Unscrupulous Building Contractors?

Last year an Architect I knew asked me to take over a job that was in trouble. He told me that he had tried tirelessly to get the building contractor to carry out the work as specified, but found himself watching over the build like a hawk, as the contractor didn’t seem to have a clue as to what was required of him.

I visited the site with a trusty site supervisor I had used before and together we surveyed the work that had been carried out. Now I know that I harp on a bit about the dangers of using building contractors and the differences between them and that of construction management… but this was notably poor work. We made out a schedule of the items that we could find in one visit, which was sufficient to allow the client and Architect to finally get shot of the contractor.

It was pretty obvious that the relationship had completely broken down so I assisted the client in the negotiations with the ‘builder’ and helped them both come to a resolution about how much was owed to whom. I was not party to the actual figure which passed hands, but I know that the quantified schedule that I’d produced managed to get the original claim figure down to a reasonable amount.

One of the most difficult things, was that the whole project had been specified and drawn up for a building contractor scheme with all the technical control features included along with attendant specialists such as a Quantity Surveyor to deal with costings, A Structural Engineer on a full brief to deal with technical design features, A chimney designer and a lighting designer, as well as the Architect himself who oversaw the whole thing on a full watching and design brief. I was not privy to the total cost of all of this ‘professional’ assistance but I can only dream of fees such as theirs!

The first thing that happened was a reappraisal of everyone’s role and as I normally deal with costing it seemed that the Quantity Surveyor was surplus to requirement. He was strangely happy to relinquish his role as was the Structural Engineer which gave me my first inkling of trouble ahead. I had to completely rework the ‘Generic’ Bill of Quantities that the QS and Architect had formulated, as none of it was set to the ‘Work Package’ system that Construction Management uses. During this I found that a huge amount of errors were made due to changes in specification with the usual too-ing and fro-ing during the design phase, which I had thought was complete. It just goes to prove to me how unwieldy the professional systems are in the self build scenario!

By the time I had been called in, the foundations had been laid, the walls were up and a start had been made to construct the roof. All this in a matter of two months! I won’t bore you with the technical details, save to say that we had trouble finding anything which was constructed to the drawings and as for levels, the previous ‘builder’ must have thought that they were completely unnecessary.

We had to completely remove what roof had already been constructed and realign the steel support to match the out of line walls so that a roof could actually be erected that although difficult to achieve, could at least be uniform. Several of the walls were out of line due to the incorrect alignment of the foundations, which had been set on pilings due to the nature of the sub soil, so there was nothing we could do to correct those.

We have just about finished the job now and in the final analysis I find myself out of pocket due to the additional time I spent dealing with these thorny problems. Please be assured that I am not wailing in my tea about this, as I feel that all events in life serve a purpose…in this case don’t take on a job after it has been screwed up by a useless ‘building contractor’ without making allowance for what may pop up out of the blue.

I would have to say that this has been one of the most technically demanding and time consuming projects of my career…. I say one of, as there have been others and you know what… they were all rescue missions…. You’d have thought I’d have learned my lesson by now, but in those immortal words of Bruce Willis…” What’s a guy to do!

So next time you think of taking on a building contractor to build your new home, think of this blog and then please… think again.

Project Management

What is this and why should we use it for our building project?
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Feasibility

What should we look for?
Can we afford to do this?
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Budgeting

Finding out what it should all cost.
Keeping those costs under control.
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Programming

How it can really help a project.
How to do it properly.
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Tender Process

Making sure the build team is properly chosen and prepared.
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Procurement

Finding the best value materials.
Making sure they stay that way.
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Site Management

Working with the whole team,
helping everyone to get it right.
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CDM 2015 Regulations

Carrying out the Principle Contractor Role For CDM 2015 Regulations
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