Owner Builder Extension Courses
We have been receiving some great feedback on our course content and it encourages me that there are at least some owner builder students that recognise the importance of acquiring skills and knowledge relevant to running their projects.
With this in mind, we have decided to release extension courses to our owner builder students.
Available now are the following course offerings to even better equip you to administer and organise your project.
Interpret plans and specifications (nationally accredited)
Basic estimating and costing (nationally accredited)
Plan and organise work (nationally accredited)
Introduction to Project Management
The nationally accredited Units of Competency result in the award of a Statement of Attainment and the Introduction to Project Management course R esults in the award of a Certificate of Completion.
In recognition of the loyalty of our owner builder course students, we are offering significant reductions to the cost of these courses with a single unit costing only $27.00. The cost per course becomes even less when bundled together.
We look forward to working with our owner builder students to ensure you get the best experience from your owner builder project and in reaping the rewards and satisfaction of 'doing it yourself' albeit with the constant support from Abacus Training.
Best Regards and as always,
Understanding Quality and Cost
Over the last couple of months, some of our owner builder course students have expressed a concern over the cost of their owner builder projects when considered against an expected per square meter rate.
There are so many variables that affect your build cost including quality of finishes, fixtures and fitments.
But as an owner builder you need to look at the other factors that may affect your build cost.
Building on a steeply sloping site for example will often require innovative design that enhances the usage of the site or allows for unique and interesting features. This normally comes at an increased cost.
Site access is also an area that is often overlooked when establishing your construction budget. To take this to the extreme, imagine the additional costs associated with having to barge every item and all materials to your site if you are building on an island. Site access or lack there of can require the use of specialist equipment or worse still the manual handling of all loads and excavated materials.
In many cases, we find the cost overruns occur in the preliminaries stages where unique or non standard design or construction techniques are required.
Additional footing complexity due to the adequacy of site founding materials are just one example where additional engineering works and certifications may be necessary. Temporary services may be difficult to establish and traffic management both pedestrian and vehicular may require extra manhours or resourcing as may erosion control, dewatering or sediment and environmental factors.
Other than these preliminary and design considerations, prime cost allowances need to be understood and identified or at least quantified when producing your budget estimates.
Floor tiles as an example can be sourced at rates as low as 20 dollars a square meter or can cost as mush as 250 per sq meter. So when an owner builder student tells me they are spending more than 1200 per square meter for a building of standard design and construction with 'standard quality finishes', I start to look at their quality expectations.
There is always a reason that building costs are greater than anticipated.
First question to ask is were they realistic to start with?
If they were, then look at where you have not been disciplined enough in selecting contractors or materials and where you have paid too much.
Learn from these experiences and always try to buy well.
If you have seriously overrun your budget, look for potential savings in the remaining works and the level of finishes and fixtures.
The good news is, unless you have very seriously overcapitalised on you project or over extended yourself financially, quality is good and will enhance the value and liveability of the dwelling.
I hope this answers some of the questions our owner builder course students have or at least gives you a little direction.
I look forward to the comments and the discussion that this post will ultimately generate.
Owner Builders and Asbestos
As owner builder students, you need to be well versed in your obligations in respect to any asbestos containing materials (ACM)found on you site or disturbed as a result of the work on your project.
Legislation is quite specific in regards to ACM, its handling and disposal.
Safework Queensland provides a range of resources and fact sheets to assist our owner builder students to meet their obligations under the relevant legislation.
In addition, Safework Australia has developed a series of Model Codes of Practice which included, How to Safely Remove Asbestos.
It provides a complete set of definitions and outlines procedures to be followed when removing small (less than 10 Sam) of ACM.
I encourage all of my owner builder course participants to download this model code and refer to it if they suspect they may encounter ACM during their works.
The problems with ACM generally occur when the material is disturbed.
The loose particle become airborne and if not controlled, pose a risk to anyone exposed to the contaminated environment.
The particles enter through the respiratory system and can cause irreparable damage to the lungs.
Be careful to ensure you isolate and control the ACM risk and where there exists any doubt or concern, contact a professional removalist, at least for advice.
Approved disposal facilities and techniques are also covered in the code.
Do yourself a favour and download it for future reference.
To all my owner builders, take care and don't risk exposing yourself, your loved ones, your workers or public to this real threat.
