Building in the summer in Spain and what to expect

Northern Europeans and Brits have a love affair with Spain, and pre-pandemic, Spain was the second most visited country in the world, with 83.7 million tourists in 2019. Just this year, the foreign resident population hit 6 million too. There are lots of reasons why we love it so much, but two of the most often cited are the lovely year-round weather and laid-back attitude.

Hot summers lying by the pool or at the beach and sunny rounds of golf even in the winter are a dream for so many and a main driving force of why many of our clients decide to build a luxury villa in Spain. However, they don’t always think about what this hot weather and holiday atmosphere means for the progress of their project.

There is often a culture shock when foreign buyers want to buy a plot and build a villa in Spain. They may be used to high levels of prefabrication, load bearing brick walls, steel frameworks and high levels of health and safety measures on site, whereas things can be quite different here.

You will find mainly wet construction methods and very set ways of doing things which are based on tradition, the climate and the specific requirements on Spanish buildings. For example, parts of Spain are in active earthquake zones and the popular tourist areas where most foreign buyers want to build are particularly strong for seismic activity. This has led to a decline in the use of brickwork and steel frames for load bearing walls in Spain in the twentieth century.

Our clients also get frustrated with delays due to the slow pace at which building licences are granted and they perceive that work on site is not progressing as quickly as it should. This is exacerbated in the summer months, when clients often come to visit and inspect the site, only to see it empty and inactive for large parts of the day. We know this can be frustrating, but we also need to protect workers, safeguard their health and encourage good working conditions for them. During the summer months, this means shorter hours.

Protecting construction workers from the heat

Construction is big business across Spain, with 64,000 people employed in the industry in the Malaga province alone. During the hottest part of the summer, July and August in particular, most construction sites work on a reduced scheduled, starting and finishing early, to avoid the hottest part of the day. In Andalucía, it is usual to have an 8am-3pm or 8.30am to 3.30pm working day for construction workers to protect them from extreme temperatures.

However, there are calls from the trade unions in the Malaga province to extend the seven-hour working day from 27 June to 3 September, as they claim the hot temperatures are starting earlier and finishing later. Whereas the employers, who want to turn around projects as soon as they can, are pushing to keep the current summer timetable between 18 July and 31 August. The Malaga trade union for the construction industry, the CCOO, has launched a campaign “Don’t get hot, demand prevention!” to try to push through the longer summer timetable, so it remains to be seen whether this will be accepted by the industry and extend that summer lull.

Why local knowledge and understanding is critical for a successful project

In order to successfully build in Spain, you need an expert on the ground who understands both the local customs, work rate and processes and your culture and expectations. They will be able to explain how a building project in Spain will run and set a realistic timetable, helping you to adjust your expectations to where you’re building. Remember that schedules should be aligned to payments. It’s crucial not to ever exceed the schedule and cashflow analysis!

They also need to be fluent in Spanish language and culture to know how to handle the team and what can realistically be expected and achieved without causing bad feelings on site. That way they can be an effective intermediary for you, protecting your interests, while working within the norms of the Spanish construction practices and processes.

Keeping it local and having someone on the ground will also allow them to explain the regional differences and rules and regulations you may encounter. In Madrid for example the reduced working days run from the 11th of July to the 15th of August, while other communities won’t permit noise, disruption or construction at all during July and August. This means that while internal work can continue, they don’t allow lorries to come in and out or have cranes moving overhead. When we were project managing a villa construction in Ibiza there was no construction allowed at all on the island between May and September due to the importance of tourism for the area.

We recommend that our clients factor in a loss of productivity during the summer months due to the shorter summer timetable. However, it’s not just the summer of course, bad weather in the winter can also cause delays, so you need to leave some contingency for climate related downtime throughout the project. The months of August and December are holiday months, so you should expect work to slow down.

How MDCI can help you keep your project on track all year long

Our project management experts in Spain are with you every step of the way. We are your trusted partner with local understanding, fluency in Spanish and a personal approach which respects your values, protects your interests and ensures your aims are realised.

From the very beginning we work with you on the plans, timetables and budgets, making recommendations which take into account seasonal variations and delays such as permits so there are no nasty surprises. We will also help to ensure the suppliers and tradespeople you use are trusted and reliable, and the contracts protect your interest and encourage the team to finish on time.

We then move to our project supervision and monitoring phase, where we will oversee the project on your behalf, dealing with any issues, making decisions and taking people to task to ensure everything remains on track. Your wants and needs are always our top priority and our detailed monthly reports ensure you’re informed and up-to-date at all times. This continues until your luxury villa development is finished in line with your brief and we’re ready to hand you the keys so you can enjoy everything that Spain has to offer.

If you are planning to build a villa or a development in Spain, don’t go it alone. Contact MDCI today and let us help you to finish on time, on budget and delivering an exceptional result.

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