The online resource for the historic environment

5.06 Cost planning and control

Unforeseen eventualities are inevitable when working on the historic environment and sensible contingency planning and budget allocation is essential. Contingency fund allocation should not be allowed to become excessive and used as an excuse for proper investigation and works definition prior to intervention works commencing but it will be a necessary part of the budgeting system.

"There is no limit to the resources which could be applied to heritage conservation if they were available, but in reality they are always limited. Setting priorities means that resources can be targeted and their use justified.”
English Heritage (1996) A Future for Our Past

“Although cost effectiveness should never be viewed as the most important or central determinant in conservation work, it must be borne in mind that efficient cost planning and control make scarce resources go further.”
Stirling, S. (2000)

The preparation of comprehensive pre-contract information in the form of drawings, specifications, schedules and general work definitions is essential if accurate cost prediction and expenditure control is to be effective. There is no substitute for clear definition of extent, quantification and quality of work when intervening in the historic built environment. All works must be fully investigated and defined if efficient cost control is to be achieved. There must be no or minimal doubt as to extent of works. Agreed measurable rates must be negotiated in preference to use of day work rates and methods. The role of the quantity surveyor in this regard is paramount as close cost control is vital if excessive cost overruns are to be avoided. A closely controlled and monitored cost variation and control system should be implemented if cost escalation is to be avoided

“Uncertainty can be minimised in any project by careful survey, investigation and pre-contract preparation, by the production of good documentation and choice of appropriate form of contract and appropriately skilled and experienced contractors and tradesmen. It is, however, in the nature of historic buildings work that unexpected things may happen.”
The Care of Historic Buildings and Ancient Monuments. loc cit .

To facilitate a more accurate approach to budgeting and cost identification and allocation, an initial cost feasibility study is a very useful precursor to full cost study and analysis. The benefits to this initial process may be identified as follows:

  • Assessing if the work can be afforded
  • Focuses attention on cost structure and if linked to prioritisation for expenditure, can assist in identifying an urgency response
  • Can facilitate a better initial overall picture by identifying elemental costs, thus assisting in a cost breakdown structure and costs impact
  • Assists in identifying funding sources
  • Provides an armature on which to hang final response structure