An article written for those in the building industry
Quality Assurance and Better Project Management Can Help You Succeed
With ongoing changes to the Building Act and other legislation, we all need to face the changes and plan to succeed.
The smart operators manage their time, supply chain and quality assurance. This can positively impact on the reputation of their company and therefore attractiveness to potential customers. A great reputation means a greater slice of the pie. The value of your brand is determined by whether or not you keep your promise to your customer. It’s about what you deliver and how you deliver it.
Across New Zealand about 75,000 to 80,000 plus building consents are issued annually. Most of this work is carried out by small to medium sized businesses which make up about 90% of the construction firms. Research by BRANZ (2010), Davis (2007) and the Productivity Commission (2011) indicates that productivity in the construction industry is low, with the need for better project management. The high level of re-work (31%) in residential building is a serious problem. The message was clear – we need to get it right the first time. Think of it this way, if you take the time to get it right, you create time and therefore the opportunity to take on more projects per annum.
A good quality assurance and project management system identifies where the areas of risk and / or delay occur. It measures the impact of this and puts processes in place that if followed, ensure that risk and or delay is minimised or removed. If you don’t identify and manage these critical areas, you are probably not achieving the potential that you could. You are literally short-changing your business of potential profits.
So what are the key risk and / or delay junctions in the building consent process? Recent audits of building consents received by the councils across the Waikato Building Consent Group indicated that poor paper work resulted in rework that could have been easily avoided. So let’s split it up into the key stages, and list the main points that a smart business should be addressing in their quality assurance system.
Project Information Memorandum
The project consists of more than just the plans and getting them passed council. It also includes the land. Although property owners do not need to get a Project Information Memorandum, it is often a good idea to do so as this will indicate whether there are any issues with the land or whether the proposed project is going to meet District Plan requirements.
Finding out what you can build and where you can build it on the property, while the building plans are in the concept or early stages, can mean avoiding the cost of re-design and / or the cost of a Resource Consent.
Building Consent Applications
If you get it right, your application can be lodged sooner. So check that the following points are addressed before you submit your building consent application to Council.
The correct application form is used
Old non-compliant forms have to be rejected by councils as the content and order of the content no longer meets the Building (Forms) Regulations 2004. It is always wise to either collect a current form from your Council or to download from the Build Waikato website.
If you have some forms stock piled in your office, check them against the one on the website. If they are not the same as the online form, throw them away. If you use an old form, you Building Consent Authority (your Council) can ask you to complete a new form before accepting your application. Avoid this unnecessary rework by using the right form.
The building consent application form is filled in correctly
Please refer to the application form guide which is found next to the application form on the website. It explains what information is required in each section. Every text field must be addressed. If it is not relevant to your project, put a line through the empty field or write “NA” (not applicable). If the whole of a section is not applicable, you can put a line through the whole of that section or write “NA”. If the application form is not filled in completely and correctly, the application will be rejected by your council.
NOTE: The building location details and the owner’s details are ALWAYS applicable and must be provided in full.
The plans are prepared by appropriate people
Check that the person(s) creating the plans is appropriately qualified or licensed, and has the experience and competency within their field of expertise. If the project is a residential building which involves restricted building work, the design MUST be carried out by, or be supervised by a registered Architect, Chartered Professional Engineer or a Design LBP with the right level of competency.
Check the appropriate registers. This person must be named on the building consent application form at the time of application and must also provide a Certificate of Design Work.
Certificate of Design Work
The designer must provide a Certificate of Design Work (COW) with their plans for inclusion in the application for a building consent if it involves restricted building work. For more information on this see the MBIEs website on Builder and Designer rights and obligations. The Certificate of Design Work template is available for downloading from the MBIE website. If a text field is not relevant to your project, put a line through the empty field. If the COW has not been filled in completely and correctly, the application will be rejected by your council.
If there is more than one designer taking responsibility for different parts of the design, then each of them must supply a COW. BUT In regard to the inclusion of truss designs, the advice from MBIE is that the design LBP or registered Architect must take responsibility for incorporating this into their designs and include this in their COW.
