Why it doesn’t make sense to cut corners on construction costs

by | Feb 9, 2021 | What trends we’re seeing

In my last article, we looked at why it doesn’t make sense to save on Design Fees. In this article we look at the effects of cutting costs (ie corners) during construction.

I recently attended a webinar on waterproofing issues in buildings. The presenter made the point that waterproofing issues account for 80% of all defects in buildings. Yet the cost of waterproofing is only 1-2% of the overall construction cost.

Therefore, doubling the cost of the waterproofing would only increase the build cost by 1% – but doing the job properly could potentially reduce defects by 80%. Why is this so hard to figure out? Why is this so hard to remedy?

Below is a table showing that a simple $50 saving in construction can cost 300 times that in remedial costs

If a homeowner or purchaser was given the choice of paying $50 more for the house or unit now, or facing a $15,000 repair bill in 5-10 years time, I am sure they would choose the $50. If only they knew they had the choice – or do they?

Having owned a strata dwelling for nearly 10 years, I was amazed to recently discover that it is “normal” for bathroom waterproofing to fail around the 8-10 year mark. Strata managers are not surprised by it, but as owners we are very surprised to learn that all our bathrooms need re-doing. Along with a special levy to make it happen.

Every dollar saved in construction is a dollar in the developer, builder or tradie’s pocket. But if that dollar is a potential future cost to the building of multiple dollars, should we be saving it?

It’s not just about waterproofing. A cheap carpet will usually wear out long before a quality one – requiring replacement more often. A cheap door handle is more likely to break or fall off & lock a child in a room – costing a locksmith, new lock and potentially a new door.

Almost every building failure that makes the news is a result of cutting corners. A slightly weaker concrete was used, a few bars of steel were left out, an inferior product was substituted, or someone didn’t do something properly. Time and quality cost money – but quick, cheap & nasty cost a lot more money in the end.

Growing up, we were taught to buy quality items, that would last. Today, the mentality seems to be to buy the cheapest and get another one when it wears out. We are all happy to get on our soapboxes about saving the planet, but only if it is cheap. Quality will always outlast rubbish –it costs less in the long run – and it is better for the planet.

Perhaps quality should be the competitive advantage, rather than cost – something to think about….

- Peter Couvaras
Peter started the Couvaras Architects from the dining table in 2005, and has built a reputation for delivering buildings that not only function well, but deliver an element of delight. He is responsible for client engagement and managing the team.
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