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5 pitfalls of the building process
(start to handover)

The construction phase of any project is the most stressful for a client when it comes to the creation of their dream home. While communication is key in any industry, the critical role it plays in construction cannot be understated. Poor communication on a building project can equate to financial loss for the client, safety hazards for those on site, as well as loss of trust between client and the professional team. While it is normal for most clients feel angered, resented and frustrated at some point during the construction process. These emotions are mostly expressed by clients who find themselves in a dispute with their professional team sooner or later during this process.

A brief list of common pitfalls that could result in frustration for the client include;

  • no written contract stating responsibilities, or
  • the client not being informed on the process of construction,
  • inadequate supervision on site,
  • inadequate communication via email, phone and meetings with clients.
  • Further frustrations may be caused by failure to define the rules of decision-making or to identify problem areas early and then to address them.

For the professional team to avoid these issues they need to concentrate on communication, documentation and keeping to the timeline given to the appointed contractor. 

Although each of the above-mentioned integral processes possess a legal component, the depth of the pitfall is measured by common sense.

  1. A written construction contract should establish clearly what is expected of each party. It should also allow contractors and clients to allocate risk, define essential issues, and provide a working roadmap to the desired end.
  2. A variation order is either a modification of the original contract – an amendment or intended to be a separate contract. It requires the mutual consent of both parties. As such, consent or agreement can only be effective before work is done and cost impact of the amendment is carefully weighed and taken into consideration.
  3. The appointed Principal Agent is to provide other contractors and the owner with all legal notices and provide transparency throughout the process.
  4. Inadequate communication occurs when even normal communication such as project emails, faxes and meetings are omitted when problems arise, or disputes are present. Effective communication not only fulfils the contractor’s contractual obligations, but it allows for possible mitigation of disputes to occur.
  5. Failure to define roles – teamwork is important for effective completion of a project, but remember only one captain and one head coach, therefore the parties must define the roles early. Most issues arise where the meddling client does not understand their role in this process. They contact the contractor directly or arrive on site without previous appointments being scheduled without notifying the Principal Agent. This all contributes to the loss of trust between client, Principal Agent and the contractor.
  6. All jobs have critical components or difficult parts. The Principal Agent should know the good and the possible bad of performing these tasks and inform the client beforehand. Lowering the client’s expectations may allow for reality to prevail.
  7. There should be a realistic planning and construction schedule set up and presented to the client. Undersell and over deliver. One must accurate, but account for contingencies realistically, and expeditiously correct the schedule when it has been impacted.
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