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Building - Is it worth the hassle?

In our 37 years of trading, we have seldom been involved in serious disputes between the building owner and builder. Occasionally we get a call from a client, that we have prepared the design and plans for, to ask us to check a builder's workmanship and we are usually happy to oblige. This might then result in putting a client's mind at rest or having a quiet word with the builder but seldom more. Given that we have dealt with over 2000 projects in that time and, the number of problems of a serious nature we have been made aware of, a number less than 10, says a lot. I put this down to good planning. So what do I mean by good planning? It must include all those things leading up to the builder starting on site and the most pre-eminent of these is the design. Get the design right, taking on board all the relevant factors, and there really is no excuse for problems. We pride ourselves at Building Tectonics to design buildings that give the client what they want BUT BUILDABLE TOO. For instance, we do not shy away from drawing our sections through the difficult bit of the construction, which a few designers do and perhaps I will expand on this aspect at a later date if I get many requests to do so.

So where else can it go wrong, as I say above, we do know of a handful of cases where the client has been left with an unfinished building or unsatisfactory work. In a nutshell, you can put this down to bad faith or mental instability. Either the builder or the client is a cheat and never intended to make good on their commitment. Sometimes, the builder or the client has suffered from a breakdown of some sort and they are not the person they were when the work commenced.

So, as the client, what can you do to avoid such risks? You obviously need to check your builder out by talking to past clients, and perhaps ask to see some past work too. This past body of work should go back some years and not just be recent either. It is hard for newbies to get started in any business but do you really want to be the first or second customer? Communicating properly and being upfront about concerns for many does not come easy but it's better to nip something in the bud early on. If in doubt about what you are told, talk to someone experienced in building work because they may bring a different perspective. When you are up close to the work you cannot always see the wood for the fees! Please excuse the pun but I think you get the message. Remember, most builders are honest and hardworking albeit not always the best managers or communicators, they often do not need to advertise for work because they rely on their reputation for a constant workflow.

So this is where you as the building owner, the client, the one ultimately paying the price come in. Start off with procuring a good design, with no hidden problems or unknowns, good plans showing the work as this is the tool we use to communicate when words fail (they have also acted as contract documents) and record decisions and agreements along the way. Be honest - you have to pay for things you have asked for and you should be forthright and timely in calling out errors or misunderstandings on the builder's part.

Lastly, try to enjoy the process. Like all journeys, they can be stressful if you don't know where you are going or how you are going to get there.

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