The problem with builders…

Now don’t get me wrong, I love builders ! They’re the ones that construct the dreams of the client and create what I have designed and drawn. But it’s important for those undergoing a construction project to understand the pitfalls of taking “advice” from your builder:

1. Builders haven’t undergone a design training

It’s very easy for builders to give design advice without fully appreciating the decisions that were made during the design process; whether it’s the relationship between the new build and an existing building in order to create a ‘mannerly’ junction, or any references to the past that are incorporated in the design, or making fundamental changes that would compromise the planning permission; the builder is not the person to take design advice from – trust your architect, he/she has a wealth of design training, experience and expertise.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those architects that doesn’t listen to people (especially builders) but generally the architect designs and the builder, builds. You’ll see below the skills and knowledge that the builder can bring to the table.

2. Beware of variations

Once the builder has successfully tendered for a job on a fixed lump sum; the client should be very careful of making changes. Some design changes won’t involve an additional cost but clients should be VERY careful of making design changes ‘late in the day’ which would result in an increased construction cost. In todays economic climate, clients should take care of listening to builders where substantial works are proposed that will increase the construction cost.

3. Be careful of the easy option

Once the project has been successfully tendered and the contractor is progressing the build on site; the builder has a fixed build cost that he/she is working to, and again, in todays economic climate it is very easy for the builder to underprice the project. The client therefore needs to be very careful when a builder proposes an ‘alternative’ design that to his/her eyes is an improvement. Such changes may just be easier to build in order to save some money and to recoup any savings that were made on the tender sum. This ‘easy option’ as well as possibly saving money in materials may also be simpler in construction time that will therefore save in labour costs.

4. Up to date Technical Training

Builders can be brilliant at building but they may not be completely up to date with Building Regulations or ‘Best Practice’ construction techniques. Changes to the Building Regulations are happening at an incredible rate; especially in terms of heat, energy and ventilation. It is the architect who is completely up to date with these changes and it is essential that the builder constructs in accordance with the drawings that comply with the current Building Reguations, Irish / British Standards or current best building practice.

It’s important to say that architects don’t know everything and that good builders have a wealth of construction experience and may come up a construction solution that the architect would not have considered and it’s important that the architect is open to solutions that fulfill the same aims and goals but without compromising the design. Note that the builder is giving advice on what he knows best-building!

I’ll be posting on my Twitter and FaceBook accounts (http://twitter.com/architectmark http://www.facebook.com/markstephensarchitects) a project currently on site that is being constructed by excellent builders that involves some tricky detailing and design elements that shows how an architect and builder work together for a common aim.

Comments welcome…

2 thoughts on “The problem with builders…

  1. As someone who sits on design teams as a waterproofing specialist & sub-contractor, working with both builders and Architects, I can very much see the sense in what you say. The best projects are those where communication is good and all parties work together to ensure that everyone’s applicable considerations are discussed, agreed and implemented, but it is not always the case.

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