The Changing Landscape of Commercial Building
Over the past few months, a number of high-profile cases of structural insecurity in high-rise buildings has rocked the construction industry and made property investors’ ears prick up. Perhaps the most widely talked about right now is Sydney’s troubled Mascot Towers, especially given NSW’s newly appointed building commissioner recent comments.
At the parliamentary inquiry commissioner, David Chandler, recounted how after visiting the property in Zetland that he was surprised by how ‘poorly built’ the building is. He also went on to say that the design as a whole was ‘poor’.
He highlighted that although regulation and legislation changes in the industry are not necessary just yet, it is important to get to the root of the problem. Working with TAFEs, he said, might be the answer; ensuring that tradespeople have the core skills they need to deliver high-quality building works which meet standards.
So, in light of these comments, how can property investors, project managers and any party involved in the building process ensure that their building doesn’t fall victim to the same issues?
Why Independent Inspections Are So Important
The problems identified in Sydney’s Mascot Towers were two-fold; part poor design, part poor workmanship. Whilst not much could be done about the design once works began, had the sub-par quality of work been identified during the building process and even at handover stage, the likelihood of the situation becoming as dire as it has would have been dramatically reduced.
While it’s not fully clear as to why these issues didn’t get picked up along the way, one assumption is that the inspections that were carried out were not as comprehensive or thorough as they perhaps should have been.
Many building companies are responsible for signing off their own works. While many of them are honest and diligent in their responsibilities for identifying and rectifying issues, some are unfortunately dishonest or incompetent. Moving forward with the build and overlooking issues that may have arisen in certain inspections is sometimes preferable to a builder on a time crunch or looking to cost cut. But it is at the detriment to property developers and eventual owners who end up having to foot the bill, as seen in Sydney.
When buildings undergo comprehensive and thorough third-party inspections, bias and subconscious (or conscious) consequential overlooking is eliminated. The independent inspector is not swayed by how the reporting of an issue will negatively impact the progress, timeline or budget of a project. They are purely focussed on reporting on the facts.
With the recent revelations within the high-rise apartment sphere, independent inspections will become more important than ever. Although, as the building commissioner stated, it is not on the agenda to change legislation, property investors are becoming hyper-vigilant when choosing the buildings or apartments that they will invest in.
There will come a point where builders who have invested in independent inspections will come out on top. They will find it easier to sell since they can prove that they have a legitimate report of the quality of work they are claiming to have done.
For investors who have commissioned building work, insisting on independent inspections from the get-go will become commonplace. Not only will this give investors ultimate peace of mind, but it will also serve to minimize disputes between them and the builder.