NOTE: The building location details and the owners’ details are ALWAYS applicable and must be provided in full.
Notification of trade Licensed Building Practitioners (LBPs) for a project that is restricted building work
If you know the names of the trade LBPs that you will be using in the construction of a residential building, name them on the building consent application form. If not then write; “To be advised” or “TBA” against each of the trades.
Do not list trade LBPs on the application form if they have not as yet agreed to do the work.
Once you have engaged your trade LBPs and have their information, make sure that you notify the council of the names of all the LBPs before construction beginning. No notification of all the LBPs means no inspections can be booked. Use the LBP Notification Form on the website. If the LBPs change during construction, keep the Council informed. This is a requirement of section 87 of the Building Act – it is an offense not to do so. Use the LBP Notification Form to keep your Council up to date regarding any changes.
If you manage the supply chain of key personnel (LBPs and other trades) well ahead of time, you have a greater probability of employing the people you want and you reduce the risk of delays during the build. You also reduce the need for additional notifications to Council.
All the required documents have been supplied
Refer to the application form and the applicant checklist on the website. Check that you have provided all the documents requested.
The building plans provide the required information
Refer to the applicant checklist for your project type. It lists the critical elements that your plans should address. Make sure that your DESIGNER works through the applicant’s checklist and the application form, and fills them out properly and completely, providing the page references for the information requested. This ensures that they check that the information is actually present and adequate and that it is easy to find. If they do this, it is easier and quicker for Council officers to vet the application so that it can be lodged and processed.
It also means less processing time and avoidance of unnecessary requests for further information. If the applicant’s checklist is not completed, the application will be rejected.
The specifications are specific to the building plans
If specifications are specific to the project they will be able to be assessed more quickly and the building consent granted sooner. If the Council officer has to wade through a whole lot of unnecessary information hunting for what is relevant, time is wasted. Remember if they are not specific, your builder will also waste time wading through all the unnecessary information to find what they need. Specifications are instructions on “how to build” and the products that are to be used. Therefore they must be specific to the project and include only systems and materials that are relevant to the plans for this project.
We regularly come across generic specifications, for example, one dwelling that included trade waste, urinals and multiple types of cladding, plumbing systems and hot water cylinders that clearly were not in the plans for this dwelling. Councils have been instructed by their accreditation auditors (IANZ) to reject any application where the specifications are not specific to the project.
Letter of authorization
If you are an agent acting on behalf of the owner, ensure that you have provided written proof from the owner, that you are acting with the owner’s approval.
This can be a simple letter from the owner stating that you are authorized to act as their agent for the building consent.
Producer Statements are complete and correct and from approved authors
Check that any Producer Statements (PS1 or PS2) supplied with the application – are from reputable, known and competent designers working within their scope of competency. Check them out on the appropriate register:
- Chartered Professional Engineers – CPEng register
- New Zealand Registered Architects Board – NZRAB register
- Cluster register
If the register does not state their scope of competency then contact the registered holder for assurance that the designer is working within their scope of competency. Keep a record of this. For example, if the designer is a Chartered Professional Engineer you would contact IPENZ at their
Level 3, 50 Customhouse Quay, Wellington 6011
PO Box 12 241, Wellington, 6144
Phone:+64 4 473 9444
Check that the Producer Statements received have been filled out correctly, and are complete.
NOTE: The producer statement must be addressed to the correct Council and it must have the correct address and legal description of property. They must cover the relevant parts of the building code. If you are not sure which parts of the building code apply, check the building code. Generic statements are not acceptable.
Processing of the plans and required documentation
Get it right and your application can be processed more quickly.
The building plans have been checked for compliance BEFORE submission
The designer has checked that their plans meet the requirements of the Building Act and the Building Code. These documents are available for free, as are the building code Acceptable Solutions (compliance documents).
If Building standards are used, e.g. NZS3604, make sure that the latest version has been used. For links to the Building Act, Code and Standards go to the legislation page on the Build Waikato website.
