My morning with the WA Building Commissioner

As a gen Y-er I am delighted to announce that WA Building approvals and certification is going electronic! YAY!!!!!hallelujah

But in true WA form, we’re going to have to wait awhile to get it. Like 2 years, maybe 3. Depending on funding, possibly 4. From my perspective, whether we have to wait for this electronic roll out or not. It is feverishly exciting!

This event had a certain poetry about it...

This event had a certain poetry about it…

Lets start from the beginning though. All the information I’m about to divulge to you was collected at this morning’s (12/03/2015) March Breakfast Meetup, hosted by the Property Council of WA.  Tickets to these events go for a $150.00, if you’re serious about building a house I suggest you make these events a habit. It’s good to know what’s happening in the industry you’re about to invest $150,000 to $500,000 into.

You even get a cool breakfast! <3

You even get a cool breakfast! ❤

The reason I went was because it’s extremely exciting times in WA building, both residential and commercial. Like I’m-about-to-pee-my-pants exciting. And I wanted to know what all the fuss was about before I started peeing my pants as well.

In 2012 the WA government introduced a new and improved Building Act. Though a lot of it remained unchanged, there was one huge part that was completely ripped to shreds, stabbed a couple of times, resuscitated, then stabbed again, only to be resurrected, sliced into parts, then glued back together. Until a Frankenstein monster looking regulation that no one could quiet get or understand was finally agreed upon. And one word sums it up…

Privatisation.

Before you start thinking about Telstra, and Alinta Gas and all those messy huge corporation privatisation. This is significantly different. In this case, we’re talking about the privatisation of a process that Local Government use to control.

What process? Building Approvals…

That messy and form-intensive beginning stage of any construction process. Now the owner-builder or builder contractor can go straight to a Builder Certifier instead of the Local Council and get ‘Certificate of Design Requirements’, which when submitted to the Local Council will then issue the ‘Building Permit’, as well as receive an ‘Occupancy  Permit’ alot quicker after the home is constructed.

Not only does it minimise the bureaucracy bullshit that can come during the building approvals process, it removes the ‘gate keeper’ mentality of Local Government and replaces it with a ‘quality assurance’ lifestyle that makes everyone happy.

"Don't go for the crap stuff..." - You heard it folks!

“Don’t go for the crap stuff…” – You heard it folks!

The Builder Commissioner, Peter Gow, went on to outline the benefits and risks of such a privatisation. While the benefits are efficiency, consistency across 139 local councils and predictability between different construction methods and requirements, there’s a looming risk we all need to consider. And as the Building Commissioner put it ever so eloquently; “Don’t go for the crap stuff.”

With any privatisation, as the consumer of houses, we will need to make sure our Builder doesn’t go for the Al-cheapo when it comes to consulting a Building Certifier and getting the ‘Certificate of Design Requirements’. So don’t forget to ask your builder that question, ‘who will be certifying the design requirements of my house?’ and then research the name they give you. If you don’t like them – go with someone else! You’re the consumer, you have the right.

What’s this got to do with electronic stuff? O.M.G… everything. Privatisation of such a paper draining and time intensive process has opened the door to an electronic processing system that the Commissioner states, will cover building approvals, builder registration and plumbing notices.

From my perspective the Commissioner and his team are working hard at a more efficient and modern construction industry. Already the National Construction Codes are available FOR FREE online, an initiative launched in February 2015. Something that use to cost a person or business $400 to $500 to read. (For more information: http://www.business.gov.au/news-and-updates/News-and-features/Pages/national-construction-code-2015-now-available-free-online.aspx ) The commissioner even mentioned the possibility of smart mobile phone apps in the future. WHOA! Only eight years in the making! I guess that’s government for you… better late than never…

It's not just my grandma getting use to all this technology...

It’s not just my grandma getting use to all this technology…

Finally the Commissioner ended on a visionary statement, letting every builder, developer and local council employee in the room know that he wants to see, “a more efficient and innovative building industry in 3-4 years.” A great vision, my only question is; can the industry both government and non-government keep up with the building commissioner?

