Building a house is a complicated process that involves knowledge of architectural design, building codes, zoning regulations and basic construction elements. There are different types of Contractors. A residential building contractor oversees the construction of individual houses and multi-unit housing projects. A commercial building contractor oversees the construction and remodeling of stores, malls, hotels and other commercial projects. Most building contractors own their own companies and many of them have worked in the construction industry before becoming contractors. As an Architect, I have described the job and duties of a Contractor under the following headings, so that you are more aware of what you can expect from one:
Who is a building Contractor?
List the different types of Contractors?
What are the duties of a building Contractor?
What are the personality traits of a good building Contractor?
What are the work demands of a building Contractor?
Describe briefly a Contractor’s work?
Can an owner be the Contractor of his own building?
WHO IS A BUILDING CONTRACTOR?
A Building Contractor is responsible for the means and methods to be used in the construction/ execution of the project in accordance with the Contract documents. Said contract documents usually include the contract agreement including budget, the general and special conditions and the plans and specification of the project that are prepared by a design professional.
A Building Contractor usually is responsible for the supplying of all material, labor, equipment, (engineering vehicles and tools) and services necessary for the construction of the project. To do this it is common for the Building Contractor to retain a construction labor force or he may subcontract part of the work to other persons and companies that specialize in these types of work. These are called Subcontractors. Subcontractors put up the foundation, walls, roof, electrical and plumbing systems, supply the labour etc.
LIST THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF CONTRACTORS.
There are various types: building (residential and commercial); electrical; plumbing; mechanical; highway; and environmental (mold/lead remediation).
WHAT ARE THE DUTIES OF A BUILDING CONTRACTOR?
A building contractor may perform the following tasks:
- Examine and interpret Clients’ plans or arrange for the drawing of plans, to meet building regulations
- Submit tenders (offers to do jobs at a stated price), quotes or prices for the project to Clients
- Arrange submission of plans to local authorities for approval and arrange inspections of building work
- Organise Subcontractors to carry out all stages of building and negotiate rates of pay
- Calculate quantities of materials required for building projects and order these from building suppliers or advertise for tenders
- Arrange delivery times of materials to coincide with various stages of the building process
- Supervise the work of Subcontractors to make sure buildings are of an acceptable standard and are proceeding according to schedule
- Coordinate the activities of office staff involved in the preparation and payment of accounts
- Talk to lawyers and financial institutions on matters relating to loans and contracts for building projects
- Undertake some of the building work personally.
A Contractor must have the following traits in order to make a mark:
- good communication skills
- management and leadership skills
- good organisational skills
- technical aptitude.
WHAT ARE THE WORK DEMANDS OF A BUILDING CONTRACTOR?
A Contractor’s work demands the following
- Working in dusty or polluted environment
- Full use of hands/fingers
- Heavy lifting
- Mainly outdoor work
- Physical effort
- Reading or writing
- Standing for long periods
An Owner or Client develops a program of his needs and selects a site (often with an Architect). The Architect assembles a design team of consulting Engineers and other experts to design the building and specify the building systems to meet those needs. Today Contractors frequently participate in the design team effort by providing pre-design services where they will help in providing more accurate estimation of budget and scheduling during design to improve the over all economy of the project. Otherwise the General Contractor is hired just to build the building(s) at the close of the design phase. The Owner, Architect and Building Contractor work closely together to meet deadlines and budget. The Building Contractor then works with Subcontractors to ensure quality standards in addition to timeline and budget.
CAN AN OWNER BE THE CONTRACTOR OF HIS OWN BUILDING?
Owners considering this approach should keep in mind that general Contractors make a living working with known subcontractors. An established General Contractor will have established relationships that will outlast one construction project and the Subcontractors will acknowledge this with their cooperation. Owners seldom have this advantage and most Subcontractors will recognize the risk of working with a one time client with higher bids.