Till next time,
If there is one single area that our owner builder course students in both NSW and QLD have in common, it is the difficulty many of them have in differentiating between an inspection and a certification.
This is understandable, and whilst it is confusing, there is a relatively simple way to determine the difference.
As a general rule, an inspection is generally conducted by an external third party who is independent of the supply or construction of the building element. This may or may not lead to a certification being issued.
A Certification, is a written declaration provided as proof of the conformance or compliance of a structural element (normally).
For the owner builder to understand this, it is best to illustrate by example.
The elements which require inspection, are underground drainage pipework installation (above ground is known as stack work and is also subject to inspection), installation of timber or steel roof trusses, wall framing and associated bracing, water reticulation pipework, strip footings including trench and steel fixing, slab reinforcement etc.
These inspections are normally carried out by the Principal Certifying Authority (Building Certifier or Local Council Building Department) and are documented as part of the building approval process and are required for the issue of the final building approval or Certificate of Occupancy.
In the case of plumbing, drainage and electrical, these trade contractors are now self certifying and their installation works are subject to random spot checks by the relevant authorities.
The owner builder needs to recognise the sometimes subtle difference between these inspections and the certifications required for elements such as glazing, waterproofing, termite barriers and pest treatments. These elements are covered by certification issued by the manufacturer or installer.
Roof trusses require a certification to acknowledge and document the adequacy and compliance of the fabricated structure as an acknowledgement or guarantee of their design and fitness for purpose. They also require an inspection to indicate the installation meets the applicable code and meets legislative and design requirements.
What is the expectations of the owner builder in respect to the recording and maintenance of these certifications?
In very broad terms the following is true.
Inspections are generally recorded by the Principal Certifying Authority and once all conditions of the building approval are satisfied, a completion, final or Certificate of Occupancy will be issued. This is evidence that all required inspections have taken place, the building conforms and is in accordance with the associated building approvals.
The owner builder may be required to collect and remit those inspections and associated compliance documents from electricians and plumbers/drainers.
In respect to certifications such as pest, glazing, waterproofing etc, it is ultimately the owner builders responsibility to collect, collate and retain the evidence and either remit as required to the Principal Certifying Authority or retain for future reference.
Future reference might be required if claiming against a defect for an element covered by a manufacturers certification such as the integrity of the waterproofing etc.
As always, the owner builder needs to ensure these important documents are maintained and made accessible for future use and can best facilitate this by being organised and disciplined in the record keeping and administrative functions of the project.
Abacus Training can provide our owner builder course students access to simple record keeping schedules and forms through our Owner Builder Project Management System.
I hope this post has been informative and as always,
Happy Building ....
Well, it is happening again.
We have some new entrants into the owner builder course provider space.
It happens every couple of years.
They last for varying length of time, generally create havoc, make a quick buck then disappear as quickly as they appeared.
Whilst I am an advocate for online learning, it removes some of the barriers to entry that provide some protection for those Registered Training Organisations that do the right thing.
I have never and will never directly complain to the authorities about these organisations, I will let the affected consumers (in this case owner builder course participants) do that. However it is frustrating and difficult to continue to compete and provide quality courses against such competition.
There are several RTO's out there, including a couple of long standing providers, who persist in advertising 3 hour owner builders courses.
Fact is, these simply cannot be compliant!
Doing these courses in 3 hours is simply a waste of your hard earned cash, does not prepare you for the process and requirements of owner building and does not do what Vocational Education is required to do.
All Vocational Education Unit of Competencies result in the issue of a qualification. For the owner builders, this is a Statement of Attainment (SOA).
In Queensland, owner builders receive a SOA that include one only competency. It has been designed as a short course and includes 2 specific elements. The course owner is the Queensland Building and Construction Commission and it has a mandated volume of learning which is accepted to be 24 hours including the assessment.
This 24 hours came about because the face to face delivery of the course took a full weekend with two 8 hour lecture days and then the completion of the assessment.
we know this because we were involved in the design of the course and the development of the then QBSA Study Guide which is now in its 4th edition.
The course is valuable and provides the opportunity for the owner builder student to develop real skills and knowledge which will be tangible and demonstrable benefits in the running of their projects.
For New South Wales Owner Builders, a slightly different approach has been adopted.
