still time spent.
  • Ensure that there are no snags in the building process. Always ensure your architect, and engineer inspect and sign off on the structural elements, MEP components, and design layout before each major concrete pour. They are the individuals responsible for quality control throughout the building process.

Erin Paviour-Smith

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