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Selecting the right professional team for your next building project

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Tandem Consulting Engineers understands that every building project is important. The team that you select to design, document and construct your building project will determine whether you have a successful outcome.

Your building project deserves to be architecturally designed to suit your needs, to suit your budget, to suit the property, to be energy efficient and to be approved by the local council. The structural engineer will ensure that your building project is designed to be structurally adequate.

During the development application and construction certificate stages, the council or the private certifier will require sufficient evidence and confidence that the project documentation meets the requirements of the local Council and also the requirements of the Building Code of Australia.

Thorough documentation means that the builder can understand what is required. It allows the builder to be more accurate when they prepare their cost estimates. It reduces the surprises and the extra costs of previously unknown variations.

When you start building, the design needs to be sensible and facilitate easy construction. The design documentation needs to be thorough so that you and the builder have all the information.

As the property owner you expect that the completed building will withstand the test of time and the forces of nature. If the design has been done properly and the construction has been undertaken by competent and professional tradespersons then the building will have minimal ongoing costs and will provide a lifetime of acceptable performance and low maintenance.

But, what’s the alternative? Imagine this scenario, it’s all too common:

You picked a building designer and engineer on price alone. Your application was held up in council for months while you paid crippling finance costs on your land purchase. There were so many redesigns and revisions, that both you and council became very confused as to what were the latest plans.

Finally it was approved, and you were ready to get some building quotes. You really liked one of the builders. He had a friendly personality and his stories were fascinating and entertaining. He also just happened to be the cheapest of all of the quotes.

Unfortunately what you thought was a fixed price quote, turned out to be untrue. As soon as construction started you received the first variation. Apparently no one knew that the sewer went straight under the building! and it continues… At times it felt that the builder was hitting you up for a progress payment and a variation every week.

The builder complained that the dimensioning on the plans was incorrect. Then the engineer took 4 weeks holiday in South-East Asia. This caused a significant hold up, and part of the construction needed to be rebuilt when it was realized that there was an error on the plans. The builder then went into liquidation, claiming that he’d misquoted the construction, and even though you’d paid all of those variations your project was left unfinished and at the whim of the appointed liquidators.

It sounds dramatic, but it is a very familiar outcome.

It doesn’t need to be this way. A small amount of research, leg work and asking the right questions can prevent this outcome. What should you do?

  1. Interview a number of building designer or architects. Get references from their previous clients. Ask to see their work & their documentation. Does the building designer or architects have a good reputation? Do you like them and do you want to work with them? Discuss the budget for your building project.
  2. Consider the associations of the building designer or architect. Good building designers or architects work with good engineers and good builders. Each of them rely on the reputations of the other parties for their projects to be successful. Ask who the building designer or architect recommends as the engineer & as the builder, then assess the reputation and quality of work of the teams that have been suggested.
  3. Compare the quotes for architectural design fees and all of the information that you have gathered. Make a decision and engage the building designer or architect.
  4. Confirm that the design and size of the building project is consistent with your budget. Finalise the design with the building designer or architect. You are now ready to talk to a structural engineer.

Do the same process regarding the selection of the structural engineer. Get a number of quotations. Ask for references, confirm that the engineer is qualified, insured, and experienced. Can they do the job?

Compare the quotes for engineering design fees. Are all the engineers offering the same scope of services? Does the cheapest quote match the simplicity of your rental building project, or does the more expensive quote align with the thoroughness, complexity and quality that your home building project deserves? Make a decision and engage the engineer.

A good engineer may be able to suggest subtle amendments to the architectural design in order to improve the ease of construction, reduce the costs of construction, or improve the performance of the building. Keep an open mind so that you can absorb any such advice.

When all of the design documentation is completed, you can submit the information to the local council or the appointed private certifier. The approval process will be the first opportunity to assess how thorough the design documentation is. If the council or certifier requires more information, then you will need to request that the architectural designer or structural engineer provides what is required.

A successful building project starts with a successful design that predicts and deals with the problems before they happen. Thorough design takes time and thought. It is an investment that will be money well spent. It will reduce your costs during construction and reduce the ongoing maintenance costs of the finished building.  A well designed and properly built home is a property investment that is immediately apparent to a future buyer.

Visit http://www.buildlocal.com.au/listings/tandem-consulting-engineers/ for more information on Tandem Consulting Engineers.

Scott Warner – Tandem Consulting Engineers

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February 4, 2014 |

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