Sunday, June 20, 2010

Cost of constructing house

This is one area where there are many controversies and confusion.Quite a lot of  people think that there is a so called square feet cost of construction.Local contractors who does not know anything about Engineering Estimate or Quantity estimate of each item of construction had no other way to quote their price other than offering a” square feet rate” of construction.

When they give such a rate,they include some items and conveniently put some other items as extra.For some items they will put substandard or unacceptable quality as their standard offer ,knowing very well that client will not accept such items.So they will ask for extra charges for acceptable substitutes.

Even for items which forms part of basic essential structure,they will try to use substandard material,less material than what is required so that they will continue to make profit in spite of spiraling up cost of all inputs during construction..Client will not be able to understand the compromises in quality and quantity of materials used or easier working methods adopted to reduce labour cost.After all,contractor has to make profit and a sizeable profit as per his expectation.Why should he worry about quality and structural stability about which he does not know much.If at a later date as and when quality problems may crop up,he can wash his hands saying that he is not technically qualified and hence not aware of all those intricacies.

Neither the contractor nor the client has heard about structural engineering.Each steel reinforcement used in concrete has to be properly designed by a structural consultant.What actually happens in nearly 98% of house construction sites in Kerala,is that the main mason will decide what and how many steel reinforcement to be used simply based on what he has seen his earlier “asan “(teacher of work) do.If something is inconvenient he may even reduce that part.

I remember the case of putting steel bars for concreting of roof for a house at Chengannur for which I acted as consultant.After the scaffoldings were placed in position,the main mason told me that steel work will be completed in two days.Then I asked how he know about it as he has not even received drawings from me for steel reinforcement.This time it was his turn to get surprised.”What drawings?I know how to put steel bars for roof concrete”Normally client believes these words.So it is easy for him to put steel rods as he feels comfortable to work not knowing about structural requirements of steel reinforcement.You need a structural Engineer to design steel reinforcement and when such a design is used steel required will be more than what the mason was thinking of and the labour involved also will be more.Will the contractor who has taken the work for a “square feet rate” will be willing for increasing cost of material or labour?

All square feet rate contractors talk of plain work with plain sunshades,no slope roofs ,no design work etc.For all these they will charge extra.Person who construct the house might have given the work to a contractor after getting attracted by his low square feet rate.This continuous procession of extras and extra charges,compromises in quality of construction to increase profit of contractor , unknown to him are never expected by him earlier.When the work near completion if you mildly ask the owner of the house about square feet  cost of construction he will naturally say:”I some how has to complete construction.House warming date is fixed.I am borrowing money from wherever possible”

So my advice to you is simple.Do not get into this trap of square feet cost.Even flat builders never put their square feet cost in their advertisements and they add a proportional area of common spaces to all flat areas.So when you buy a flat of 800 sft and if you measure it,it will not be anywhere near 800 sft.Flat builders keep increasing their square feet rate from beginning of project till completion .As project near completion their price increases.In their case,no customer will come and check how they do construction.When I asked a flat builder about extreme poor construction quality,he said;”Who is going to see all these? Customer will come only after painting.Then everything will look good”

Then how do you arrive at cost of construction if you go with professional design,structural engineering and quality construction?

Using Engineering Estimate methods,an Engineer will be able to give you quantity for each item of construction in the structural pat of the building.Cost for these unit quantities will be correct or near correct if the same engineering agency is doing construction as they will be aware of current cost variations.An Estimate thus prepared can give you somewhat fair idea of construction cost of course variable with each passing of day as no builder or contractor is going to absorb increase in cost of material and labour.In Kerala conditions cost is going up almost everyday and only escape from this cost increase is to get your house constructed as fast as possible with or without external financial assistance.

After structure work,you have to again sit with your Architect to plan finishing work for your house considering money left with you,funds available through banks and other sources.One more Estimate will have to prepared by your consultant also considering latest trends in finishing works for the house.Here again your professional consultant will be able to guide you properly and save your money by suggesting cost effective options.

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