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Sunday, January 10, 2016

Whom to approach for House Construction?


Architect, engineer, or contractor - whom to approach?


Like any other skillful project, construction of house also involves lot of technicalities and expertise. Thus, you should be very careful while undertaking the work of construction. You need to select an architect, a skilled engineer and a capable contractor considering their significant role at different stages of construction. Here we are describing their importance in the process of construction.

Role of an Architect

Undertaking the task of planning and constructing a house without an architect is like a non-technical person trying to do the job of a technically qualified person. Lack of a realistic architectural plan could result in the project turning out very different from what was planned. The architect assumes the responsibility of coordinating all the aspects that go into building a house and designs the building around parameters such as location, acoustic needs and specific requirements of the client.

The Council of Architecture set up under the Indian Architecture Act of 1972 regulates architects in India. The fee structure and the employment of architects in public and private sectors are also stipulated by Council of Architecture and the Indian Institute of Architects, which is a professional body. Thus, you can check the fee structure stated by the Council. Over and above this, the allied workers and contractors for structure, plumbing and electricity may charge the client separately for material and labour. Some architects have their own in-house allied consultancy and provide the contractors. In those cases, architect will charge a consolidated fee for the planning and for the cost of material and labor.

It is the architect who draws a building plan incorporating his/her client's style and tastes. He can also prepare estimate with list of materials, their descriptions and quantities, based on you can obtain quotations from contractors and decide. Consulting an architect generally works out to be 8% to 10% more expensive than working independently, but most of the people believe that hiring an architect is worth the extra expense.

Role of a Contractor

Similar to that of an architect, the role of a contractor is also very important in the process of construction. While hiring a contractor, it is advised to contact your friends and neighbors who had undertaken the work of construction. You can also visit home improvement stores and building supply stores as they have ongoing relationships with contractors.

It's usually a good idea to ask two-three contractors to estimate the costs of your project. This is normally a free service and it helps prepare you for negotiating a final contract. Make sure that the bids detail the scope of the work, the types of the materials that will be used, and the total cost of the project. Contractors can furnish information on the materials and cost of project through the contracts, which are mainly of two types:

Labour Contract : Under Labour contract, workmen or employees are hired through a contractor. Contract workmen are indirect employees; persons who are hired, supervised and remunerated by a contractor who, in turn, is compensated by the owner. If a contractor hires contract labor, he can provide the cost estimate of the Labour cost depending on the time taken to build a house. In India, the contract Labour is regulated by the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970.

Material Contract : A material contract is a contract providing for the procurement of supply and material at cost. Under this contract, the customer agrees to pay the contractor for all the material used at every stage of the construction.

Normally, the costs of a project are either set at a fixed price or "cost-plus." In a fixed price bid, the contractor promises to do the work specified at a certain cost. Any subsequent changes would have to be negotiated with the contractor separately. In a "cost-plus" bid, the contractor does the work- submits all the invoices and Labour charges to the client, and adds a certain percentage for contractor's profit and overheads, typically 20%. If you are borrowing money for the job, it could be a good idea to discuss the bids with the lender.

Signing a contract

Once you have carefully analyzed and compared all the bids, select a bid that favors you the most and get it in writing. A contract should be written and explicit in detail. It should include:

  • An exact description of all the work to be performed
  • A list of the materials to be used which defines textures, brands, colors, sizes, and models
  • The total cost on which the contract is signed and a schedule for payments. Be very cautious about a contractor who demands a large payment up front (50% or more). Contractors are accustomed to pay-as-you-go schedules or waiting until after the job is done.
  • Any promises made by the salesperson/contractor
  • Responsibility for getting the necessary building permits
  • The starting and completion dates
  • Any warranty and a hold back clause which allows you to withhold final payment until sometime after the job's completion to allow you some time to inspect the job. If there are any problems, this can serve as an incentive for the contractor to fix them.
  • Cleanup. This item is often neglected, but it should be considered especially if a good deal of debris will be generated.
  • The contractor's signature as well as your own.

Role of an Engineer

The role of an engineer comes into play after the owner signs a Labour and Material Contract with the contractors for the construction of his/her house.

To build a house you need plenty of free time to source the materials. You need to identify the contractor, negotiate the prices, place orders, follow up with the supply, check the quality and quantity when delivered and pay the suppliers. Secondly, the buyer needs to know how to check the quality and quantity of every material of construction. Here, you require the services of an experienced diploma engineer to supervise the work and assist in the certification of the quality of construction materials.

An engineer will also be helpful in explaining the drawing to the labourers who may not be capable of reading the drawings. 
Do not get carried away with the visible progress of the construction in the early months. With the foundation, walls and the roof complete, the house is only 30% complete.

Many owners, in the excitement, use more cement and steel than required only to realize later that the budget has overshot without any added benefits. Do not listen to every worker or laborer at the site and keep changing the plan. Every time the plan is changed back and forth, precious money is wasted.

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