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How to Get Funding for a Construction Project


Getting funding for a construction project can be tough or smooth depending on various factors such as your financial standing, creditworthiness, quality of your presentation and proposal. Every lender (or investor) wants to know what they are getting from a project or business plan. They are bound to ask you tough questions, test your proposals and ask for a lot of documents. If you want to increase your chances of getting building finance, you have to prepare the required documents, and you must know the options available for you in your region:

Prepare a Cost Estimate

The first step in securing construction finance is preparing a cost estimate for your proposed project, and you can get this estimate from a consulting quantity surveyor or certified estimator. If you already have the sketch plans or architectural drawings, the quantity surveyor will need them to prepare an estimate. You will need to pay the quantity surveyor for this estimate, since it’s a professional document with quantitative and qualitative input. Do not assume that you can get an estimate anywhere e.g. from a building contractor, because what the contractor gives you is not an estimate, but just a quote.

The quantity surveyor can prepare three types of estimates, the Superficial Floor Area Estimate, Elemental Estimate or Provisional Bills of Quantities.

Bank Rating

When you have obtained the estimate, the next step is approaching your bank to get a bank rating or letter of financial standing. If you have a good bank rating or credit score, the sponsors will view you in a positive light, but if you have negative rating, it will reduce your chances of landing a contract.

In applying for funding, you have to decide whether you will apply as an individual or as a registered company. If you are applying as a company, you might be required to submit proof of business registration and tax certificates.

Items that may be required by investors are outlined below:

  • Cost estimate
  • Proposal ,Presentation
  • Business/Financial plan with cashflow and cost projections
  • Bank rating/score
  • Letter of financial standing from your bank
  • Guarantees from building material suppliers and other creditors
  • Business registration
  • Tax certificates
  • Proof of vacant land or site on which the construction will take place
  • Building license or building plan approval

Prepare a Financial/Business Plan

Find a financial consultant to prepare a professional business plan. If you are not a business, you can still prepare a financial plan with cashflow and cost projections. Investors prefer to work with numbers and if your plan is financially viable, they will be impressed.

Prepare a Professional Presentation/Proposal

Prepare a motivational presentation that includes your mission, goals, background etc. Explain why you think your project deserves funding, how you plan to achieve your goals, the benefits of your project, the challenges, risks and how you plan to respond or mitigate the risks.

Get a Building License

If you already have a building license, investors will take you seriously. It shows your determination and resolve to go ahead with the project. As you negotiate with investors, you will be talking about land that you already have to build the proposed project. Discussing plans that have not been implemented does not instill confidence in investors.

Obtain Credit Guarantees from Material Suppliers

A credit guarantee from building material suppliers gives you an advantage as it shows proper planning on your behalf. When other creditors are endorsing and supporting your project, it’s a sign of confidence in your project, so other lenders are more likely to pitch in.

Where To Get Funding

You can get funding from multiple sources. The following are places to solicit or apply for construction funding:

  • Commercial banks,
  • Development banks
  • SME banks
  • Lending institutions
  • Property developers
  • Pension fund organizations
  • Building societies
  • Government banks
  • Investor joint ventures

The Difference between an Estimate and Budget – Construction Cost


A construction estimate is prepared in the early stages of a project before work on site begins. The process leading to a cost estimate begins with client consultation. As soon as the client lays down their building plans with an architect, he or she must take the blueprints to a quantity surveyor or professional estimator. The quantity surveyor will take off measurements from the drawings and calculate the cost of construction. The construction cost is the estimate that a client should budget for, if they intend to go ahead with the project.

Most of the times, the client has no idea of the costs until they are furnished with an estimate. In this case, according to the client’s financial standing, the cost might be too high or within their budget. When dealing with a client, the quantity surveyor’s role is producing accurate cost estimates based on the designs, and not on the client’s feelings. However, if the initial design is too expensive for the client, the quantity surveyor can advise the client to make alterations or produce an alternative design altogether. The client will be required to go back to the architect to suggest changes. Working with the client, the architect will revise the plans or produce alternative designs but this time a lot of consideration will be placed on the cost elements rather than aesthetics.

In designing a new plan, the architect must refer to the quantity surveyor’s cost estimate with the goal of identifying building elements which are taking too much cost. For example, expensive marble floor tiles may need to be replaced with low-priced ceramic tiles. One or two rooms may need to be removed and the plan configuration might need to be re-arranged or re-sized to reduce the costs. If the slate roof tiles are taking a large proportion of the cost, they might need to be replaced with a much cheaper variety or version, for example, asphalt fibreglass , clay, concrete tiles or corrugated iron/asbestos sheets.

