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A minefield of risk

Posted on Mar 25, 2013

Last issue we looked at the value of design and the role that designers and architects play in bringing homeowner dreams to fruition when clear communication is undertaken early on in the process.

However, the role of the designer can go far beyond just that of the drawing stage. If engaged correctly, the value that your designer can add throughout the construction process can be monumental.

A common misconception is that once you have a set of plans you are set and ready to go. But the building component of the process is just as critical to get right as the design and documentation.

Construction can be a minefield of risk; from the management of the budget, to putting the project out for tender, to selecting and managing contractors. It is imperative you are doing this safely. Not only for your own peace of mind, but so as to ensure the end result is what you set out to achieve.

When working with a client we, as the designer, are asking them to focus on the end result.

What do they want to achieve, how do they want their new home to feel, what emotions do they want their spaces to evoke. It is from these words and thoughts that we craft the design: a two dimensional drawing on an A2 lined piece of paper.

This two dimensional piece of paper then forms the basis of your home to be interpreted by the various third parties involved in its build. Throughout the building process this two dimensional drawing is translated by the many different sub-contractors involved.

This will see your design ultimately translated into a real (and now three dimensional) building. So how do you ensure that what is being translated is taking the wants and needs from the beginning into your dream reality?

The observational role of the designer sees them manage this translation from beginning to end. This involves monitoring the various sub-contractors involved to ensure that every component being introduced to your design is of a high quality and conforms to the desired outcome.

By engaging with your designer they are then in a position to ensure that interpretations made are correctly aligned to the desired end result.

While the observation role is largely about ensuring the build is inline with the instructions associated with your design, it is also about quality and knowledge control. In the administration process this is around ensuring you, as the client, are entering into relationships safely.

The Building Amendment Act number Four proposes to make it mandatory that building work over $20,000 must have a building contract in place.

Building contracts are designed to accommodate things that change throughout the process, while ensuring that you, as the homeowner, are in control of the terms in which you enter into an agreement.

With one of the primary relationships in the building process between you and your builder, it is important that the contract you have with them includes a set of rules and is administered by an independent third party – which can be your designer.

The implementation of rules, such as having monthly reconciliations, will reduce surprises and allow the budget to be managed closely.

The wealth of paperwork that results from variations and changes that can occur during building can also be seamlessly managed.

One of the key issues that can arise during the building process is the management of money and payments. With budget and time frames being the two most contested components in the building process, it is critical that a third party is engaged to ensure smooth and clear management of these issues

In most instances, building progress payments are required at key points throughout the process. Engaging your designer in an observational role will see them assessing these – ensuring that what is paid for has indeed been completed and within the requirements outlined in the building contract.

If you were looking to buy a new home you would engage a lawyer for advice, so why when we are building do we not apply the same process?

If managed by a third party, a construction contract will ensure that a balanced agreement is reached by all, protecting not just the builder, but you.

By engaging your designer to manage this minefield of risk you are making key steps in ensuring you are delivered the desired end result on time and to budget.

With more than 20 years industry experience, Cymon Allfrey holds the Chair of the ADNZ National Board and has won the ADNZ National Supreme Award three times in the past five years.
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