From the feel of the crowd, the information was taken well, the room settling happy on the commissioner’s presentation. The only concern raised during a panel discussion later in the morning was, why has only the design review been privatised, why not the issuing of the ‘Building Permit’ as well. Most laughed it off, some had gleaming eyes at such a possibility, others grumbled the idea into nonsense.

Personally, the issuing of building permits needs to stay under the Government’s control. If they privatised that as well, the Building Commission might be bitting off more than they can chew.

Summing everything up, how does all this affect you as a home owner looking or currently building a house?

  • Your house should be certified in design requirements within a 10 day period, if this doesn’t happen, according to law you can ask for a refund of your money. However it’s best to give the Certifiers an extension of time, unless you don’t want your house built…. then just ask for the refund.
  • You can access the National Construction Codes for free (some light bed time reading… not)
  • An appropriate database to collect information and represent the residential construction industry better. Your needs will be met more effectively by regulations passed by government.
  • Reduction in sideline delays. 10 day approvals are pretty quick.
  • Less paper work
  • If you’re a developing in different councils, there will be more consistency in the building approvals process and predictability.

So without further a-do, I’ll leave you with one more final announcement the Building Commissioner provided us on Thursday. By May 2015, Builders will be able to install vacuum toilets in a build. Yay! See I told these are exciting times!

Yay! No more flushing!

Yay! No more flushing!

Until next time!

xox Construction Chick

Xox Construction Chick

What’s wrong with the Dark Side? They have cookies!

Let’s get one thing straight, I’m not here writing away at my keyboard to inform you builders are either good or bad. If builders didn’t exist, our psychological need for shelter wouldn’t be realised. Not to mention the construction industry accounting for 6.8% of GDP (chain volume, abs, 2008-2009), and according to a Commonwealth Government Productivity and Industry discussion in February 2014 (click here) if the construction industry increase productivity by 0.3% this would result in an increase in GDP by $6.6 billion. I’m also a big fan of the construction industry because in 2010-2011 (abs) it employed an average 1,033,900 people. Our country and the society we live in is heavily contributed to by the Construction Industry and yep, you guessed it – Builders.

We can look at it as a battle between the Jedi Masters and the Sith Lords, the Galactic Empire and the Rebel Alliance, Darth Sidious and Jedi Skywalker.  Or… we can look a little deeper, past the science fiction and the never-ending good and evil B.S. and find the real crux of the problem.

   fight

Can a house really be built properly for $150,000+ in under 12 months?

Properly meaning; complying too all Australian Standards, Building Codes, Regulations, and Industry Standards.

Maybe this whole thing is a chicken and egg sought of problem. Haven’t you guys heard of ying and yang before? Though the Jedi’s were ‘good’, why then were they tearing young children away from their parents and homes just because they had ‘the force’. And if Darth Vadar was so ‘bad’, why’d he save his son?

Sure, I’ll definitely agree that there are builders out there that personify a Dark Mole – I mean Darth Maul. But aren’t Builders people too? And isn’t that the other crux? People are just people, imperfectly perfect… They don’t have amazing acrobatic skills or mind-confusing hand-wavy techniques. I’ve never heard a builder say; ‘These are not the outward facing bricks you are looking for…’ I haven’t seen a Builder’s head office floating in space pretending to be a moon, when really it’s a Death Star.

 DeathStar2

And like all people, aren’t they constrained by the laws of physics? Which brings me back to my original question; can a house really be built properly for $150,000+ in under 12 months?

Has anyone bothered to find out? I’m sure because their businesses revolve around such a question, builders and their executive management teams would know the answer to that question. And having a firm understanding of economies to scale – thanks to my high school economics teacher – I would guess the answer would be: No, but if you did 50 of them all at the same time, yes.

I know right – SHOCK – HORROR – GASP – you’re not the only one building a house in this exact moment. Just on my street alone, there are about 3 different builds happening. What about your street? Next time you take a walk around your neighbourhood do a count. It might just surprise you.

