red tape in construction

 architecture, Australia, General  Comments Off on red tape in construction
Jul 102013

Re-work in construction is a costly business – an example being when a builder fails to measure twice before building a wall and then having to subsequently demolish and build it again. The cost naturally is borne by the builder if it is their fault and the total mounts into the $billions each year. A total waste of materials, as well as mind and body resources. However when requirements and therefore the time and cost is foisted upon others is when the line has been crossed and this is the point at which I consider red-tape is far is more onerous. While re-work is caused by the perpetrator and has a direct line of responsibility, the other is thrust upon others. And worse, the cost of this red tape is eventually borne by the client.

Today I lodged a letter at the request of an unnamed Council to support a Section 96 submission in Sydney’s north for a new house. Now council’s can and do request this additional information all the time – it is standard and allowable under the Act. What seems as quite incredulous in this day and age are the submission requirements in order to satisfy their request.

The Council  request for this information (of which my submission happened to be all of 3 pages!) is for 5 hard copies as well as a CD of the document in PDF format. CD’s? Of course it is no problem to me and takes little time, but can we move into the 21st century please? CD’s? Why not email, dropbox, a flash drive. It may as well be a 3.5″ or even a 5.25″ floppy disc. Tape drive or morse-code anyone? And if I didn’t lodge the CD, then they will outsource the scanning of one of the hard copies (of which you must supply 1 more hard copy for this sole purpose) and charge you for it.

floppy disks

…was floppy disks, now CD’s… but do we really need to hand over outdated media?

Naturally every Council has their own requirements, and they range from USB drives to electronic lodgement, while some do not require electronic copies at all.

The example I gave above is just a tiny example at the small end of the scale. When submitting a DA for a new house, the number of forms and checklists that must be submitted is forever increasing. By taking this same house, the actual DA required the following documentation:

  1. DA Form.
  2. Checklists.
  3. Letter of authority from the owner.
  4. Political Donations form.
  5. Drawings – Architecture (8 x A1’s) – 5 copies.
  6. Drawings – Survey – 5 copies.
  7. Drawings – Landscape Architecture – 5 copies.
  8. Drawings – Stormwater – 5 copies.
  9. Drawings – Shadows at 0900, 1200 and 1500 hrs at the equinox.
  10. Statement of Environmental Effects (50 pages) – 5 copies.
  11. Geotechnical Report (40 pages) – 5 copies.
  12. Bushfire Assessment Report.
  13. Arborist report – 5 copies.
  14. External Finishes Schedule – 5 copies.
  15. BCA Statement – 2 copies.
  16. Traffic and Parking Report – 2 copies.
  17. BASIX Certificate – 5 copies.
  18. Montage of the proposal – 2 copies.
  19. Model of the proposal.
  20. Notification drawings at A4 – 10 copies, and and don’t forget…
  21. a CD of the above.

The amount of paper required and printing generated requires trees felled en masse when all Council’s sprout their environmentally sustainable credentials. And this is not to mention the time required to print and sort and staple. And then there is the cost, all borne by the client or developer.

So what can be done about all of this red-tape? I am sure all of these reports and details are mostly read and digested, but sometimes they are not.  DA approvals are always laden with many conditions (sometimes 200 or so) many of which are already dealt with by the drawings and are often automatically generated by a computer upon the request of the assessing officer/s. The new Planning White Paper will relieve much of this with all Council’s having to have the same set of standard conditions, but that has its problems as well. In the meantime, we have to print and copy as requested by the authorities.

Let me know what you think – do we have too much red tape?


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