“The Insanity of Building Rectification” or “The Man with the Silicon Gun”


The definition of insanity is to do the same action repeatedly even though the outcome never changes.An example would be the staggeringly insane behaviour of generals in the First World War who sent wave after wave of young men to certain death in the quest for a few hundred yards.

Similarly, we’ve all see builders who send back the same guy with a silicon gun over and over and over again hoping that one day there will be enough goo in the roof, balcony or wall to deal with that intensely annoying leak that never seems to stop.

Heaven forbid that the builder might actually stop and give some thought to exactly why the leak is happening rather than applying a band-aid that was never going to work.

The question is why does this happen? Here are some reasons I can think of:

(a) activity and the appearance of progress is more important than actual progress, mainly because it is cheaper (in the short term) and it shuts up those pesky owners;
(b) it maximises the possibility that the relevant litigation period will expire before any legal action is taken against the builder; and
(c) it is in keeping with the psychology of builders who have a compulsion to act even if they don’t know how to act.

The key takeaway message here is that activity is not necessarily an appropriate substitute for the careful and considered thought that must precede worthwhile action. Unfortunately, careful and considered thought involves effort and attention to detail which does not come naturally to most people (including builders). Indeed, many defects would be avoided if the builder spent more time working through the detail during the construction phase.

The trouble is, with the passing of the position of clerk of works and the introduction of private certifiers whose responsibility is limited to only certain checks, there is unfortunately no one in the building process looking after the detail.

One thought on ““The Insanity of Building Rectification” or “The Man with the Silicon Gun”

  1. Chris

    you mention detail and the lack of attention to it – by builders.

    Well that in isolation makes some sense but if building regulation is going to avoid more problems – working on a prevention is better than a cure basis – and noting in NSW we have a Building Act which needs to be rewritten and has been reviewed and proposed as being in the process of being rewritten for at least the last 7 years – and that last year we had a planning review which said that greater emphasis was going to be placed on getting the details approved correct – which in the majority of cases is a pre-builder determined detail as in submitted by a client and approved by a certifying authority etc – then isn’t the first and most proactive step that can be taken is to make sure that what is designed and approved takes into account known risk issues so that they are eliminated or at least addressed and work aspects regarding those risks are properly detailed before the builder and the trades get the plans.

    After all the building issues addressed by parties over many years surely there is enough detail to rank say the top ten issues and have these made priority check points from the design and approval stage through to the building stage. That approach is applicable to renovations and single dwellings through to high-rise structures and if applied in a commonsense way will see the repeat areas of concern reduced and removed and better detail and better building outcomes achieved.

    There are many more things that can be done to reduce building outcome risks but starting at the earliest possible pragmatic time – being at the design stage – would be a good start.

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