The reason why I keep repeating this question is because to me it seems like there’s an expectation out there amongst consumers; that quality, at a cheap price, can be achieved within a 12 month time period. It’s fine to have expectations, but you might be shocked to believe the first thing I got taught in Construction School is this little diagram here;

 diagram5

Your house build is represented by a dot that can be placed anywhere in this triangle. But before you dot in your dot, you need to know; if you choose to put your dot in Quality’s corner, then the price will be high and the time will be long. If you want a cheap house and place your dot in the Cost’s corner, be aware that quality will be minimal and time long. If you want your house completed in a month and choose the Time’s corner, price will skyrocket and quality will be a tad shabby.

Of course builders aim to find the middle ground between these three boundaries in order to satisfy customer’s requirements. But you need to have in the back of your mind this understanding. Because whether you have 100% faith in your builder or not, they’re not Jedi Masters and they’re not Sith Lords. They’re just as bound by the laws that govern this universe as you and me.

faith

Most residential builders separate their sales department from operations, I have a whole new blog post coming for the miscommunications and outright disasters this causes. But for now, and because I can hear you all asking; what can I do to ensure I have the right expectations and that the builder understands my requirements?

Simple: Communicate. Have a conversation.

And not one where the builder just presents options and you choose one. Get active, full on interrogate your builder about the triangle above if need be. Only through asking questions and participating in the conversations can we start moving towards a more productive and comprehensive service that benefits not just Builders and the Australian economy, but also the consumers and stakeholders.

I understand that you don’t know what you don’t know, so here are some questions to get the ball rolling;

  • Although the house I have chosen is low cost, what potential benefits can you tell me I will gain if I chose the next price level? Will the materials be different? Will the time be shorter?
  • How many houses based on this price package have been completed within the time frame you’ve specified?
  • What are some delays you foresee in building this house over the next 12 – 18 months?
  • What are some typical problems you as a builder might face during the construction of this house, where you may have to pass on costs to me?
  • What is your process for remedying defects that arise within the four month defect liability period? And any structural defects that arise within the 6 year warranty period?
  • What is the process of hand over? How does your company ensure they have constructed a quality product?

Those are some powerful questions above, and ones you should ask before signing any contract, approving any drawings, or depositing any money. Asking these questions will be like a Jedi Master to a Padawan. Watch them as they do a double take with their heads.

So good luck, and until next time…

 force

Xox Construction Chick

As Useless as Tits on a Build

It’s nice to think that when things go wrong in building our homes, we can simply look our builder in the eye, throw the contract in their face, and with a slight smirk over a low voice state; ‘See you in court asshole’.

Great for Hollywood. Not so great for reality.

Sometimes though, similar to the likelihood of discovering a unicorn, a house is built without any imperfections and no disputes. But most often than not, building our dream home or even an investment property will get hairy. And in those moments, it’s important to know where you can turn to find a razor.

And not those, one bladed, blunt bastards that leave sporadic patches over for you to mop up later.

Shaving metaphor aside, when handling disputes there’s one concrete idea you need to get through your head. No one cares but you. Oh, and time is of the essence. So make that two concrete ideas.

Assuming your house is built, or is in the process of being built, and the defect has been identified straight away or on a site inspection with the supervisor, there is now a maze that you will need to navigate. And like David Bowie said in those beautiful, skin-tight tights. The clock is ticking

Identification (After getting bitten by a fairy, you’ve finally managed to enter the labyrinth)

First things first. You need to make sure 100% what the defect is. I was talking to a painter the other day who did a job where the owner took her builder to the Building Disputes Tribunal over a dodgy paint finish. Knowing his workmanship was perfect and not willing to pay the $10,000+ to remedy the problem, the painter built his case and with scientific reports presented to the tribunal that it was not the paint finish that was the problem. But the plastering… Since her defect liability period was up, she couldn’t go back and fight again. She’s had to live with the problem, all because she got hung up on the wrong thing. In my previous post Do you want fries with that? I mean tiles with that?’ I explain that constructing a house is like organising a thousand tiny simple things. What you’re seeing may be the direct result of poor workmanship from something else. In the end you’ll need a third party (whose ass isn’t owned by the builder) to take a look and give you their response in a written report/email that is date stamped.

Notification (You’ve met a worm whose invited you in for tea, but you can’t because you need to find your baby brother, who is currently being thrown around by the Goblin King and a bunch of his minions)

If there’s one thing from this blog post you need to remember, it’s this email; BCinfo@commerce.wa.gov.au

So what Construction Chick, it’s just the info email for the Building Commission, it can’t be that powerful. Seriously… Who are you? Get out of this blog post and find some other person to annoy with your idiotic statements.