Also, check the plans against the processing checklists which are available on the website. These checklists are used by Council officers to assess your plans and specifications.
Ensure information is easy to find
Set your plans out in an order that makes it easy to find the information requested. A contents page showing the order and plan or page numbers is really helpful.
If information is hard to find, you may get unnecessary requests for further information. This wastes everyone’s time.
Requests for further information are responded to quickly
If you have missed something in your plans or specifications and receive a request for further information, ensure that the correct information is supplied and that it is compliant. Remember that the processing clock stops (as required by law) while the Council waits for you to respond. By checking your plans and specifications thoroughly prior to application, you can avoid this happening.
Every time a building officer has to revisit an application due to requests for further information or spend extra time hunting for information in poorly set out plans, that time slot becomes unavailable to other applicants who have taken the time to present full and accurate and well set out plans.
Where this is the rule rather than the exception, those that don’t play the game impact on everyone else’s timeframes and productivity.
Payment is made on time
Payment of fees is either up front or as soon as the invoice in received. The 20-day processing clock stops for unpaid fees.
Delay of payment means granting and issuing delays.
If there are issues that will delay the start or completion of the project, let us know so that we can work with you.
Timeframes are managed
In order to deliver on time for your customer, it is very important to manage all timeframes around the supply of materials, availability trades people, completing work on time and being ready for Council inspections.
Plan ahead and deliver on time.
Inform Council of delayed project start
If there are significant issues that will delay the start of the project into the second year, then apply for an extension of time well BEFORE the one year anniversary since the building consent was issued. Failure to do so results in the building consent lapsing (becoming null and void) on the anniversary. In other words, the building consent expires.
Any work after that date that does not have an extension of time, is illegal building work. An extension can only be given BEFORE the anniversary.
If you have not got an extension of time, but do want to go ahead with the project, you will need to apply for a new building consent.
Amendments – making changes to the approved plans
For all amendments, it is important that these changes are approved in writing by both the owner and the designer before submitting the altered plans to Council and BEFORE any changes are made to the building. You need to get Council approval for these changes.
If it is a MINOR amendment then this can be signed off on site. If it is a MAJOR amendment then you will need to fill in a new Building Consent application form and provide the associated plans and documentation. This could delay the build for up to 20 working days while the amendments are being assessed. For examples of minor variations and major variations, see the Building System Performance (MBIE) website.
Remember that if the specifications name certain products then changing these to alternative products is an amendment to the approved building consent, and this must be approved by the owner, designer, and Council. If you do not have the designer’s approval, then the designer can disown any responsibility if the building fails.
Inform Council of delayed project finish
If there are significant issues that will delay the finish of the project to AFTER the 2 year anniversary since the building consent was granted, then apply for an extension of time well BEFORE the 2-year date. If an application for a Code Compliance Certificate is not made by this date section 93 of the Building Act requires that the Council make a decision on whether or not to issue the CCC within 20 working days.
Being prepared and getting it right means your project can be completed sooner.
Ensure Council knows who your LBPs are prior to residential work starting
Use the LBP Notification Form on the website.
Inspections are booked well ahead of time
This will allow you to get the inspections when you need them. Remember to allow time for the availability of inspectors (same day inspections are not always possible).
Being ready for each inspection
Check that all the relevant work has been completed and is compliant with the approved plans and specifications BEFORE the building inspector comes on site.
Make use of the inspection checklists that are available on the website.
NOTE: A failed inspection means the cost of an additional inspection and/or the cost of rework if the work is not compliant. If you know you are not ready, you should cancel the inspection. Every time a building inspector has to repeat an inspection, that time slot becomes unavailable to other builders. Where this is the rule rather than the exception, those that don’t play the game impact on everyone else’s productivity.
Manage the Records of Work (ROW) efficiently
If the work is restricted building work, smart operators collect and CHECK the Records of Work as soon as the LBP finishes their part of the job. It is far easier to collect the ROW at this time and to discuss their content with the LBP than at the end of the project when it is harder to remember who did what.
