Australia: Con­struc­tion — inde­pen­dent ver­i­fi­ca­tion, is it that simple?

Last Updated: 21 May 2019
Article by Helen Kowal

The Aus­tralian Stan­dards Design and Con­struct Con­tract AS 4902–2002, does not make any pro­vi­sion for an inde­pen­dent ver­i­fi­ca­tion process through­out the build. With build­ing defects on the rise, one has to con­sid­er that the appoint­ment of an inde­pen­dent project ver­i­fi­er, to over­see the works and con­duct inspec­tions at cer­tain hold points through­out the con­struc­tion, may assist in reduc­ing defects giv­ing rise to the neces­si­ty of builders return­ing to rec­ti­fy defects at the end of a build.

Many projects see the appoint­ment of a site fore­man or a project man­ag­er on behalf of the builder but, this may not give much com­fort to the own­er or devel­op­er. In many cas­es, that site fore­man may be spread thin across many sites with insuf­fi­cient time to con­duct basic checks of the works in between trades. And whilst there may be a project man­ag­er appoint­ed by the developer/owner to con­duct inspec­tions and man­age progress claims, etc, unless the con­tract terms allow, that project man­ag­er may have lit­tle pow­er to direct the builder to 're-do' works.

With the lack of require­ment in NSW for an engi­neer to be licenced or reg­is­tered and lit­tle account­abil­i­ty for sign off, at the end of the day, what com­fort can you be giv­en that the job is being done properly?

Shane Vel­la, the Man­ag­ing Direc­tor of The Lin­den­v­el Group has been work­ing in the con­struc­tion indus­try for 39 years and present­ly runs a con­struc­tion man­age­ment company.

Shane sees one of the big prob­lems as being that there is a lack of skilled and expe­ri­enced trades­men with a short­fall in edu­ca­tion. Shane com­ment­ed that "Peo­ple are not being trained like we used to, it is cheap­er to get unskilled peo­ple who are then work­ing under min­i­mal super­vi­sion. Some­one who comes in to check the work as it pro­gress­es is vital. It comes down to three things – super­vi­sion, check­ing and pro­gram­ming." He fur­ther stat­ed that "It is just as easy to do it right as it is to do it wrong".

In his time as a con­struc­tion man­ag­er, Shane has seen some defects that should nev­er have been cer­ti­fied, result­ing in walls hav­ing to be pulled down due to win­dow flash­ings being non-exis­tent giv­ing rise to intense water pen­e­tra­tion. Defects that if inspect­ed on the way through, would have been picked up and fixed before it was too late. In many cas­es, where reme­di­al works are required, Shane has found that sig­nif­i­cant destruc­tive test­ing needs to be per­formed to allow a reme­di­al scope of works to be for­mu­lat­ed that will actu­al­ly work.

As a builder/developer, some tips that may cost a lit­tle more than you want at the begin­ning of a build, but which may result in sig­nif­i­cant cost sav­ings at the end of a build rec­ti­fy­ing defects, are:

  • fac­tor in your cost­ings the appoint­ment of an 'inde­pen­dent ver­i­fi­er' (i.e. a build­ing consultant/construction man­ag­er) inde­pen­dent of both par­ties, to attend hold point inspec­tions after each trade and at crit­i­cal stages through­out the build e.g. water­proof­ing mem­branes, to ensure that the works have been done properly;
  • ensure the build­ing con­tract makes pro­vi­sion for the appoint­ment of an 'inde­pen­dent ver­i­fi­er' and the pow­ers that the 'ver­i­fi­er' has to order works be re-done if required; and
  • have a detailed and site-spe­cif­ic con­struc­tion pro­gramme in place (in Shane's words "not just a pro­gram designed to make some­one hap­py") which allows for staged inspec­tions and then ensure that the trades­men fol­low it. Ensure the trades­men don't just jump head if there has been a delay just to keep their trade on track, things will be missed which will not be picked up until it is too late.

Shane's final com­ment "If peo­ple take care dur­ing the project you will end up with a bet­ter build­ing at the end of the job and save mon­ey".

If you require assis­tance in draft­ing ade­quate con­tract terms at the begin­ning of your build to save mon­ey lat­er, our con­struc­tion team can ensure you are cov­ered. The con­tents of this doc­u­ment are not to be relied upon in sub­sti­tu­tion for legal advice.

For further information please contact:

Helen Kowal, Partner
Phone: +61 2 9777 8321
Email: hek@swaab.com.au

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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