If Hollywood has taught us anything, other than if there’s a strange noise down stairs, don’t go investigate it with a hand-held camera; it’s that people who act like a victim will become a victim. By notifying you’re builder and cc-ing this email into the notification it will be like a red flag to a bull, like blood in the water to sharks, like… (ok.. I ran out of animal analogies – but you get the point right?)

You are telling your builder that you know your shit, you know how to handle this situation and where to go, AND you’ve got everything in writing. I’ll write the last point in caps, just in case you missed it, I’ll also centre page it for your immediate attention.

~ YOU’VE GOT EVERYTHING –> IN <– –> WRITING <– ~

We are dealing with people *cough* liars *cough* that will, in front of an adjudicating tribunal, turn around and say, ‘that never happened, I received no notification of this defect in writing’.

Time Limit (After falling down a tunnel and being groped by those handsy wall hands, the Goblin King just shaved some time off you for giving him a taste of his own medicine)

Although I could have written this into the ‘Notification’ section, this is just as important and deserves its own section. In your notification email, be sure to give your builder a time limit. Why? Because by law you only have a defects liability of 120 days, they might of sneaked into your contract a shorter time period that that, so review your contract to find out.

My recommendation is a fortnight – A fortnight is standard within the industry and to the Building Commission who are the regulators of the industry. Please note, the time limit isn’t for a response. Screw a response, you want the darn thing fixed don’t you? The time limit is for remedy. Be sure to state that in the email (in writing).

The likely outcome is the following;

  1. There is no defect
  2. The defect will take 30 days to fix, our building supervisor will contact you in 14 days.
  3. No response

aw hell no

Remember, you’re the customer, and the customer is always right (even when they’re wrong). So;

  1. There is a defect in workmanship as identified by (third party report in writing), if (Insert Builders Business Name) have not remedied the problem within the time frame I stated in my previous email I will be escalating this issue to the Building Commission.
  2. That is unacceptable, this defect will be fixed within 14 days, if it is not fixed by then I will be contacting a new contractor to remedy the defect with all costs covered by (Insert Builders Business Name).
  3. As I have heard no response from (Insert Builders Business Name) I have escalated this issue to the Building Commission for (Insert Builders Business Name) poor workmanship.

Lodgement of Notice of Complaint (The Labyrinth doesn’t seem so bad now, you’ve got your gang with you Hoggle, Ludo and Sir Didymus… but you still don’t have your baby brother –tick, tick, tick)

Don’t waste your time with the Housing Industry Association, Master Builders, and even your Local Government – the end result will be something along the lines of tits and bulls. Go straight to the Building Commission and lodge your notice of complaint to get the ball rolling. Take a read of the following guide; https://www.commerce.wa.gov.au/building-commission/building-service-and-home-building-work-contract-complaints The Building Commission is there to regulate the industry as well as keep it fair for consumers. But they’re only going to help you if you’re within the time frames set down by law.

The notice of complaint gives the Builder time to respond and is the Building Commissions way of putting the ‘Get Along Shirt’ on both of you to see if you can sought out matters yourself before you need to go to the tribunal. During this period, everything your builder emails you record. Everything your builder says to you over the phone, put in an email and send back to the builder – ‘I received a call today from blah-blah this is what we discussed and the outcome of our discussion.’ Cover your back… who else will?

You can find the form by clicking here.

Lodgement of Complaint (You’ve been drugged by a peach and masqueraded around, now shits about to get real, and you’re on your way to the castle to find your baby brother and destroy the Goblin King once and for all)

There are fees involved, but they are just over $100, nothing to worry about, especially if your claim is for $7,500+.  The complaint is easy enough to lodge, just follow the check list provided on the form. You can find the form by clicking here.

The building commission can either reject or approve your complaint. Be prepared for either, but know this, the Building Commission knows that the residential construction industry is biased to the Builders side. They know who ultimately has the power. Because of this they are more lenient to consumer.

