Thursday, 17 May 2012

Building Truths


You know this major home extension/renovation project that we currently have running? It is quite clear this is going to be the last opportunity we have to make our home the closest to what we want it to be during this, our current incarnation. The cost and the effort involved clarify that point very well.
Given this once in a lifetime opportunity to get things right by our reckoning, we regard this operation with the highest importance. It is therefore an interesting let down to see how the building industry treats us in return. Allow me to identify two building truths that emerged before us during the work:
  1. Inefficiency: Coming from the world of IT, where philosophical discussions on how to best manage projects are the order of the day, I expected physical building to be a study of efficiency. My mental image involved multiple crews working at our house, one knocking down this wall while another building the other and a third doing the wiring. Instead what I see before me is a study of inefficiencies: different tasks held back due to bottleneck issues that take weeks if not months to resolve, all the while our house is often left to its own with no one working on it.
  2. Cheap and nasty: There are exceptions to the rule, but in general – set your builders and tradesmen free to do their work to the best of their understanding and you are guaranteed to have a cheap and nasty result. If an option exists to perform a certain task easily, you can rest assured matters such as quality will not stand in the builder’s way. And don’t expect to be consulted, either.
You can argue the above two are the direct result of human nature, and to some extent or another you’d be right. However, the second point in particular indicates at the true source of the problem by raising a question: why is it that the builder seeks the easy solution when he (hardly ever a she) gets paid more for the better solution?
I therefore point my finger elsewhere. In my opinion, the above are symptoms of the investment property disease that Australia is so sick with. When houses are no longer regarded as homes but rather as financial investments with cash flows and revenues; when the whole industry is driven by investments; when the industry is the biggest in Victoria’s economy and acts as the state's main financial driver; when all of the above combine, you get builders whose main motivation is to finish this job to go on to the other without enough care for the present.

Image by rudenoon, Creative Commons license

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