At the end of the project line up all the ROWs and check that all aspects of restricted building work have been covered by the ROWs. If one of your LBPs fails or refuses to give you a ROW, it is your responsibility to make every endeavour to obtain the ROW and provide the Council with evidence of this. It is also your responsibility to inform the Licensing Board if an LBP refuses to provide the ROW.
MBIE’s Building System Performance branch states that aside from death, and serious medical problems, there is unlikely to be any valid excuse for not providing a ROW. Disputes or unpaid invoices are not considered valid excuses by MBIE.
Check that all of the work is compliant prior to the final inspection, including any issues arising from earlier inspections. Refer to the Final inspection checklists on the website.
Application for a Code Compliance Certificate
Applications for CCC are typically processed within 5 working days from passing the final inspection. But delays can be caused when the paperwork is not complete or correct.
Get it right and your application for a CCC can be lodged and therefore processed sooner.
NOTE: Councils does not have to accept or lodge an application for a CCC, where the project has yet to be completed (i.e. has not passed its final inspection) or if the CCC application is incomplete.
For more information, check out Inspection and Certification on the Build Waikato website.
The final inspection has been passed.
Building Act 2004 s92 (1) states that “An owner must apply to a building consent authority for a code compliance certificate after all building work to be carried out under a building consent granted to that owner is completed.”
If the final inspection has not been passed then the work is not complete.
The correct CCC application form is used and filled in correctly
Check that the form you are using is up to date. The CCC form can be downloaded from the website.
NOTE: The details for personnel who carried out building work other than restricted building work are also required and must be supplied.
The Records of Work are completed and correct
If the project has involved restricted building work, the CCC application MUST be accompanied by the ROW(s) that cover all the restricted building work in the project.
This is a requirement of the Building Act 2004 (s92(2A), Building Act). Check that the ROW(s) have been filled out properly and in full.
All other required documents have been supplied and are accurate and complete
Refer back to the building consent that was issued by the Council. There may be some third-party verification documents listed under the conditions of the building consent. These must be provided during construction or at application for CCC.
It’s a good idea to collect these documents as soon as possible after the relevant work has been completed and at this time to make sure that these documents have been completed in full by their authors.
Some examples of third party verification documents:
- As-laid plumbing and drainage plans
- Producer statements (PS4) from designers (Engineers or Architects)
- Installation certificates or memoranda from product installers
- Energy work certificates – gas, electrical
- Installation and certification of specified systems
Fees have been paid in full
All outstanding fees and development contributions (if relevant) have been paid in full.
Preparing for legislative changes
In conclusion, there are more legislative changes coming and those that take responsibility for their own quality assurance will be in a better position to adapt and take advantage of the changes.
How can you keep up to date with changes?
Subscribe to MBIE’s news and updates. To take advantage of change, you need to start now. This will allow your business time to develop habits and attitudes of quality assurance before the industry gets too busy and before change happens.
Performance and quality don’t happen by accident, they are the result of creating, implementing and maintaining efficient systems that identify and mitigate risks and roadblocks.
Some further reading
- Davis, N. (2007). Construction Sector Productivity.
- Page, I.C. (2010). BRANZ Study Report SR 219 (2010). Construction Industry Productivity.
- NZ Productivity Commission (2011). Housing Affordability Inquiry. Pg. 35.
- NZ Productivity Commission (March 2012). Housing Affordability Report Summary, Pg. 40.
Building Guide – When your client wants to manage the project, this article may change their minds: Project management – Planning, project management spreadsheet, your checklists, meetings, managing resources (materials and trades), labour allocation, reports.
www.business.govt.nz – Business support, information, and advice, as well as useful tools and resources to assist you
www.businessballs.com – Free business training, project management skills, and techniques, innovative ideas, materials, exercises, tools, templates.
www.mindtools.com – Project management (program management, scheduling, project improvement and review), Time management, Stress management etc
Project Management in the Design and Construction Industry – A presentation – in PDF format – with some useful ideas.