Create a dream home not a nightmare - Part 3

Step by step guide to home building or renovation: Part 3. Be INVOLVED in your project to ensure a positive outcome.

In Part 1, buying land, land regulations and factors were discussed. In Part 2, financing your home, the National Credit Act, bond calculators and the Consumer Protection Act was explained fully. Now we will go into depth about planning for your dream home.

Planning and Design of your home with professional people

The Architectural Professional

plansAll architectural professionals are bound by law to be registered with the South African Council for the Architectural Profession (SACAP) before they may practice and are thus bound by a Code of Conduct. Search the SACAP website under Registered Person.

Should the person not be registered, regardless of qualification or experience, they are not permitted to do any architectural design work unless employed in a registered architectural practice.

Fees - Architectural fees depend on the scope of the project and services required – make sure you understand what you get for these fees. Fees Guideline SACAP.

Budget - Discuss the size of your budget up front, bearing in mind that there are always changes which will impact on the contract price – build some contingency into your budget. Keep in mind that the design of your home must be suited to your budget and allow for future rooms to be added, if affordability is an issue.

Brief – Giving the designer an overview of preferences, ideas and requirements. Go over your ideas – the architectural professional should be able to tell you what will look good as well as be functional. Discuss the services the architectural professional will be providing i.e. initial sketches through to final plans, plan submission, enrolling the property with the NHBRC, tender documentation, builder selection, managing the building process, site inspections, minutes of meetings, handling of variations to the contract etc.

Contract – When you have selected your contractor, your architect can help with the preparation of a contract, the most suitable being the JBCC Principal Building Agreement Edition 6.1 March 2014 for large projects and the Minor Works Agreement Edition 5.1 March 2014 for smaller projects. (Joint Building Contracts Committee), depending on the type of project you are undertaking. A JBCC contract will also ensure that the appropriate methods of dispute resolution are open to you. This contract is considered fair to both parties.

Design Stage - The initial sketch plans are based on information supplied by the home owner. This process will depend on the initial brief, taking into account size, orientation, and style of the house, site conditions, budget and other town planning requirements. The initial drawings will include a floor plan and perspective drawings from different angles considering position of the home’s footprint. This is the stage where you consider what you want and effect necessary changes, building up to the final working drawings. Take into consideration how it is all going to impact on your budget; your architect should be able to guide you here. Remember changes to the drawings at a later stage will incur additional costs so planning is important.

Final Plans and Specifications - Once you have agreed on the final design, your architect will draw up the plans for submission to Council and thereafter the enrolment of the property with the NHBRC. A full set of working drawings will consist of a site plan, a house plan, elevations and sections, drainage, municipal service and engineer’s structural drawings.

The Final Documentation – This encompasses working drawings, schedule of finishes as well as specifications for the scope of the build, including foundations, main structure, P C List, brickwork, electrical layout, plumbing wall plaster, the roof, door and window schedules, paint, tiles, etc. including features, such as claddings, ventilation, natural lighting, etc.

Tender - The architectural professional will draw up the invitation to tender for various contractors. The invitation sets out an estimate (your budget) project value, what the project comprises of, terms and conditions etc. The plans and structural engineer’s drawings and outline specification are used in the tendering process to get quotes from cost estimators, contractors, subcontractors or quantity surveyors. When the costs come in you may need to revise your plans and talk to your builder, architect or quantity surveyor to see where savings can be made. If you have your building consent, changes to the plans may mean that you need to apply for an amendment to the building consent.

The recent introduction of the SANS 10400 XA (Deemed to Satisfy) code on Energy Efficiency in Buildings, means it is important to appoint someone who is competent to give effect to the design. If they have not been registered as being competent to do rational design, which is a requirement, the municipality will not accept their design for approval. It is very important to check your architect’s SACAP registration status as well as whether they are deemed competent in terms of the Energy Efficiency codes before you engage them. The process has also forced the architectural professional to be more involved in the process from beginning to end and ensures responsible practises.

plansThe Regulator (NRCS) has published legislation regarding energy efficiency in new buildings (NBR-XA).

Here’s what you need to know for your home:

• South Africa’s mounting energy crisis means that we all need to think of innovative ways to save electricity in our homes and of products that can help reduce our current electricity usage.
• The application of this new regulation is good news for the environment and will help save electricity.
• The National Building Regulation (NBR) has been updated to include Part X which addresses environmental sustainability and Part XA which establishes requirements for energy efficiency in new buildings.
• The National Standard SANS 10400 (building code) is made up of various parts. Parts A to W are deemed to satisfy rules which, if adhered to, will ensure compliance to the National Building Regulations.
• Each part covers different aspects of the construction and finishing of buildings. These are the minimum standards that ensure the health and occupational safety of the occupants in these buildings.
• Visit: National Building regulations.

