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".
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