The procedure whereby the architect designs with cost in mind is called “designing to a cost” or “designing to a budget”.  This is usually done when the client has a specific sum of money in their bank account set aside for the project. Designing to a cost will reduce the number of revisions which need to be made. To make it easier for the client, the architect may suggest building models which have been built in the past or which exist in the market. The cost of such models is known and if ever there is a fluctuation of price (building index) due to market conditions, an adjustment for price increase can be added to the known cost.

An estimate represents the actual cost of the proposed project, and a budget represents the client’s financial standing, capability or spending power. A new residential building might be estimated to be $200,000, and the client may only have $100,000 in their bank account. In this case, $200,000 or more is the required budget. A budget cannot be an estimate, but an estimate can be used for budgeting purposes and securing building finance from a lender.

Top 8 Construction Management Software for Building Contractors, Remodelers, Interior Designers and Trade Specialists


It doesn’t matter whether you are in the construction, renovation, home decoration or subcontracting business, your client’s project will have three main stages which start with consultation and planning, followed by the tendering/bidding process and the contract management stage. Estimates and budgets are produced in the planning stage, proposals in the form of priced bills of quantities or contractors rates are submitted in the bidding stage and work on site begins in the contract stage.

Hence, if you are looking for the best construction management software to manage client projects, you have to choose a program that supports these three critical stages. A program that provides an intuitive understanding of the modules is easy to use. There should be a systematic flow and seamless integration between the planning stage, bidding stage, contract stage and project finalization. It all depends on the collaboration between the software developer and the construction industry specialists. A user-friendly estimating program will not only produce quick results, but it will allow anybody involved in the project to follow progress and accelerate training for estimating technicians and project managers. For the sake of meeting productivity and profit goals, the CEO should invest in software with powerful functions and simple interface that improves efficiency.

Types of Applications for Contractors:

There are two types of construction management software that you can use for estimating, budgeting and project management. There are computer-based programs that you have to download and install on your desktop computer, and there are cloud-based programs (a.k.a web-based apps) that you can access by purchasing a subscription. The advantage of a cloud-based estimating program is that you can access it anywhere, for example if you are managing projects in different parts of the city, state or region, all you need to access the project is log into the app on your Smartphone, tablet or laptop. Networking with other members of the construction team is possible, and you can receive live updates on site.

The following are some of the top project management applications for construction firms, remodelers, interior designers and trade specialists:


BuilderTrend is touted as a cloud-based construction management software for building and renovation companies, including specialty contractors. Since it’s a web-based application, the software can be accessed on common platforms such as desktop computer, tablet, iPhone and Android. A look at the software shows that an attempt was made to make it as simple as possible for its users. The program has 4 main modules to tackle the life cycle of a building or remodelling project. If you are managing a new project, you will begin with the Pre-Sale module. This module is used for lead management, estimating the project cost, budgeting and preparing bid documents also known as tender documents. As a contractor, you will be able to price bid documents using the in-house pricing information that is readily available on the interface.

The next phase of the project after the bidding period is handled by the Project Management module. That is if the contractor has won the tender or secured a contract. In this module, the contractor can prepare a programme of work by using the Scheduling feature. As work commences on the site, the site clerk will record daily activities via Daily Logs. There are features to record site measurements and notes, including marking up changes to initial drawings. When variation orders are issued by the Architect or Resident Engineer, the Estimator will use the Change Orders feature to capture the instructions.

The Financial module in BuilderTrend helps the Estimator to track and prepare payments, as well as manage costs via budgeting. This feature deals with financial paperwork that needs to be prepared as soon as the Estimator returns to the office from the site. The last module is the Customer Management module which allows a client to log into the cloud app to check progress, provide feedback and make changes to specifications.

All in all, you have to master 14 sub-modules which are presented in a simplified thumbnail box grid when you log in. BuilderTrend claims to have at least 450,000 users around the world and at least 800,000 projects that have been completed by contractors. You can test-drive the software by logging into a live demo:

Test Drive the Free Online Demo >> Click Here



BuildTools is purely a construction management software which is accessed on a web-server managed by the company. The platform is designed for builders and remodelers who want to manage their projects, improve efficiency and communication on all matters related to the construction process. Just like a typical construction app that is built with simplicity in mind, the software contains modules that can be easily recognized by a contractor or anybody who is involved in the project.

There are 10 modules in BuildTools and these will help the contractor to communicate effectively and quickly with the construction team, schedule a project, produce budgets, make selections, create a task list, manage documents, change orders and create financial reports. There is a service module which allows clients to review the work done. Clients are able to submit feedback based on inspections made to the finished work. Items in the initial construction program are compared with the final account to verify any missing work items or anything that was not done according to specifications. Like other software, you can connect to accounting systems such as QuickBooks.

