Getting it right: Property assessment and the build process

 Hi, my name is Neal and I’m the Project Manager at Monkey Puzzle Day Nurseries. I have worked with the company for 5 years. Throughout my time here, I have been involved in the design and opening of over 20 nurseries. Important requirements in finding a great property include:

The Property

The first port of call would be to visit the potential property to see if it is financially feasible for the business, this is the fun part, I love viewing properties and envisioning how we could transform the building into a nursery. The property needs to be of a suitable size with adequate, free flowing outside space for the children to enjoy outdoor learning. It is important to review the class of the building – class E is what is required for a day nursery. This can create further questions such as, do you need to submit a change of use? Are there any planning restrictions? Do you need to submit a planning application? Ensuring this is reviewed in the early stages will allow you to adapt the cashflow and plan.

The Survey and Design

It’s important to thoroughly inspect the condition of the building, ensuring all the externals which form the main fabric of the building – roofs, windows, brick work – are in good condition. You then move onto the nitty gritty parts. What are the positions of existing drainage? Is the building itself in good condition? These questions can lead to very expensive answers if they are not answered in the early stages. You should always ask to see the asbestos report as well as service records of all M&E, boilers and aircon. Old buildings can be a mine field, so the newer the building the easier it will be to change the layout. Structural work is expensive – keep this to a minimum. I would then suggest re-design in the building to make the rooms bright, spacious, and free flowing – working to incorporate your brand guidelines as much as possible. Top tip, keep natural lighting at the forefront of your mind – this is important for both the children and the overall feel of the nursery, you want to create a airy, expansive and happy environment for the staff and children.

Tender Process and Construction

Tender documents should be produced and sent out to at least three building contractors; this will ensure you receive a competitive price. A top tip would be using reputable builders, who are experienced in this field, you want to get the project right the first time. I would also suggest a contingency is added to the tender to cover any unexpected costs that may arise during the build phase. Always work to a strict build programme, report on progress fortnightly, and hold regular site meetings – communication is key with your builders. The average five thousand square foot building would take 16 weeks to complete the full refurbishment, so take this into consideration. Throughout the build you must ensure all aspects of health and safety and CDM regulations are met as this is a legal requirement.

In summary, finding the right property for a nursery is an exciting process, it is the start of a journey for both you, your team and nursery children. Enjoy the process, envision your ideal nursery setting, and find the right, experienced team who can bring this dream alive for you.