When it comes to building inspections in commercial and domestic construction, the most astonishing finding is the blind trust in the builders and the owners with mist in their eyes throwing bags of money at a builder in the naïve hope that they will get what they paid for.
In truth most of them will (almost) but many don’t. Many are short changed – some seriously – and a few unlucky (or foolish) ones end up with a complete disaster, a bad job, a blown budget, wrecked health, and perhaps a ruined marriage. A few even die from stress.
How can otherwise completely sane people get it so wrong? I can only put it down to human nature. I have seen an apartment renovation quote written on a lunch bag and sealed with a handshake. Needless to say, the builder wasn’t registered, the job was abandoned and the owner lost his money. Another shopkeeper entered into a cost-plus contract where he had no means of checking who was on the job for how many hours. He was clueless regarding substantially inflated invoices that could never be verified or challenged.
It gets more serious. A recent estimate to rectify defects to defeat a final claim from a builder in liquidation on a 30-plus apartment block saw the builder soundly defeated. The occupied apartment building had undersized fire doors, incomplete smoke seals, missing fire collars, incomplete fire protection, unauthorised departures from design documentation and unauthorised substitutions (cost stripping). How this building got occupancy permit was a mystery. The building was a death trap and a disaster waiting to happen. Developers had no idea because no one was checking anything.
On another 30-plus apartment block, owners have been putting up with a chronically damp and leaking building for nearly a decade with the builder occasionally turning up with a silicone gun to “fix” the issue. Again, cost stripping was evident, with the builder departing from design drawings and detailing, and some architectural features simply omitted. Balconies were leaking and some units had floors replaced as many as four times.
Poorly constructed and incomplete fire separation walls are commonplace. If you live in an apartment, will you be sleeping easy tonight? Will you wake up tomorrow?
Inspections at the right times could prevent these sorts of problems, and more.
It comes down to misplaced trust in the builder and in the regulatory system, which should protect us but it does not. Trust is a blindfold and a builder’s reputation may be a mirage that could cost you dearly.
But it is not at all about trust. It’s about business. Your investment is your business and you can’t run a business on trust. Will your bank trust you to pay back your loan without making you sign mortgage documents?
Building is an on-site production system and it needs independent inspections and reviews at critical points. Ignore it at your peril. The wise treat these cases like a bank: check, verify, correct, enforce.
You ought to be able to trust building control, but the reality in Victoria says otherwise.
The math is simple: save hundreds of dollars by skimping on independent inspections and you stand to lose thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, and perhaps lot more than that.