Good communication essential in busy times

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During the construction boom, good communication is the key to delivering a successful project, registered architect and Te Kahui Whaihanga president Judi Keith-Brown writes.



In these unprecedented boom times, the construction industry is so stretched that many builders and architects are booked two years or more into the future.

And though that may not sound like such a bad problem to have, it’s important that we look after ourselves and our clients during these busy times.

It can be really tough telling people — especially regular clients — that they have to wait. But it’s so important to be honest and open about what you can do and when you can do it, right from the very start.

That’s why I believe good communication is the key to delivering a successful project.

If you can’t guarantee you’ll be able to do a job in six, 12 or even 24 months, don’t promise to.

If supply chain issues are causing delays, a subbie can’t make it until the week after next, or the bathroom tiles are no longer available in green, tell the client straight away.

Being realistic about your time and maintaining regular communication with the client about what’s happening and when, will save both of you from becoming stressed and disappointed further down the line.

It’s also important to remember that good communication will benefit the other industry professionals, tradies and subbies you’re working with.

As full service architects or builders leading projects, we are responsible for ensuring the teams we work with know what’s happening, and when.

For well over a decade, I’ve worked with a handful of the same builders over and again, across the Wellington region.

For the current projects I’m working on with one of them — Master Builder Perry Barber — we talk every day about how they’re running and whether there might be any speed bumps ahead.

Importantly, we then communicate that information back to our clients with regular emails, phone calls and weekly on-site meetings.

The value of this collaborative relationship is immeasurable — you’ll be amazed at the problems you can solve with a quick chat over the phone.

By working together, and planning ahead, Perry and I are able to navigate this boom, while keeping ourselves and our clients happy.

Communication is key when talking budget too. Discuss money with your clients early and honestly.

A formula that Perry and I like to use in these conversations is to take the total budget and subtract from it the cost of GST and things such as council, architect and engineering fees.

An exercise like this will help a client feel comfortable right from the start.

It’s also important to remember that contingency sums are essential, especially when working with old houses. And clients need to know that any late changes of plan will likely increase the cost of the project.

And finally, tell everyone who will listen about the value of working with registered professionals.

A client could be tempted to find someone else for the job after being told they have to wait 18 months for that renovation or new build, or that it could be done more cheaply by someone else.

But it’s during these boom times that dodgy practitioners can emerge from the shadows.

Let the client know that it’s worth waiting to work with qualified professionals — such as full service registered architects and Master Builders. Doing so is likely to save them time, money and stress in the long run.

Registered architects bring a wealth of experience to the table, along with a code of ethics and a commitment to continuing professional development.

They listen to their clients, and can design liveable, sustainable homes that make the most of modern building practices.

The same applies to builders. Good builders will help you choose the best materials, and think of the small details that make a good house into a great home.

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