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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

House Construction 13: Some Lessons on Managing the Process

Blog readers have wondered about The House. What's happening there? What high drama? What have I learnt? What's happening next and what else should Petunia be looking out for? Of those reading this blog, there are some who are here to learn about house building. There are others who are from the industry. There are also others who have completed the building of their homes and stand ready to offer advice. These last 2 groups of people have been instrumental in keeping Petunia alert to possible shenanigans and pitfalls in the building process.

That has been very helpful... so, thank you.

Building a house from zero is daunting, not least because one knows nothing at all about how it is done. How do you interpret the soil test report? What is concrete? What are steel rebars? How strong is strong enough? Why does concrete need to cure?

Over time, I learnt that managing the house construction process is no different than managing consultants (HR Consultants, medical professionals, researchers, teaching professionals), each individual with a deep body of expertise. Experts always disagree. Experts will always try to convince you of their expertise. Experts have pride and don't like to be thought wrong.

Once you accept this, things become easier.

Next, there is a realization that each person in the building team (architect, main contractor, quantity surveyor, resident technical officer and structural engineer) are business people. They all have their own agendas. And in the push and pull of the different agendas, my own agenda may suffer. Hence, I became sensitive to the need to TRIANGULATE information. I made sure that I took in information from all parties involved before deciding on anything. I also took in information from friends, blog readers, the internet and found material published by the Building Construction Authority. Always, I made sure to check whether the personal agenda of the expert advising was aligned to mine. If it was, fine. If not, think twice. Often, I took my time to decide, especially when the issue was complex and important. Here is an example.

In some parts of my house, there are steel columns. These columns are welded to a base. I was concerned about the strength of these welds, and so I asked somebody standing there about the strength of the welds. This person (NOT Mr Grizzly himself) assured me that the brick walls going up around the columns would help the columns stay up. It was easy enough to email people asking "Do brick walls support columns? Or do columns support brick walls?" One particular reply sounded aghast at the stupidity of my question... "Petunia, if brick walls support columns, what are columns for?" From there, it was not difficult to pull the rest of the team together to get every weld checked and tested... and to get proper reinforcements to the key parts of the steel structure. In this case, my agenda aligned with the Structural Engineer's agenda because if my steel columns gave way, the Structural Engineer loses his license to practise.

Here is another example.

One expert thought the other expert's aluminium frame design was not robust enough, and vice versa. When both argued in technospeak I decided to back off and observe. Then I did my own asking around. Finally, I communicated that the person who could put his resources where his mouth is, was deserving of trust. Mr Grizzly is now working on a warranty document that puts his resources (his name, reputation and money) on his design. To Mr Grizzly, his company is his life. I don't need to understand the technospeak, I just need to know that the man cares for his name and will not lightly put a pledge on his proposed design if he weren't sure. In this case, I reckon that Mr Grizzly's agenda aligns with mine.

What do blog readers (those in the industry) think?

2 comments:

Theanne and Baron said...

My DH and I built a house (ourselves) but in absolutely no way do I consider myself anything but a novice! Sounds like to me you're got everything on the right track Petunia Lee!

Our Living Spaces said...

Well said, Petunia! Indeed, the different parties have their own agendas which may conflict with the homeowners'. Managing the house building project is like managing a business project and requires good project management skills.