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Choosing Your Builder 2- Management of Time and Money

This post is part of a series of 6 articles listing 30 checks to consider when selecting a building contractor. 

The issues of cost and deadlines weigh most heavily on clients’ minds when embarking on a construction process, and we advise all clients to retain the services of a quantity surveyor for a complete package of services, ideally including a full bill of quantities for every project.

However, it is fairly easy to meet the requirements of the building contract with loose documentation: price breakdowns may be short on detail, payment claims may be very simple documents, and changes to the project are often difficult to price. So it’s possible for builders to meet their legal obligations under the contract without providing what most professionals would consider good, timely management information on the status of the project.  

Clients often need to invest in their own quantity surveyors’ services when they want adequate transparency and control during construction, but this must be matched on the builder’s side with sound administrative processes, record keeping and IT skills. 

Consider what level your contractor will deliver under each of these headings, and consider with your architect how that will affect your experience of the construction process.

Contractor Service Levels- Pressure Points for Customer Experience 

Low- description of contractor services at lowest merchantable standard

Medium – description of services of typical competent contractor

High- services at unusually high level within norms of small scale construction

Adherence to contract payment and administration procedures

Low: work is carried out in keeping with clients general goals and shifting verbal agreements. Works undertaken on a chaotic schedule.  Medium: main concepts of administration procedures observed, with minimal formal correspondence.  High: Procedures observed exactly with good formal correspondence and record keeping. 

Adherence to instructions: drawings, lists etc.

Low: changes made ad hoc, for contractor’s convenience, compliance on basis of minimum standards in building regulations TGD’s.   Medium: drawings and details observed generally, with ad hoc redesign of technical details by installers or specialist trades.  High: All design decisions respected and designs executed as per drawings, any necessary changes subject to detailed discussion and formal redesign. 

Cost Certainty

Low: contractor exploits any ambiguity in contract documents for additional payments. Engages in upselling to increase scope of project and fails to document and account for costs.   Medium: some unforeseen cost increases due to legitimate gaps in contract pricing document, or client initiated changes in scope. Additional costs accounted for carefully and charged in keeping with original contract rates.    High: Client QS and Contractor QS respect bill of quantities. Any variations arise only from client initiated instructions or major unforeseen circumstances. 

Progress information and reports

Low: verbal updates when requested. Written correspondence limited to building contract or letter, or price quotation.  Medium: email updates and text messages as unforeseen circumstances arise. Good verbal report at site meetings. Occasional written correspondence. High: written progress reports with breakdowns of changes and price information. 

Certification process

Low: main contractor and key subcontractors reluctant to sign documentation for completed work. Certificates only obtained when stated prerequisite for payment. No records of materials used or quantities delivered to site.  Medium: documentation from subcontractors provided when requested, some irregular forms of certificate may be supplied. Limited records of materials used or quantities delivered to site.  Good general record- keeping for materials used and quantities delivered to site, all certificates listed in preliminary inspection plan delivered in correct format for use with Building Control System. 

Links to Study the Six Categories

  1. Essentials- intangible qualities of every professional builder
  2. Management of Time and Money
  3. Resources for Customer Service
  4. Resources for Getting the Job Done
  5. Achieving Quality
  6. Set-up and Accreditation

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