For those who are interested in this software, it is important to note that you can use BuildTools remotely from any location as long as you are connected to the internet. It works with a desktop browser as well as iPhone, Android and iPad.

However, if you are looking for a construction estimating solution, this software is not made for that. There is no estimating module. It only allows members of the professional team (the Architect, Quantity Surveyor and Engineers) to collaborate on a centralized platform. Building information is shared with the professional team as well the contractor, client and everybody who is involved. To see how the software works, you can schedule a demo on the website.

Try the Online Demo >> Click Here



ClickHome is a construction management application for home builders. Developed by an Australian company, the software is a workflow management system with 6 modules that a Project Manager would find useful on and off the site. Like other software, you will get a Leads Management module that deals with capturing potential clients and processing them into the funnel. It’s an important part of the marketing department which ensures that leads are retained and managed from a central database.

The next step after capturing leads is the client brief with the contractor and architect. This is where the contractor makes use of the Pre-Construction module. During this stage, feasibility studies and model simulations are done to identify potential errors, pitfalls and bottlenecks which might affect the project. The software will enable a smooth management and flow of the processes involved in the pre-tender stage, for example planning and preparation for building, and ways to improve efficiency, save time and money.

The pre-construction stage culminates with the tendering process, and at this point, the contractor has to activate the Tenders module which will assist the Construction Estimator in preparing rates and pricing BOQ items. The software creates a bridge between the tender quote and post contract pricing, allowing the estimator to track changes. Comparisons can be done and cost reports can be produced. Quotes are based on a price list which can be updated at the click of a button.

During the construction stage, the Inspections module will come in handy allowing the site manager to collect field data via the ClickHome app installed on a smartphone or tablet. As you enter the information from the site, the digital records on the software portal will be updated and somebody at the office can access the data.

So by now you should be wondering if this software is capable of estimating a project. The software does not have an inbuilt estimating capability, but it can integrate with estimating and costing solutions such as Sage, Constructor, BEAMS build and Databuild. You can even connect your own estimating system to ClickHome. Other features of ClickHome are its Client portal called MyHome and the Supplier portal which allows a contractor to manage suppliers from one platform. To see how this builder’s software works, you can schedule a demo with the site admin or watch a video:

Schedule a Demo >> Click Here



Constructor is a complete construction management and estimating solution that any building contractor would be proud of. What makes this software attractive is the fact that it’s not just a project management software, but it has full building estimating functions that allows a contractor to produce a Bill of Quantities. It also includes important accounting and payroll features, so the contractor will not be required to install a separate accounting system for the company.

With Constructor, you can manage your project, construction team, employees, finances, payments and payslips. Let’s see how this software can be applied in a project from idea inception to the final account. As with any business, a project begins by securing a lead also known as a client. This software, developed in Australia for local builders has a CRM module which helps the contractor to manage both potential and existing clients. Client information is stored on the platform for current and future use. You will be able to communicate with the client, make appointments and create a plan of action.

For leads that have been turned into clients, the next step is blueprint analysis. The program can import and process digital drawings, producing automated quantities in an instant. However, there is an option to make manual measurements. The estimating module can produce pre-construction estimates and Bills of Quantities. When construction begins, the Estimator can measure the actual work on site, using the estimating feature to record changes to the initial BOQ. You can automatically generate Bills, purchase orders and specifications from estimates.

During the Tendering stage, contractors will submit a bid that includes a programme of work also known as a construction schedule. Constructor comes with a project scheduling feature that automatically generates a list of activities from BOQs and estimates.

In the course of construction, the Quantity Surveyor has to control costs on site in relation to the budget. This is done through the Project Cost Management module which allows the QS to update the Bill with current valuations done on site. Cost reports showing variances will tell the Project Manager items which need to be controlled and investigated to meet the initial budget.

The project accounting feature is used for processing valuations, claims, purchase orders, retentions and progress payments. It also deals with debtors and creditors, and all items that an accountant is concerned with – tax, trial balances, general ledger, project statements, invoices and bank reconciliation. The software is capable of generating reports, printing cheques, bookkeeping and clerical recording.

When you want to pay your construction team and office employees, you don’t need to set up a third party payroll system. Constructor can handle payroll, assign wage rates, manage employee allowances and benefits and schedule payments.

Compared to other Builder’s software, Constructor is a powerful program for Quantity Surveyors, Estimators and Project Managers. To see how the software works, you have to try the online demo.

