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'CHEAP' - in summary

Here in summary are the effects of ‘Cheap’, once building work begins:

‘Unexpected problems’ abound. The builder makes ad hoc alterations and/or does extra-cost works as he goes along.

Disappointing shortcomings become evident. The client either puts up with it or orders ‘extras’ - extra-cost features - to make it tolerable.

It turns out the builder is free to omit things or do them cheaply as he goes along. Again, the client either puts up with it or orders ‘extras’ - extra-cost work - to make it tolerable.

What was supposed to be cheap either escalates in cost (and often in time taken as well) or what the builder chooses to provide is meekly accepted.

See the ‘Cheap’ scenario in full, so you can see how it plays out.

The client is disempowered, with little recourse, for two reasons:

Firstly, the typical one-sided NFBTE (National Federatiion of Building Trades Employers) form of contract – or no contract at all;

Secondly, because the description of the work to be done for the accepted quote is so sketchy, that no one can say and enforce what the builder contracted to do for the money.

The building trade has come to believe that quoting loss-leader low to win the job, then making it up with profitable ‘extras’ is fair game, enabled by vague project documentation. In my opinion, the NFBTE contract embodies this.

This ‘Cheap’, in which my kind of architectural service is the first cost to be ‘saved’, is close to being a universal racket, which so many private clients fall for and never learn from. The client pays and pays, and even then may end up disappointed - but yet recommends the builder to the next mark ‘for the way he coped with problems’.

If there are builders out there who nurture a reputation for delivering a pleasing, quality job for a fixed price, within this ‘Cheap’ tradition, well I don’t know how they can win jobs, with their cover-all quotes against loss-leader competition; and I don’t know how to find them when local recommendation is so often unreliable.

So if you’ve really found one, please do put me in touch!

Maybe they in fact escape from the ‘Cheap’ tradition to the ’Economical’, by recommending a high quality architect instead of the usual low-cost plan-drawer.

The above is about the cost and disappointment results of ‘Cheap’ - but there’s more. Without that high quality architectural input, the client never knows what kind of thoughtful solution, beyond expectation, might have evolved, more beautiful, functional, energy efficient and economically buildable than he/she could have imagined. That’s what good architects do and that brings us to …

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