The New South Wales Department of Fair Trading in the past, approved education providers on an individual basis to deliver custom courses designed by the educational institute.
We had such a course and to the most part it was designed around the philosophies of the Queensland owner builder content and structure.
Our course was in two distinct parts, covering the legal responsibilities of the owner builder and relevant NSW legislation, with the second part covering the generic Project Management principles as they apply to owner builders and a typical owner builder project.
In 2010, the Department of Fair Trading NSW developed and had accredited their own course specific to NSW owner builders.
Whilst in my opinion, the course was far too onerous for the typical owner builder (many of my fellow Registered Builders would have struggled), it did provide the opportunity to develop the skills and knowledge required by owner builders.
The mandatory text for this course was 5 volumes and consisted of approximately 800 pages of text!
After around 5 years, (normal course accreditation life) the Department of FT elected not to renew this and to simply pluck 5 Units of Competency from the Construction Training Package.
Unfortunately, for owner builders, these are simply too generic and unless the provider has great understanding of the specific challenges of owner building, they do not satisfy the learners needs.
Now here is the rub.
There are two primary issues surrounding the NSW owner builder course.
Firstly it is made up of 5 units of competency, each with a learning volume averaging approximately 8 to 10 hours each. Equating to a learning volume of around 60 to 80 hours to complete all 5 units.
Secondly, they are competency based so by legislation, require the owner builder course student to demonstrate the required skills and knowledge as detailed in the Elements and Performance Criteria of the Unit of Competency.
It does not take a genius to work out that no RTO could provide this in 3 hours and that those who advertise 100% guaranteed success are simply not complying with the rules of the Vocational Education Training Act.
I guess this post is a bit of a rant, but it is also a thank you to our owner builder course students who diligently complete the courses we provide. It is satisfying that there are still some owner builders out there who appreciate the value of real skills and knowledge and the ongoing support we provide.
Hopefully, the regulator, (ASQA) will identify the less than complaint RTOs and sort this out for the good of the industry.
Till next time,
Happy Building .....
Before some of my owner builder students get up in arms about this post, let me set the record straight.
As a tradesperson myself, I consider myself a professional. Being professional in your occupation is about how you present yourself and your services and the way in which you treat and interact with your staff, your clients and your fellow contractors.
So now I have that said, this post is about which, who, how and to what level owner builders engage or interact with what are termed the professionals or consultants that are encountered on a typical domestic construction project.
These 'professionals' are generally tertiary qualified and act on a fee for service basis generally determined by an hourly rate.
Owner Builders need to be aware that just like your trade contractors, you need to establish that the professional or consultant you are engaging, is appropriately qualified, experienced and insured for the type of project you are undertaking.
The professionals I am referring to in this post include but are not limited to:
So how does and owner builder select and build a relationship with these 'professionals'.
The answer is pretty simple and it follows the same precepts that I discuss in most of my posts. There is a genuine and tangible benefit in being disciplined, respectful and demonstrating a thorough understanding of your project and the principles of managing a domestic construction project.
When engaging with a professional (consultant), the Registered Builder already most likely talks the same language as the provider and can relate easily, demonstrating their ability and experience.
In my past dealings with my owner builder students and having mediated on many occasions between providers, suppliers, contractors and consultants, it is evident that many of these so called professionals show little respect or have little faith in their owner builder clients abilities and knowledge. They often try to railroad the project and force their own ideas personal preferences on the owner builder.
Do not let this happen. It is your project and unless there is a compelling efficiency gain or legal obligation, you are entitled to get what you want. My advice to my owner builder course participants is simple. If you are not getting what you want, have been promised or reasonably expect then change professionals.
Put yourself on the front foot and from your first meeting with any potential consultant, demonstrate your understanding of your project, be strong about your own personal requirements and expectations and show that you are organised.
Document and record discussions, ask for evidence of previous similar works and do not be worried about offending by asking probing questions about relevant experience.
Of course do not engage any professional until you are satisfied that they are carrying the appropriate insurance and level of cover including professional indemnity insurance.
As Abacus Training owner builder course students, you can always drop us an email if you are uncertain about the services or advice your professionals are offering.
Until the next post, take care and as always.
Happy Building .....
Rick Heaton is a Building and Construction Industry professional with formal tertiary qualifications in management and training.