The Building Commission can only do the following things;

  1. Conciliation
  2. Interim Order
  3. Building Remedy Order
  4. Home Building Work Contract (HBWC) remedy order
  5. Referral to the SAT (State Administrative Tribunal)

All these points will be covered in future blog posts, to find out more on your own, click here.

Taking it Further (You’ve managed to sneak your way into the castle with the help of your friends, but where did all these stairs come from? How come gravity doesn’t work? And why are the Goblin King’s tights so tight?)

If the Building Commissions verdict doesn’t swing your way after following the process, thanks to the democratic country we live in, you can take it further. Known as the State Administrative Tribunal or SAT for short, this is the final place you can take your complaint. You can choose whether you will be represented or not. For more information on SAT, click here.

SAT isn’t my favourite place, because the tribunal will be made up of – yep you guess it – builders and ex-builders. But if you’ve done the first step, identification, and have the evidence to back you up. Like any court, the truth will set you free.

The process is long, nerve wracking, and exhausting. I’m tried just writing about it. But so is any Labyrinth you enter. At the end of the day, if the end result is worth it, you can conquer any maze you find yourself stuck in.

jareth_loveme

Just remember; they have no power over you (Unless court ordered by the State Administrative Tribunal – sorry not everything is a fairy tale)

Until next time!

Xox Construction Chick

Do you want fries with that? I mean tiles with that?

WC

When we were little, houses were easy. All you needed to do was draw an open box then, instead of another parallel line at the top, you would draw an apex. If you were zealous, two small boxes and one vertical rectangle would be easily scribbled inside the walls of your two dimensional home. Maybe that’s where the Australian Dream starts? Finger painting as a four year old…

Or maybe it’s an inherent human trait to strive for what we grew up with and what our parents have. Whatever it is, Gen-X-ers and Gen-Y-ers are now at the ripe age to be picked off one by one by the unethical predators out there; stalking and hunting within the swampy marshes of the residential construction industry. Wait what?

Building a house is by far the most complex and costly project an average joe or joette from Gen-X and Gen-Y will undertake. When it’s going good, it’s good, but when it goes bad it can really screw you over and over and over.

But Construction Chick, a house is so easy to build… you just pick your design, pick your finishes, maybe add a few things, wait 12 to 18 months and then boom it’s all done ready for you to move in.

HAHAHAHA… oh man… can’t stop laughing… *cough* HAHAHA *splutter* That my friend, is the first trap.

This isn’t finger painting anymore. Constructing a home requires a thousand tiny simple things to be completed. But like a thousand piece puzzle, if you don’t clip the right ends into the right pieces the end result is an entire f-up.

Que Builders. *Macho Walk In Music*

With their experience and knowledge they know, with their eyes closed, every single piece of the puzzle and where they fit to ensure a successful outcome. Over time though, in order to maximise profit (that’s right… it’s all about the $$$$), Builders have systemised the whole process leading to convenient ‘packages’ that you can pick and choose from like a Maccas menu. But unlike a burger that’s costing you $3.50c, this purchase is going to be well over $150,000.00 and stick with you until you manage to pay your debt out or declare bankruptcy.

Understandably, most people affording a home are working full-time (40 hours a week +) and the convenience a Builder provides helps maintain their day-to-day living routine whilst building a home. So let me put this delicately… Since you’re investing over $150,000.00 into building a house (on top of the cost you’ve had to fork out for the land) which will ultimately make or break the next decade of your life, don’t you think it would be appropriate to get off your ass at the beginning of the project, whilst choosing finishes and paint colours, and invest your time going through the contract and designs to make sure there’s no missing puzzle piece.

Say like… Having no power point in the fridge space… or contractually your defects liability period (if you’re living in WA) being 30 days instead of the regulation of 120 days. Leaving it up to someone who knows more than you do AND who is only in it for money is a deadly equation.

In the blog posts to come I’ll be giving you a hands up when it comes to building your home. Because sometimes you need someone in your corner that does know what a builder knows. That knows what puzzle pieces usually go missing in order to cut costs. That knows the dos and don’ts of Building and Contract Law. That knows how to get your builder to fix a defect within a fifteen day period.

So follow and stay tuned!

Xox Construction Chick