We describe the professionals who can manage your house-building project for you.

Architect or designer-managed

If you are using a registered architect to custom-design your home, they will probably offer a full service which includes managing the project. In fact, they will probably prefer this option.

If the plans are being drawn by an architectural designer or an architectural draughtsperson, they may also offer this service.

Keeping on the architect/designer means paying for their services and you may be tempted to stop using them once the plans are drawn to make some savings. This could prove to be false economy. The plans are only written instructions. Are you confident that you will be able to interpret them when the builder asks a question about them? If they are interpreted incorrectly, there could be costly mistakes, and it may not be clear who is liable for the costs once the architect has stepped away from the project.

Company-managed

When you use a group housing company, or kitset/pre-built home, the price usually includes the services of a project manager. Often you are buying the section, plans and building services as part of the package and don’t have to organise any of this yourself. But it doesn’t mean stepping away and not taking any interest in the project.

Builder-managed

When you hire a builder on a full contract, depending on what is in the terms of the contract, they can manage everything from getting a designer, hiring the subcontractors, liaising with you on variations and getting materials on site.

Or, you might have a hybrid arrangement where you use an architect or designer to do the plans and have an overview of the entire project, as well as monitor the budget and progress payments, but the builder takes on the hiring, and acquiring of materials and organising inspections.

The responsibilities need to be clearly spelt out in the contract.

Other professionals

Other professionals, like quantity surveyors, sometimes take on the project management task. This can happen by default, for example, when the project manager you engaged lets you down.

Project management companies

There are companies that specialise in providing project management services for building construction. They are usually involved in apartments or commercial sites but often manage ordinary home-building where the house is a complicated design or at the expensive end of the market. Or they get called upon by busy people who want someone to take the whole project off their hands.

Most project management companies are happy to be approached and discuss your new house with you.

Small firms, or people working alone, also offer their services as project managers.

You will pay a fee for their services. Check with the individual companies and managers to see how their fees compare to those of the architect, or the margin you pay the builder to manage the project. But, as with any project management, what you pay in fees can often be saved by avoiding the expensive mistakes on a badly-managed building site.

Look under Project Management or Building Consultants in the Yellow Pages to find names of project management companies and individuals.

Self-management

The main reasons people decide to manage projects themselves is because they believe they can save money, or do a better job themselves.

Some people can manage a building project themselves with good results. It can be very satisfying.

On the downside, managing the project yourself is a huge commitment which will cost you time, may impact on your own work or business, and put stress on your family. And being responsible for the finished house meeting all aspects of the Building Code means that unless you know the building industry pretty well, you could compromise the resulting quality of the house.

You have to organise the inspections, the quality control, and supervise and co-ordinate the labour-only subcontractors and suppliers, keeping in close communication with the builder at these stages. If the builder or subcontractors are kept waiting, they might go off to another job and it can be difficult to get them back. The alternative is to pay them for doing nothing while you organise materials, other subcontractors, or building inspections.

You will also have responsibilities for the health and safety on the building site under the Health and Safety in Employment Act, and for all insurance issues.

In short, when you self-manage, the responsibility for everything that happens on the building site rests with you.