The Architect’s responsibility on site can include: adhering to the agreed project objectives, managing the project from foundation to finishes, making sure the quality and standards are met, risk assessment, project management and co-ordination. It is very important that all instructions are communicated through the architect to the contractor. This will ensure both efficient co-ordination and cost control.

The contract sum is the price agreed with the contractor and entered into the contract. The contract sum should be calculated and checked very carefully as errors are deemed to have been accepted by both parties. The contract sum may due to variations, P C Sums etc.

Starting Construction: Site works will begin after the official site handover meeting between your architect (acting as your agent, if that was agreed and understood up front) and the contractor. Your architect will spell out the quality of work expected and monitor the progress on site at regular intervals, which usually alternates as inspections and formal site meetings. Your architect will check the contractor’s schedule and can in some circumstances allow time extensions.

Payment Certificates: Throughout the construction process your architect will assess the progress of the work on site and issue payment certificates. This usually takes place once a month. It is important that you only pay for the value of work done and materials on site. Your architect will issue the certificate to the contractor who will in turn claim from you.

Variations: By thoroughly defining the work to be done in the working drawings, your architect has avoided many areas of confusion which usually lead to variations. However a few may still exist. A “variation” is any deviation from the original contract. Some unethical contractors give low tender prices in the hope of recouping their costs by claiming many variations. When variations do arise, your architect will mediate between you and the contractor to reduce the impact, cost and time.

Completion: Your architect will issue a certificate of practical completion when the building is ready for occupation. This also marks the start of the three month latent defects liability period, during which an amount of money is retained by you to provide safeguards against defects arising after the building work is completed. In the case of a new building, the contractor will not be responsible for the insurance of the building after practical completion; this is the owner’s responsibility. Therefore, upon receipt of the occupation certificate, the homeowner needs to insure the home as determined by the bank.

Latent Defects Liability Period: During a 5 year period after the work is completed, the contractor will remain liable under the terms of the contract to remedy any latent defects in workmanship and materials which may become apparent. It is important that all patent defects (defects that can be seen) are noted by your architect and remedied prior to the final completion certificate being issued.

Retention is a percentage of the amount certified as due to the contractor on an interim certificate, that is deducted from the amount due and retained by the client. The purpose of retention is to ensure that the contractor properly completes the activities required of them under the contract. Retention can also be applied to nominated sub-contractors, where the main contractor may also apply retention to domestic sub-contractors.

Interim certificates should clearly stipulate the retention amount and a statement should also be prepared showing retention for nominated sub-contractors.

The final account is the process of calculating and agreeing any adjustments to the contract sum (the amount originally set out in the contract to be paid to the contractor for completion of the work) so that the final payment amount can be determined. This total is then set out in the final certificate. If there are delays, it is possible for the final certificate to show that money is owed to the client, rather than due to the contractor.

Penalty Clause applies when the contractor fails to bring the works or sections thereof to practical completion on the date or dates stipulated in the contract at the agreed rate per calendar day.

With the issue of the final certificate, your architect’s services will be complete.

Lessons learned the hard way, Michele’s perspective:

Case Study 1

• The architectural professional wasn’t registered with SACAP which was only discovered after the build.
• The architectural professional never submitted plans to council which resulted in the building project being shut down by the building inspector.
• The client was incorrectly advised that it wasn’t necessary to enrol the property with the NHBRC which resulted in a 15% fine by the NHBRC. The other impact of not enrolling with the NHBRC is funding, the bank refused to release the funds until the property was enrolled and the resultant effect caused more undue delays.
• The budget was not managed correctly, which almost resulted in the client going insolvent.
• The project was over-certified the value of the contract by R800 000.

Case Study 2

• The architect wasn’t registered with SACAP which was only discovered after the build.
• The plans submitted by the architect to council were fraudulently approved in order to enrol the property with the NHBRC which resulted in the owner not being able to get an occupation certificate – it was at this stage that the owner was alerted by the building inspector that the plans had not been approved by the local authority.

Case Study 3

• The architect in his/her capacity, whilst signing the building contract crossed out the penalty clause. The contract period stipulated 4 and a half months and the building continued into a year and a half without a penalty clause.

It is important to note that these are case studies from an educational perspective based on my experience and not legal advice.


