Free copy of The Building Code of Australia (BCA)

What a free copy of the building code of Australia (BCA), the Australian Government has made it public.

In order to promote public education and public safety, equal justice for all, a better informed citizenry, the rule of law, world trade and world peace, this legal document is hereby made available on a noncommercial basis, as it is the right of all humans to know and speak the laws that govern them.

National Construction Code Series 2012 VOLUME ONE HTML
National Construction Code Series 2012 VOLUME TWO HTML
National Construction Code Series 2012 VOLUME ONE PDF
National Construction Code Series 2012 VOLUME TWO PDF

The benefits of builder brokers

It is known that mortgage brokers and insurance brokers are useful to get the best possible service at the best possible price. I thought I would share my knowledge of builder brokers, and whether they can benefit those building a home or development.  Note this analysis and opinion is purely based on my knowledge and experience in Perth, Australia, and I have never actually engaged the services of a builder broker.

Similar to a mortgage and insurance broker, a builder broker claims that they can build a dwelling at the best price and terms. The argument is that by quoting on the same plans to various builders, since all the builders will be quoting on the same design, the most favourable price and terms can be selected. This is different to approaching builders individually, who will create their own designs and provide a cost, since all designs are different, it is difficult to compare like for like. Though, there is an advantage that each builder may produce a design that they can optimally construct due to their past knowledge.

Design

A builder broker will create the dwelling design, usually the development approval drawings, so that it can be submitted to council for approval. The builder broker may guarantee council approval, which is a definitely a good thing. The price of these drawings may be significantly less than getting an architect to do similar, with the builder broker reasoning that their return are from the builder on signing up, so it is in their interest to take it that far.

There are a few catches, the copyright of the drawings will belong to the broker builder and will be licensed only if you use their services.  Let’s say you have received development approval, paid your application fee, a few hundred or thousand dollars depending on the size, you are now at the mercy of the builder broker, if you don’t like their choice of builders, the subsequent quotes, etc, you can’t take your plans somewhere else. This leads on to the next point.

Conflict of Interest

There is a difference between a mortgage or insurance broker and a builder broker, the former can easily be compared by yourself, when you receive a loan from a mortgage broker it can be compared with any number of banks, all on similar terms and conditions. Similarly, with an insurance broker, the insurance premiums can all be easily compared. A builder broker, you don’t have a licence to use the copyright except if you chose to progress the build through the broker, with the builder broker arguing that this is how they make their fees. Understandably, this is true, but even throwing your own preference for builder can be met with backlash.

Firstly, though, let’s talk about the builder broker’s fee, besides the initial ‘foot in the door’ payment for producing the drawings, the bulk of the builder brokers fee is the commission from the builders. That is, a percentage of the building cost is given to the builder broker, let me say that again, the more you pay to the builder, the more the builder broker receives, how is that is your best interests. Which leads to my next point.

Transparency

The builder broker will cloud however they can the comparison between builders, in order to favour the quote that gives them the largest cut. Firstly, each builder may give different referral fees, depending on past relationship, etc, you will never know, and that is why they are hesitant to introduce builders that are not on their shortlist, they may need to build new relationships, or know that there is not much commission through them. Secondly, they summarise the quotes into a simple table, so you can easily compare, you may never see the quotes, and their summaries are arranged to lead you choosing a builder that the builder broker prefers. Thirdly, brokers argue that they are simply taking the commission that the sales person of the builders would normally take, this may be true if the broker has a good relationship with a builder, but again, there is no transparency, and unlike a sales person what incentive does the broker have to negotiate a lower price.

Alternatives

A better alternative to a builder broker is getting a draft person or architect to design the dwelling for you. Once council approved, then approach builders individually, yes, you will be dealing with the builder’s salesperson, but if you don’t like what one builder is offering, simply move to the next.

In fairness, don’t show one builder’s quote to other builders, instead give them a rough indication of how they are placed and allow them to adjust.

AFS Walling Solutions – permanent formwork concrete walls review

Recently I did some research into the AFS Logic Wall product as an alternative to brick for a development I am working on.

AFS is a permanent formwork concrete wall solution, what this means is instead of creating the timber frame on site for the concrete pour, a factory creates a shell which is then assembled on site and filled with concrete.

The benefits are quicker wall construction times, days not weeks, as there is minimum site works. This initially seams like a huge benefit, but only after speaking to a number of industry people are the true costs discovered.

As a start, read through this AFS Assessment by the Ceramic Advisory Services, though the information may be outdated and biased.

I received the following information from an AFS distributor, April 2014;

Typically AFS150 would be supplied and installed and filled with concrete for approx $ 215/m2, ready for applied finishes.

Compared to a brick, the costs is fairly similar, especially if comparing to double brick. But there are some additional costs that are not accounted for.

From the distance, there looks like there is a huge advantage to reduced wall thicknesses, I was informed 150mm AFS could be used in place of my 230mm double brick. There are a couple of catches though, only electrical conduit can be set in the concrete, water pipes can’t and so a separate stud wall is needed, adding about 75mm and additional costs.

AFS wall have a specified insulation R value, though the wall is concrete only, if you can’t meet the required insulation then additional will be required. With double brick construction, the insulation can be installed in the cavity, there is no cavity with the AFS so again a separate stud wall is needed.

When you need a thin wall, brick is a minimum 90mm thick, whilst AFS is 110mm, possibly due to the cement formwork being 10mm in thickness on each side and unable to support any load.

The slab needs starter rebar for the formwork, whilst brick does not, again, adding additional costs.

Finally, there are only a handful of builders that work with AFS, in Perth I was given the names of four builders, severely restricting the choice.