Book the Online Demo >> Click Here



eBuilder is a cloud-based collaboration platform for construction management. The software was designed for organizations which run capital projects. These are government departments, healthcare providers, educational institutions, commercial property developers and K12 institutions. These types of organizations have multiple projects running at a time and they are usually large-scale projects involving large sums of money.

eBuilder attempts to function as a BIM solution whereby information from parties involved in the project is managed on a central platform, providing a means to identify issues and solutions before the project is at an advanced stage. The client, contractor and members of the professional team will continue using the platform in the construction stage to control costs and expenditure. The collaboration software deals with 5 elements of a project, namely planning, design, procurement and post-tender processes of construction and operations.

Planning involves cost projections, budget allocations and cash flow requirements. Financial risks are identified and references to previous projects are made to help with estimating and budgeting.

Collaborative design is achieved by sharing digital drawings and BIM models on the platform, so that they can be reviewed in real time. As input is provided by parties to the project, new design versions will be produced, allowing everybody to see what has changed through blueprint mark-ups. Compliance with design standards and feasibility of the building design can be tested and critiqued until a final solution is found. As with any BIM platform, designing does not rest with the Architect, but it is driven by the client. The contractor and other specialists are actively involved.

eBuilders procurement feature will be used by the organization to run tender evaluation and selection. The whole process is cloud-based and digital, so the department of project management will save money which would have been wasted on paperwork, postal delivery and sorting the documents. With this feature, you can send digital bid documents to contractors, analyze submissions, award tenders and manage the contractor.

To manage the actual work on site, eBuilder has a construction phase management system that allows an organization to track and monitor multiple projects at a time. The project managers can control cost, schedule work items, enter information from the site and submit change orders. You can also manage payments and project budgets.

Request a Demo >>  Click Here

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SimpleBuild is a web-based construction management software for building contractors. The application has project management tools that are laid out in a simple and user-friendly interface. There are 12 modules that a contractor will need to access upon logging into the platform. The Project Management module allows the contractor to handle pre-contract sales, contract administration and post-contract warranty.

The project begins with pre-sale consultation with a potential client. In this procedure, the construction firm has to make presentations and demonstrate its ability to finish a building project on time by making references to past projects which were successfully executed. When you win a client, the next step is planning the budget and programming the work. The contractor will prepare a programme of work, then send out bid packages.

During the construction phase, the same module will be applied on day-to-day management of a project. The project manager can schedule tasks, monitor progress on site and manage suppliers, subcontractors and clients on a centralized platform. The scheduling feature will send notifications about new developments on site and changes to the project team.

The final account is prepared at the closing of the project. Most contracts allow for a defects liability period of up to 24 months. SimpleBuild will keep a client account beyond the project closing, allowing the client to report issues and file warranty claims during the defects liability period.

Updates from the site are managed with a punch list that can be accessed on your mobile phone or tablet. The site manager can send tasks from the field to various parties involved in the project. Trade specialists and vendors will be notified of current developments, and each of them will receive updates that are pertinent to their trade.

The Product Selections feature allows the client to pick specifications based on available budget. A choice of suppliers is provided and when a selection is approved by the client, the system will notify the providers. The system also takes care of the contractor’s profit through addition of mark-up, attendance and other items.

Other modules of SimpleBuild are document management, daily reports, and client login. Like other construction software in this class, you will not find an inbuilt estimating / measurement module. The application is built for project management purposes.

Try the Online Demo >> Click Here


UDA Construction Suite

UDA Construction Suite is an advanced construction management and estimating software for residential, commercial and green building projects. This software will make your Construction Estimator proud because it is capable of in-depth measurements and detailed cost estimates. It will handle your project right from the moment you capture leads to project finalization. There are 10 features of UDASuite which you would like to appreciate.

Since your project begins with capturing leads, the software has a CRM module for managing leads, which is also useful for managing contacts involved in the project. The types of contacts you will have include the construction team, suppliers, clients, trade specialists and creditors. You can easily add service providers under a specific group or trade, making it easy for you to locate and track them. The contractor can record the number of presentations and negotiations that have been done for each lead, schedule activities for trade specialists and verify insurance and licensing for all contacts who are working on your project.

UDA’s OnCost Estimating allows you to create estimates and BOQs for new construction and remodelling projects using customizable pre-loaded templates. You will get full Bills of Quantities which you can modify by removing items or adding items from a database which functions as an inbuilt library. The estimating interface has all the features that you will need such as setting and editing dimensions on the fly. The navigation menu allows you to select items from database, set sales tax, classification mark-ups, add and edit change orders. As you enter quantities on the screen, you can view the cost breakdown and summary on the sidebar.

