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Who’s responsible for solutions when an owner supplies plans to the builder?

Building a home or completing renovations is a thrill for all involved.

There’s nothing quite like moving through the journey from imagination to plan to bricks-and-mortar reality. The realisation of your dream house is a high-water mark property owners remember forever.

Of course, almost every project in history has had a driving force guiding it to success – and that’s the project manager.

The project manager is the go-to source for information, co-ordination and decisions, and is the ultimate authority for any venture.

This means the project manager is also responsible for finding solutions and ensuring that plans, specifications and the physical attributes of a property align. What ends up on the ground must match with what’s described in the plans – and to achieve that result, all the documents must talk the same language.

In these days of DIY ethic, many owners like to co-ordinate their own property designs, working with an architect or draftsman to create the home of their dreams. They’ll then take their fresh, new drawings to their chosen builder, lay them on the table and say, ‘Build this’.

Unfortunately, many think they can then dust their hands of all responsibility and walk away… this project has become the builder’s problem now, hasn’t it?

In short, the answer is ‘no’!

Responsible for answers

By sourcing your own plans and supplying them to your head contractor, you are responsible for their integrity and that means you are effectively the project manager of the build.

As exciting as this might sound, the reality is far less appealing, because as the project manager, you are in charge of making sure everything runs smoothly.

The role of the project manager can be exhausting, especially since there isn’t one set of plans for any venture. Construction works involve multiple docs. There are the architectural or draftsman’s plans certainly, but these lead to engineering and structural drawing too. In addition, projects involve specifications sheets. There will also be survey plans, services locations and even drawing elements related to the council approval process.

The challenge is if you supply the plans to the builder, any conflicts that arise between this variety of documents needs to be resolved by you and the consultant you employed to complete the documentation – not the builder.

It’s not an easy task. Unforeseen problems cost money, and when you’re dealing with quality construction, mistakes can be expensive.

Let’s say your designer includes a patio, but the engineer realises they’ve underestimated the stress load from the roof design. This will involve having to go back to the designer and finding a solution that fulfils your goals as the homeowner, and the physics of keeping the construction structurally compliant.

Quite apart from the extra cost of design, materials and labour, there’s the additional time spent by you trying to resolve the issue – something that’s often in short supply for busy owners.

Problems also tend to become bigger because most owners don’t have the real-life experience of multiple building projects under their belt to help them spot potential issues and resolve them quickly.


The solution

Put simply, smart owners bring their builder into the process from the beginning and have them co-ordinate document preparation.

This means their builder becomes the project manager.

Builders have the practical know-how that comes from experience, so they’ll spot the pros and cons of most sites and be able to discuss the obstacles and solutions with the relevant parties.

Builders are also acutely aware of costs. Designers may love it when an owner brings them an unfettered wish list of inclusions, but they often pay little regard to the expense of fulfilling these dreams.

This can result in disappointment because an owner must find compromises or risk blowing out a tight budget.

The best results always come when you allow the builder to use their own ‘team’ to help design and complete your project.

This will be a series of relationships the builder has fostered over many projects.

When obstacles arise, the builder can resolve them fairly quickly. There’s a familiar line of communication between the builder and the designers which cut the need for parties to communicate third hand.

Imagine if a builder discovered a problem and brought it to the owners/project manager’s attention. The owner then has to go back to the designer for changes which means a new set of plans that are then brought back to the builder. The builder might now discover a new problem resulting in another visit to the designer. This constant back and forth becomes inefficient and frustrating for all involved.

So, before you decide to first lock in an architect, stop and think about the specialty skills a builder brings to the process. Architects can be great, but design is just one part of a very complex puzzle when it comes to home construction.

Don’t risk the cost and disappointment. Get your builder to do the heavy lifting and stay in control of the deal so you can relax, safe in the knowledge that your project is being managed by a professional.

Want a Design + Build solution? Find out how RODA can help you.

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