1 Aug 2009

Your architect is your guardian angel: Part 3

New Homes | Renovations | Services | Tips and Advice

Following on from my earlier articles on understanding the value of working with an architect, I will now focus on protecting your interests during the actual building phase of your project.

Please note that the comments that I am about to make are true for any building work, be it a renovation or the building of a brand new home.

So let’s start by looking at the importance of having me create your detailed design drawings.

It’s all there in black and white:

A lot of people do not realise this, but not all building designs are created equally, nor do they need to be. In fact, drawings can be quite vague as there is no legal requirement for them to have a high level of detail. Yes, they do need to cover the basics in order to gain relevant permits and approvals, but beyond that designs can lack much of the detail that is required to achieve a high-quality result.

And whilst you may think that this will not impact on you and your project, the reality is that it can and probably will.

Draftspeople and other non-architecturally qualified building designers often create designs that lack fine detail. But this is not only true of non-architects. Some architects offer very low-cost design services. How can they afford to? Well for some, they manage to maintain their high margins by spending less time creating the final drawings. That’s not to say that they rush the job, instead, it means that they leave out the time-consuming aspect of the drawings which is putting in the intricate detail. The very detail that can be the difference between all your dreams coming true, or the realisation of your worst nightmare.

I need to point out here that I am referring to detailed contract drawings, not the standard design concept or building application drawings. Our details contract drawings include not only an outline of raw materials to be used in your project but also how they are placed together to ensure that they look good, feel right, function well and will be built to stand the test of time.

When I create final drawings, the very drawings that builders need to quote on and then build off, I ensure that they are incredibly detailed. Detail takes time, and time costs money, therefore I am not the cheapest option, but I also will ensure that your building project does not end in an expensive disaster.

So exactly what type of detail are we talking about? Well, the type that ensures that there are no shortcuts.

My drawings include such things as materials to be used and quality of workmanship. By clearly spelling this out in your design drawings, there can be no arguments later. If these things are not spelt out then costly errors can occur.

For example, if your designs do not specify a certain standard of materials, then the builder may quote on cheaper quality materials than you originally wanted. When it comes time to actually build your project, the builder will then claim that because the standard was not clearly stated in the drawings, it is not covered in their original quote. You then have the choice of either
a) accepting lower standard materials being used on your home or
b) you will have to pay extra, over and above their quoted price, as the higher standard of materials are now a variation (we will talk more about variations in a moment).

As you can imagine this can all run into quite a few dollars. But even more so if it is not picked up until after work has commenced. If the builder has already purchased and started building using these lower quality materials, then you will not only have to pay a for a variation on the existing quote, you will now have to pay them for pulling down what they have already done and starting again. You will also quite probably have to pay for the poor quality materials as well. At the very least you will be paying for those materials that have been used that are no longer in a returnable condition.

By creating detailed drawings, and clearly spelling out the type, size and standard of materials to be used, you can avoid these costly mistakes.

The more the merrier:

Independent architects, such as myself, are not tied to a particular builder. I do not receive kickbacks or commissions of any kind from any builder. So why am I telling you this? Because it highlights the next benefit of having me create your new home or renovation design.

Because I am not tied to any particular builder, the drawings I create for your home will be open to tender (unless you have a preferred builder that you insist must do your work), allowing for you to receive and then assess a number of quotes.

The advantage of this is that you are virtually guaranteed to get the best deal. That may be the lowest price, or it could be the best value for money.

For example, a quote that is not the cheapest, but offers higher quality materials and/or workmanship, may be more appealing, and greater value for money, than the cheapest quote. This may be the better option for your project providing it is still within your budget.

Alternatively, a quote that is not the cheapest, but comes from a builder who is able to complete the job faster may be the best option for your particular circumstances. The point is, by having me create your drawings you will have options because you won’t be tied into using any one builder. You can either take the drawings and get quotes yourself or, more commonly, you can have me get the quotes for you. Either way, it’s best to get me to go through the quotes with you to ensure you understand each one completely.

Straying from the chosen path:

Earlier I mentioned variations, let me now explain what that term means and, more importantly, what it can mean to you and your project.

A variation is where something wasn’t allowed for in the original quote, which typically requires an additional payment over and above the original quoted price.

There are a number of reasons why variations occur. Some of these reasons are unavoidable, but more often than not they occur because of a lack of detail in the original drawings.

Having dion seminara architecture create your drawings for you help reduce variations. However unavoidable circumstances can still lead to variations being required.

An unavoidable situation could include such things as finding rocks in an area that needs to be excavated. Encountering rocks will sometimes happen when digging footings for an addition, but more commonly occur when a client insists on something like a basement garage that requires an excessive amount of digging. A quote will be given for this work, however, there are times where the builder will start excavating only to find that there is hard rock a couple of feet under the softer topsoil. Chances are there was no cost-effective way of knowing this until the excavation work commenced. But if the builder has quoted on excavating soil, only to find that they now need to break through hard rock, it is reasonable that they request a variation on their original quote before continuing.

The main thing to understand here is that by using my services, I will be on hand to discuss, debate and ultimately advise you on the legitimacy of any variation request, giving you the peace of mind in knowing that the builder is not just trying to milk more money out of you.

By not using the services of an independent architect such as myself, you run the risk of receiving numerous variation requests on your original quote. This might not be the fault of the builder, particularly if your drawings are not detailed enough. Without detailed drawings, it is not always possible for the builder to know exactly what they are quoting on. By having me create your drawing for you, all materials and specifications will be spelt out, resulting in less variations being required.

I’ve got your back:

Regardless of how detailed your drawings are disputes can, and do arise in the building game. Managing builders and subcontractors can be a stressful affair, with misunderstandings and disagreements being reasonably common. Often this is because builders and/or subcontractors are looking at the easiest option for themselves, rather than focusing on the best outcome for their clients.

Recently a client of mine was told by their builder that the way they wanted one of their rooms built would not work and that he would have to do it another way. My client simply called me and I went around to discuss the matter with the builder onsite. After just a few minutes I had explained how the room was to be built and the builder agreed that it could be done, albeit harder than the option he was trying to promote.

This is just one of many examples of the benefit of having me manage the project for you. Issues such as this will be taken care of on your behalf.

Getting what you paid for:

Unless your project is particularly small you will be expected to make progress payments to your builder at various stages throughout the project. But how much should you pay and when should these payments be made?

Most of this will be covered in your contract, but it’s important that you only pay for work that has been done and done to a high standard. As your architect, I assess these payment requests and only approve them on the proviso that the builder has kept their end of the bargain, and that all work that they are requesting payment for has been done to an acceptable standard.

Failure to make sure that the work has been done correctly can occasionally cause major problems as many people have paid a progress payment to a builder in the past, only to find that the builder has gone out of business a couple of weeks later, and they have paid for work that was never completed or materials that were never purchased.

So as you can see there are numerous ways in which I can protect your best interests. I not only work to ensure that your project is completed to a high standard, I can also assist in saving you money and countless hours of heartache.

So whether you’re renovating or building from scratch give me a call and sit back safe in the knowledge that I am looking after your best interests.

To contact me via email simply click HERE.

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