For fans of digital takeoff, OnCost Estimating allows you to integrate with CAD programs such as Revit, Chief Architect and CADSoft. You can also import files from estimating programs such as eTakeoff and CADEstimator. However, in order to enjoy these features, you have to get the Premier version of OnCost.

Like most project management applications, UDA Suite has a scheduling feature that supports critical path programming for Project Managers. The interface allows you to view project updates and set advanced critical paths that make use of predecessors (subtasks) for each item. You can set starting dates and workdays, set minimums, link items and generate Gantt charts in a format you like.

In order to keep workers on alert, the Project Manager will set automatic reminders for each subtask in the program of work. Reminders are sent to material suppliers, workers, subcontractors and the professional team.

Since most features of UDA are integrated, it is possible to create cost estimates and budgets based on schedules. Schedules can be exported in 5 formats which include PDF, Microsoft Files and Image.

Other features of UDA Suite that you will find useful are the construction calendar, document management, the projects center, QuickBooks integration and a reporting module that produces all kinds of reports – schedules, project totals, company overview, cost estimates, cashflows and aggregate reports.

Compare 4 versions of UDA Construction Suite >> Click Here

Check the Online Demo >> Click Here


 Workflow Max

Workflow Max is a download-free project management software for various industries. Among people who have used the software are construction industry professionals such as architects, building contractors, engineers and surveyors. Non-construction agencies who have found this software to be applicable to their needs include business consultants, marketing firms, web design and IT companies.

The software has 5 modules with 14 features. Additional features can be integrated via add-ons, and there are more than 30 add-ons to choose from. So does Workflow Max measure up with other construction management software?

Let’s see how this software can be applied by home builders and remodelers. To start with, there is a CRM module which allows a contractor to manage leads, clients and quotes. Inside the simple lead manager, you can see the total number of leads in different states, which are classified as freezing cold, cold, hot and won. The manager can see the number of leads obtained by members of the marketing team. The information is presented in nice graphs and charts.

After winning a lead, the project progresses from pre-sales to contract stage. This is when the contractor deploys workers and equipment on the site. The job costing feature in Workflow Max allows you to manage work expenses and job orders. You can make purchase orders via Xero and ensure timely delivery of materials and scheduled equipment.

To manage your employees and human resources needs, you have to use the Job Manager. The Job Manager interface shows you the number of jobs running at a time, as well as the client name. You can check if a job is in progress, on hold or under planning. The starting dates and due dates are denoted, and there is a progress bar which shows the percentage of completed work so far.

To distribute work evenly and prevent time wasted due to employee lagging, the software shows the name of the worker who has been assigned with a particular task. The time to complete a task is measured, so you can compare the cumulative time with the estimated project time to see if the project will go beyond the due date or not. This job scheduling feature might look simple but it is effective in managing time and employee performance. The manager can also set up email notifications to staff when deadlines are approaching and whenever changes are made.

Workflow Max is also capable of online quoting using custom-defined templates for the client. Within a few minutes, you can create a presentable and professional quote that can be saved as a template for future use. While preparing a quote, you can adjust the profit margin to suit your needs, and make instant revisions to meet the client’s budget. The simplicity of the layout allows you to add new tasks, costs and mark-up at the click of a button. There is flexibility in pricing items, you can enter hourly rates, composite rates or sums. Workflow Max is available for 14 days free-trial.

Sign up for a Free Trial >> Click Here

Building Permit – Application for Building Plan Approval

Before you begin building a house on purchased land, you have to get a Building Permit also known as Building Plan Approval. There are building permits for different types of structures and residential developments. Also building requirements may differ from one place to another within a country, region or district. In the United States, you will be required to comply with regulations across the administrative levels, from state to county/city codes. The scope and type of your construction project will be taken into account as well as other information like the site location, occupancy classification, construction area, estimated cost and environmental impact.

How to Get a Building Permit / USA Building Permit Application

To get a building permit, you must submit an application form to the local building authority along with applicable fees and building drawings. The Department of Building at your city municipality office is usually responsible for approving building plans. The following is a list of items that you should submit or fulfil:

  • Building Drawings. (Make at least three copies but this depends on the Approval Department in your city) Depending on the requirements in your city, your drawings should be prepared by a registered architect or certified building designer.
  • Application Form completed and signed by the Owner, Contractor and Architect/Building Designer. (Make at least three copies for reference) This form is available at the municipality office or you can download the form from the city website.
  • Application Fees (Depends on State or City).
  • Examination and Inspection Fees (Depends on State or City).
  • Estimated Cost of Construction
  • On the application form, information about the owner, building contractor and architect /designer including affidavits is required.
  • To make the process easier and smooth, you have to hire a licensed designer or building surveyor who provides certification services. This will save you the hustle of making numerous revisions since the licensed certifier knows what is needed to comply with building regulations.

