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Tips on how to build your house

06 Dec 2020 at 08:03hrs | Views
Factors affecting cost of construction in Zimbabwe Part 1

HOW much does it cost to build a house? It's a question that is never far from the mind of a construction client, a question that has placed this writer's credibility as a built environment professional into question over the years.

A question that screams simplicity in the eyes of a potential construction client yet pregnant with ambiguity in the eyes of the contractor.

Failure to attach a figure to the question above, may leave a contractor with an undeserved dent on his/her credibility. Unbeknown to many, several factors exist and conspire to affect the total cost of constructing a house. It is therefore imperative that the writer addresses the misconception that building a house can be concluded over a cup of tea.

Skilled Professionals
The idea of building a house is immediately followed by the thought of designing, and this opens the gates to interact with skilled professionals that include the engineer in some instances, the architect and the quantity surveyor. The very minute an architect begins to draw a house plan, construction has begun, thus choosing any of the above professionals is a key decision and may affect the entire project if the wrong people are chosen. The influx of quantity surveyors (QS) and architects sometimes referred to as design specialists has negatively impacted the construction industry to a certain degree.

Regulatory authorities and bodies are not doing enough to protect the industry and construction clients, then again one could argue that it is the very clients that are perpetuating a culture of embracing semi-professionals.

The writer is an avid advocate for entrepreneurship and creating employment, but let it be in a responsible manner. Levels of recklessness exhibited by architects and quantity surveyors have structural and financial ramifications and creates a distorted image of construction.

Therefore, it is the duty of every Zimbabwean to scrutinise skilled construction professionals before engaging them, surely an office, a laptop and AutoCAD does not equate to an architect or quantity surveyor. The above mentioned professions are responsible for the formulation of building material quantities as well as concept drawings commonly referred to as house plans respectively.

Construction clients in Zimbabwe are being shortchanged by money driven "briefcase" architects and quantity surveyors. Tony Cunningham rightly states that when building a house, an architect in collaboration with the QS must take into consideration the identity and priorities of the client, the location of the project, the choice of procurement options, the prevailing market conditions and legislative constraints of that locality.

It is a rarity to hear quantity surveyors and architects in Zimbabwe mentioning market conditions or procurement options when producing plan drawings or drafting a bill of quantities, yet their services have a long lasting and direct effect on the final cost of constructing a house.

A house plan with no financial insight will eventually give birth to a bill of quantities (a BOQ is a document detailing the cost of material) that is unfavourable to the wallet increases the costs of construction.

Type of Materials
The materials subject is influenced by the architect, client and quantity surveyor. Having engaged your architect, and your quantity surveyor, produced a BOQ, now you are ready to procure. Right? But as a construction client have you taken time to find out where the prices came from? Which hardware stores? Or have your preferences been taken into account? Normally the QS will look for three quotations and probably choose the lowest. Here is the writer's point of departure, has the choice of material represented your identity or preferences or the material paints a picture of the quantity surveyor's personal choices?

Furthermore cheap will forever be a poor man's definition of expensive, in reality the choice of material usually triggers the quality to cost debate. Drawing from the writer's experience, clients often choose materials based on cost and forgo the aesthetics or choose the expensive material and forgo the technical specifications.

As the structure comes into life, reality sets in, what was drawn by the architect and what was envisioned by the construction client is not what is in front of everyone's eyes. This scenario cements the argument made in the previous section, that the wrong people will assist you in buying the wrong materials.

Construction clients often allow their preferences and tastes to cloud their financial capabilities. When choosing materials one should take into account their availability, as well as interrogate the economic sense of the purchase. Let's dwell on this scenario, client X is constructing a sub-structure (foundation), needed is seven tonnes of quarry stone. His preference is the 19mm gravel stone from Davis Granite. Client Z is undertaking the same project and opts to use crushed stone which varies in size and rubble. The former is more expensive and available from site, and the latter is cheaper and locally available, therefore the total cost of construction is also heavily determined by consumer intelligence.

Certain materials are overlooked but serve the same purpose, what differs is the branding or the location they are sold from, brand buying in construction should be approached with absolute caution.

Choosing a contractor
Having settled for the material that one deems satisfactory, the construction client seeks a contractor (obhilida), the role of the contractor involves the use of available resources, to meet a given target while ensuring profitability on his/her part. It is the writer's observation that the construction industry is littered with contractors as a result of the industry's low barriers to entry.

One may be mistaken to think that this creates competition within construction players, however, the situation on the ground is that most contractors are opportunistic with a penchant for swindling clients of their hard earned dollar, creating a bubble of mistrust within the industry.

The common way of screening a contractor is through website search, WhatsApp images as well as referral. Ideally a construction client must establish if the contractor understands the project, exhibits construction project management techniques and has capacity to execute it whilst adding value to the project.

Clients should be savvy enough to dictate the terms in a contractor/client relationship, the project must reflect your identity, preferences and choices right up to completion.

As the client and contractor come to an understanding the clients' favourite part is then reached. How much will you charge?

From the onset, it must be understood that construction individuals and companies have varying overheads, business models, visions and missions. Hence their costing strategies tend to vary, one often hears phrases like "it's expensive", "kuyadura", and "zvinodura" after glancing at a quotation. Pricing strategies will differ from one contractor to another, construction clients must therefore scrutinise the different construction business models.

In essence what a construction client should set out to seek from a contractor before asking for a quotation is finding contractors that match their vision and financial capacity. Consumers should take time to understand the construction company's business model and operations processes or how the individual operates, companies or individuals enter the construction sector for various reasons. Some are there to serve a niche market, some for diversification of their business and some simply to make a profit and move on with little care to develop the industry.

Part 2 of the article will dwell in depth on the pricing strategies that are employed by different contractors, the importance of the procurement process and legislative constraints in construction, as these factors have an effect on the cost of construction. Until then let's cement the foundations of this beautiful industry.

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Source - sundaynews
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