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Project managers

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

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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.

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Case studies

Case study 1
David bought a section in a new subdivision and used the company that was developing the subdivision to design and build his new house. The company organised everything. He had a positive building experience and was very happy with the results.

But he has some advice – be involved. He and his wife had lots of input, they lived close by and watched progress daily. They got onto problems immediately, for example, they noticed the kitchen oven gas-fitting was in the wrong place the day before installation. They kept in close contact with the project office and found this worked well for them.

Case study 2
Diana and Geoff had major renovations done, firstly remodelling downstairs (Stage 1) and then adding a second storey to their home (Stage 2). They had problems with the architectural designer and his electrician in the first stage, so they employed a project manager to oversee Stage 2. After one change in builder, another building contractor took over the contract and finished the construction phase of Stage 2. They then discovered that the project manager had been less than truthful and he was subsequently convicted of fraud. Their advice is to get paperwork for everything and check out the credentials of the people you employ.

Case study 3
If Amy had used an Accredited Adviser, she could have saved herself some major problems. She lives with two family members who use wheelchairs. She used a builder to design and build a house and gave clear instructions that it had to accommodate the special needs of the occupants.

She now finds the bathroom and toilet don’t provide enough space to manoeuvre a wheelchair, and other design flaws have left the house unfit for its purpose. She could have benefited from the expertise of an Accredited Adviser who understood the special requirements of people with disabilities.

Case study 4
Kyle managed his own project, using a labour-only contract. While it went well in the end, and saved considerable costs, it was a huge time commitment which kept him constantly on the phone, or running around chasing suppliers and contractors. He felt the potential cost to his family and work was too great and next time he would use a building company.

Case study 5
When Roger decided to manage construction of his new home, he started right from the very beginning. He subdivided the section employing a surveyor who did most of the negotiation with the council and paperwork involved in a subdivision. He knew some delays would be inevitable given the pressure on the trades to keep up with demand in the current market. But he kept delays to a minimum by establishing good lines of communication – he made sure the main contractors knew each other and if they didn’t he introduced them. He got them to communicate with each other so that when one finished, the next in line was ready to start, but Roger kept an eye on things to make sure each knew who would be involved at the next stage.

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