• Ensure you fully understand the requirements of all parties including client obligations prior to taking on any building projects. A property owner ultimately takes full responsibility of any problems that may occur unless negligence can be proved on the part of the professional or the principle agent.
• Larger projects require the services of professionals who are experts and can take responsibility for their actions. Trying to take on these projects yourself may result in many different fundamental problems which will be costly and have legal implications.
• Changes you make as a property owner will in most cases have cost and time implications. Ensure you fully understand the consequences and costs of your requests. Contractually you will be required to issue changes in writing and the contractor will be required to respond in writing to these requests. This will be done by your principle agent if appointed.
• Cutting costs on professional fees has consequences, so don’t be foolish and plan effectively before you start. Costs can be saved by managing your project effectively, correct choice of materials and products, sticking to the basics, reducing the size of your building. Otherwise you can meet your budget by planning the building in stages.
• Ensure that you get a readable copy of the approved building documents from the architect, these include: local authority approved plans, Local authority letter of approval, all professionals’ responsibility forms, installers and product certificates of completion, building relaxation approvals, occupancy certificate. It would also be a good idea to get an electronic copy of your building plans for future developments. All property owners are responsible and liable to the local authority and be required to prove you comply with all building standards and requirements.

JBCCBuildingAgreements 0097Important professionals required in your project

The Land Surveyor

In the residential sector, Land Surveyors are used when building houses, subdividing properties, strata surveys and re-establishing boundaries to ensure clarity between neighbours. They assess the land to ensure buildings boundaries, building lines are correctly placed in terms of building regulations and town planning requirements.

Incorrectly placed boundary pegs will result in incorrect placement of building and boundary walls. This will result in building work being demolished and will have cost and time implications. If this is discovered after completion may have devastating consequences.

The Engineer

You need to appoint a competent person who is registered with the Consulting Engineers South Africa and the NHBRC for ALL enrolments. Consulting Engineers South Africa.

Building plans cannot be approved without an engineer signing responsibility. In addition National Home builders Registration Council (NHBRC) legislative requirements will not be met without the engineer signing as the competent person.

The engineer will attend to the design and preparation of all concrete and structural building work, which includes working drawings and detailed specification, bills of quantity and contract documents for tendering.

The engineer will be responsible for site supervision of all stages of construction and the issuing of interim and completion certificates.

Michele’s notes: The experience we had with our unregistered engineer, who refused to register with the NHBRC at the time, was costly. We had to employ the services of another NHBRC registered engineer to take responsibility for the engineering resulting in another additional engineering fee

The Geotechnical Engineer

Because all construction takes place in or on the ground, geotechnical engineering plays a crucial role in all civil engineering projects. The need to investigate the ground is of vital importance before any construction work takes place. The failure to carry out adequate site investigations often has had dramatic and expensive consequences on construction projects.

Geotechnical engineers require a wide variety of skills and, in general, need to be smarter than other kinds of engineer. Whereas most engineers have the luxury of specifying the materials they use, the geotechnical engineer has no choice but to work with the natural soil and rock as he or she finds it.

The Quantity Surveyor

A quantity surveyor may work for either the client or the contractor. Association of South African Quantity Surveyors (ASAQS)

Quantity surveyors act in liaison with architects, consulting engineers and contractors to safeguard the client's interest. They are the financial consultants of the construction industry whose training and experience qualify them to advise on cost and contractual arrangements and to prepare contract documents.

A Quantity Surveyor is involved in a project from the start preparing estimates, costs of the work, progress, keeping track of any variations to the contract that may affect the total cost. A quantity surveyor manages all costs which may include the issuing of certificates, ensuring that the project is on track leading up to Practical Completion, ensuring all certificates are issued, determining the retention period and then issuing the Final Account.

Sophisticated techniques, extensive cost data banks and an intimate knowledge of building and construction economics enable quantity surveyors to provide reliable cost advice.

Quantity surveyors, in collaboration with architects are able to advise their clients on the most advantageous procurement methods available, including: Contracts incorporating bills of quantities, provisional bills of quantities and schedules of rates, valuation of work in progress, cash flow etc.

The quantity surveyor's duty is essentially one of cost control. They measure and value work in progress, determine the value of variations ordered by the architect or engineer and ensure that a fair and equitable settlement of the cost of the project is reached in accordance with the contract conditions. In conjunction with the architect and other consultants the quantity surveyor will ensure that the financial provisions of the contract are properly interpreted and applied.

Quantity surveyors are remunerated according to a recommended scale of fees, set out in the Tariff of Professional Charges published by the Association of South African Quantity Surveyors. Fees are generally based on a percentage of the value of the work handled, varying in accordance with the type of work done or the scope of services rendered.

The Principal Agent

One must decide which consultant in the professional team of your building project will be the best suited for the role of principal agent and they must be legacy appointed. The principle agent should have a good understanding of contractual obligations, financial requirements, all elements of the building process and at least 5 years project management experience.

Time, cost and quality are the main constraints that have an influence on your building project and must be managed accordingly by the Principal Agent.

Michele’s notes: We thought our architect had accepted the role of Principal Agent and 10 months into the build he informed us that he wasn’t the Principal Agent. The Quantity Surveyor then assumed the role with a clear understanding. Therefore, make sure the person nominated understands the responsibilities involved.

Be INVOLVED in your project to ensure a positive outcome.

Written by Michele Hawrylkiwicz from Buildzest.