Professional Relationships with Owner Builders
We do not often consider the relationship owner builders have with their professional advisers. That is, the consultants they work with through the course of their owner builder projects.
Just to be signing off the same hymn sheet, when we talk about professionals, we are referring to those service providers who have will generally have the qualifications and authority to sign off or certify building elements or design features.
They include engineers, architects or building designers, certifiers, surveyors, lawyers and town planners. The size, scope and complexity of your project, will normally determine the level of involvement you have with these contracted services.
Once upon a time, I would confidently say that owner builders had a very limited exposure to each of these consultants in that generally, most projects would be of traditional design using common building practices and construction techniques.
More and more though, owner builders are becoming more adventurous and confident in tackling complex projects with sometimes extreme design features that require considerable reliance on engineering design and supervision to ensure both structural integrity and compliance.
Even in the electrical space, more and more residential dwellings are including smart wiring, heating, cooling and automation features that require complex design and specialist installation.
It is these designs, features and inclusions which truly individualise a build and make a home ‘fit for purpose’, satisfying the needs of todays mobile and connected families.
I recently had the opportunity to advise a client and oversee the build of an owner built dwelling on the Gold Cost Hinterland that ended up being a 3.4 million dollar build. The water features alone were something else with waterfalls and fountains feeding a mineral salt spa. All very impressive if not indulgent. The sustainability feature though were what really made the home a work of art and a technological masterpiece.
Solar panels, inverters and battery banks are just the start of it. Couple this to soft start electric pool pumps, rainwater harvesting, heat pumps and LED lighting, this property truly attempts to minimise its impact and environmental impact.
This is just one example of how the owner builder market is maturing, with some projects meeting or exceeding the outcomes that would be expected of quality signature custom homes.
It is all well and truly within the reach and capability of owner builders who use all the resources available to them, including reliable and qualified consultants.
Happy owner 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.