After a building permit is issued, the owner should post a notice of commencement on the construction site. This notice should be seen by the building inspector on the first visit to the site. The building inspector may want to verify your drawings on site, and therefore your approved drawings should be within reach. In case you want to make changes to the drawings after they have been approved, you should not begin construction until the changes have been reviewed and approved.

It is important to know that penalties may be applied if the owner proceeds with construction without notifying the Building Department of any changes to building plans. You may be required to take down the structure, a stop order may be issued and your building license may be suspended. In some cases, building violations may attract a huge fine, imprisonment and litigation.

Site Inspections

During construction, the building official will visit the site to inspect the building elements. The number of inspections that need to be made for any type of project are indicated on the application form. As an example, inspections may be required upon the completion of each construction activity such as excavations, substructure, superstructure and roofing.

The owner has to notify the building officials to come for an inspection when a building phase is completed. When a project exceeds the required number of inspections, fees may be charged for additional inspections.

Classification of Construction Works

Depending on what you are planning to build or renovate, your application for a building permit should fall into one of the following categories:

Categorization by Type of Works

  • New Building – This is a completely new construction, proposed works and design plans that have not yet been implemented on the site. The building only exists on drawings.
  • Alterations – These are adjustments and modifications to elements of an existing building or structure. It might be a remodelling job, renovation or refurbishment. The building owner might want to upgrade the looks of the building or make changes to the building envelope, interior walls, partitions and finishes, exterior walls and finishes, floor finishes, ceilings, doors, windows, joinery and fittings. Alterations usually involve removal of existing items, shifting items to a new position, breaking down walls to make way for new windows and doors.
  • Additions – These are additional structures built on the internal or external parts of an existing building. The new construction works may be adjoined to the building or built as separate free standing structures, for example garages, patios, backyard kitchens, braai spots and maid living quarters. Major works include additional storeys and extensions to the existing building. Minor works include new partitions to create extra rooms. Just like alterations, additions are usually done as part of a refurbishment or renovation project.
  • Repairs – Repair works are done as part of a short-term or long-term maintenance plan. They are done to building parts which show signs of stress as well as parts which are broken, malfunctioning or performing poorly. Fixing is required for cracks, leaks, fractures including items which are chipped, scratched, disfigured, faded, stained and tainted. Depending on the part of the building which needs attention, repairs are done to walls, wall finishes, floor finishes, roof, ceilings, plumbing, joinery, fittings, windows and doors. The scope and nature of repair works is usually minor compared to alterations and additions.
  • Change of Occupancy – Buildings are classified into categories based on their use, occupancy or purpose. If you are planning to build a house, one of the most important documents that you will need is a Certificate of Occupancy (CO) which approves your building for a specific use. The City authorities (i.e. Department of Building) will issue a CO once your building is inspected and approved. To get this certificate, you have to wait until the construction project is complete, before keys are handed to the owner. A building surveyor or inspector will visit your newly completed house to check compliance with occupancy requirements. If there is something that is not in compliance, you will be required to change it before a CO is issued. After some time, you might need to make changes to the building. When you need to make changes to the building (renovations) or when you want to change the use of the building for a different purpose, you will need to get a Change of Occupancy certificate which allows you to make the required changes.

Events which require a Change of Occupancy certificate:

  1. When you have a non-residential building (shop, office, factory, warehouse etc.) that you want to convert into a residential property.
  2. When you have a house or any residential property that you want to convert into a non-residential building.
  3. When you need to build additional storeys to an existing single storey house.
  4. When you are renovating or refurbishing your house.
  • Temporary Structure – Temporary structures are built to provide accommodation or storage on a non-permanent basis. They are only there for the duration of an event or as an emergency requirement. Examples include pavilions at trade shows, modular housing for construction workers, low-income earners and people displaced by natural disasters. Automotive companies may build temporary garage shelters for vehicles during an auction. Wholesalers may build temporary warehouses to store inventory. Other types of temporary structures include greenhouses, workshops and camping houses.
  • Demolition – If you intend to demolish an existing building to make way for a new replacement, you have to get a demolition permit. Even if you are not planning to build a new house on the site, you will need permission from the city authorities to conduct a demolition.  The city has to assess the size of the structure and the extent of the demolitions that are required.  A permit is usually required for bigger and more complex projects. You have to distinguish between demolitions and alterations. In alterations, a large portion of the building will remain while in demolitions, the whole house is destroyed. The right method of demolition has to be prescribed by the city codes if there is a possibility of affecting the surroundings or adjacent buildings.

