News 20th September 2019 france vs the UK

If you’re a UK property investor with developments in France, why does it matter who the project manager is? Project management in France is a consideration, in fact.

Because the appetite amongst international investors for French real estate continues to grow. Moreover, investors’ understanding of the statutory and cultural nuances of managing building projects in France is slowly developing.

In 2018, it is estimated that more than 40% of the 31bn Euros invested in French real estate was from international investors, compared to 25% in 2017. However, to fully realise and develop the value of those assets, investors need to understand some of the specific risks, and opportunities, involved in undertaking refurbishment and redevelopment projects in France.

The ‘normal’ rules don’t apply

I spent a decade as a Project Manager in the UK before moving to France roughly 10 years ago. As a result, I took on a variety of projects across France for a variety of international clients. These range across logistics, office and retail assets. Therefore, I know first-hand that assumptions typical of the UK don’t necessarily apply in France.

A different approach is necessary to collaborate effectively with suppliers, consultants and statutory bodies. Meanwhile, the risks require clear communication with clients.

For example, the role of the architect in France is much greater than in the UK. First, they have wider responsibilities in engaging with the local authorities and statutory bodies. Second, in some cases, there exist the administration of building contracts.

Getting procurement right

Selecting the right Architect is therefore vital to the success of the project. Namely, they must combine technical capability, regulatory knowledge and a commercial approach. Together with the softer skills required to work with the client and project team.

The manner in which you procure work also differs. Accordingly, most favour a ‘traditional’ approach over the design and build route common to the UK. Moreover, the French typically procure works in separate packages under multiple contracts directly with the client. This differs from the sub-contractors to the main contractor approach.

Combined with the absence of standard form contracts we see in the UK, this means contract drafting can be more involved to meet the institutional standards required of many of our clients.

A different risk regime

The risk management regime is different, and in many ways more robust, in France. The appointment of independent, licenced advisors, separate to the design team, is required for both building regulations and health and safety, while further specialist advisors are required specifically for high-rise buildings.

As with the selection of architects, having a local network of the best consultants in these areas is crucial.

These are just three examples of where undertaking major projects in France differ from the UK and demonstrate how important it is for the right project manager to be appointed.

The importance of understanding the French real estate market

Investors need someone to navigate those differences on their behalf. The ability to combine a strong local network of consultants and suppliers with a detailed knowledge of French technical and statutory requirements is essential.

This knowledge, our understanding of international investor requirements, and the ability of our bilingual team to communicate effectively with all parties enable Workman Turnbull to successfully fulfil this role for a growing number of international clients.

Paul Fenton
Director of Project Management – Workman Turnbull
t. + 33 1 47 42 84 56
e. [email protected]