A demolition permit can be obtained at the same with your building permit if you intend to replace the building.

  • Deconstruction – An alternative to demolition is deconstruction. Both processes involve taking down and replacing the building. The difference is that deconstruction is a methodical way of taking down a building with the intent of salvaging building materials. The walls are carefully taken down, windows, doors, ceramic tiles, fittings, roofing material and other items are carefully taken out. Brick, concrete and asphalt debris is stored for re-use. If you intend to salvage and re-use building materials, you will be better served by getting a deconstruction permit in place of a demolition permit.
  • Other – if your works cannot be classified in any of the above categories, they should be classified as other.

Categorization by Occupancy or Building Use

When you are filling the application forms for a building permit, you have to classify your building project according to its intended use or purpose. The following types of occupancies are available:

  • Residential – Houses, apartments, condos and hotels etc.
  • Commercial – Shops, supermarkets, shopping malls, merchants and retailers etc.
  • Office – This includes most types of consultants – insurance, banks, law firms, pension funds, marketing, graphic design, travel agents, accountants, quantity surveyors, architects etc.
  • Industrial – Factories, manufacturing plants, refineries, assembly lines, auto repair, construction, gas and oil industries etc.
  • Educational – Schools, colleges, universities etc.
  • Medical – Hospitals, clinics and surgeries etc.
  • Assembly – Community halls, theatres, clubs, pubs, auditoriums, stadiums, amphitheatre and restaurants etc.
  • Private Garage
  • Storage – Warehouses, garages, containers etc.
  • Hazardous – Buildings where toxic materials are produced or stored e.g. chemical plants.
  • Technology – Laboratories, experimental facilities etc.
  • Miscellaneous

The exact building occupancy categories are outlined in the International Building Code (IBC).

Categorization by Trade

Depending on the state or city codes, you may be required to apply for additional permits in the following trades or works:

  • HVAC/Mechanical Engineering Installations and Services
  • Electrical Engineering Installations and Services
  • Sprinkler System
  • Industrialized Units
  • Plumbing
  • Fire Alarm
  • Gas Systems

Categorization by Land Zone

The land on which you want to build a house or structure may affect your application for a building permit. Land zoning is a regulatory practice used by Municipalities and Town Councils to divide land into areas designated for specific use and purposes. The land in the municipality is divided into zones for residential, commercial and industrial development. For each major zone, the municipality will create sub-zones or locations which have their own requirements. As an example, in a residential zone, you may find separate locations designated for low-cost housing, high class homes, middle class homes etc. There are restrictions on the type of dwellings that you can built, for example, the gross floor area, height and number of rooms may not exceed a given range. You have to choose the right zone for your development if you want to be successful in getting a construction permit.

Land zones are also applied to areas with special situations and environmental issues. These are listed below:

  • Flood Zone – Areas at risk of flooding. Insurance is compulsory if you live in a high risk area. This includes developments on river banks, valleys and coastal areas.
  • Fire Zone – Areas prone to bushfires and fire hazards.
  • Landslide Area – Areas near the mountain side or sloping terrain are prone to slope instability, which causes a mass of loose rocks, soil or ice to slide down at rapid speed causing destruction along the way.
  • Liquefaction Zone – Areas with loose ground and sandy soils.
  • Access Affected by Construction in Progress.
  • Ecological Zone – Areas of high ecological value whereby the ecosystems (wildlife and environment) are protected by the government.
  • Cultural Zone – Areas of high cultural and historical significance which are usually protected by the government.
  • Agricultural Zone – Areas for farming i.e. crop production and livestock rearing.
  • Alquist Priolo Earthquake Fault Zone – Areas with seismic hazards. The areas are situated along the fault lines of an earthquake map.

Building a House – Get a Construction Cost Estimate



After the Architect or Building Designer has produced drawings of your proposed house, you have to calculate the cost of construction. One of the mistakes that clients make is leaving building cost estimating in the hands of the contractor or an engineer who is working on the project. Let’s be honest, a building contractor or structural engineer are not the best estimators or cost managers. These two professionals might have done costing as part of the Construction Management and Structural Engineering curriculum respectively, but this does not make them specialists in estimating or quantity surveying. Quantity Surveying courses also include basic subjects in Engineering but this does not qualify a QS to be a Structural Engineer.

In order to get a high quality estimate that is accurate, complete and valuable, you should consult a Quantity Surveyor or certified Construction Estimator. There are a lot of essential details that contractors and engineers will miss when quantifying a plan and pricing the quantities. The type of estimate produced in this case does not follow the Standard System of Measurement used by Quantity Surveyors. Most of the times, it’s not clear if the rates are inclusive of labour, subcontractors and mark up. Items and trades are not organized or defined properly. More often, the estimate is based on construction activities, but there is no composite rate build up to take account of all constituent components in the activity. Since the engineer is not guided by standard QS guidelines, the estimate is more likely to be subjective, prepared according to the engineer’s view of costing elements. A lot of items that you would find in a BOQ would be missing including preliminaries, contingencies, escalation and provisional sums. Above all, an estimate prepared by an unqualified consultant will lack descriptive detail that is required for contractor pricing and purchasing items. If roof installation has been measured as an activity, which items have been included? Does the rate or sum include roof covering, insulation, trusses and brandering? Are the estimated quantities based on supplier quotes or have they been methodically calculated? Is it an estimate for purchasing materials or is it for bidding?

You can send the same house plan for estimating to different parties – the contractor, engineer, certified construction estimator, quantity surveyor (QS), project managers etc, and you will see a big difference between the estimates. The estimate by the QS and certified Estimator is far more reliable, accurate and complete.

Why Should You Get a Cost Estimate?


A building cost estimate allows you to budget enough money for the project. You will know in advance the anticipated cost of building your proposed house, enabling you to make critical decisions. When you approach a bank or financier for a loan you should furnish them with your cost estimate. Make sure that contingencies as well as price escalations are included in the bank. Escalation should be factored in when a contract is expected to run several months, at least 12 months duration.

Decision Making

A cost estimate allows you to make decisions, whether to continue with your project or wait until you have the required funds. You can go on a fund-raising campaign to raise a figure that is within your contract value range.


Instead of abandoning your proposed project or fund-raising to get building capital, you can choose to make changes to the architectural house plans. With the help of an architect or building designer, look for items that are taking up too much cost. Decide if you want to substitute the items or remove them. Changes can be made to floor finishes, wall finishes, plan shape, number of rooms and other elements. The aim is to reduce the cost to the desired budget. Half a loaf is better than nothing. It’s better to build a small home than abort a huge project which failed to take off due to lack of funds.

Smooth Project

When you have enough funds for your project, the project will run smoothly during the construction phase. Having enough capital in the bank means your project has passed the financial feasibility test. Financial feasibility should be a top priority in any project. Construction financing ensures that workers are paid on time, which provides an incentive for maintaining productivity and finishing the project before the deadline. According to clauses contained in the preliminaries section of the Bills of Quantities, a contractor can be penalized for delaying the project. However, if the delays are caused by late payments and circumstances beyond the control of the contractor, the client should take blame.

Types of Cost Estimates Available in the Design Stage and Contract Period

In your pursuit of getting a Quantity Surveyor or Construction Estimator, you have to understand that an estimate is as good as the extent of the drawings. An estimate depends on the information provided by the architect. Architectural drawings take time to develop, therefore in the early stage of the project there might not be sufficient specifications to work with. In this case, the Estimator has to work with available information. The earliest cost estimate that you can have is based on the Unit Method of estimating and the Superficial Floor Area Method.

Cost Per Unit Method

In the Unit Method, a house estimate can be produced even if there are no sketch drawings. The client is required to state the number of bedrooms required, whether it should be a single family unit or multi-family dwelling. The client can also prescribe the materials for the building envelope i.e. will it be a brick, stone or timber house? For a house, rooms are the main units. The number of rooms is multiplied by the known cost per room.

Superficial Floor Area Method/ Cost Per Square Metre

In the Superficial Floor Area Method, sketch drawings of the floor plan are required including the type of floor finishes and room dimensions. With this information, a reliable cost estimate can be produced within a short time using the Cost per Square Metre.

Elemental Estimate and Approximate Quantities

At a later stage during the pre-contract period, the architect will produce detailed drawings with full specifications. These drawings have fully detailed wall elevations, substructure, superstructure, roof structure, roof coverings, sanitary fittings, joinery, floor finishes, wall finishes, drainage and external works. This is a time for the Estimator to produce detailed estimates such as the Elemental Estimate and Approximate Quantities.

Bills of Quantities

For tendering and contract management purposes, detailed Bills of Quantities which contain contract clauses are produced. Bills of Quantities are the most detailed cost documents which are needed for any construction project. This document will be used throughout the construction stage for cost management, valuations, final account payments and closing the contract.

Building a House – Should You Hire an Architect or Building Designer?


Meeting with Architect

The next step after choosing a location and buying land to build your house is getting an Architect or Certified Building Designer to design your house. What is the difference between an Architect and Building Designer?

To start with, both the Architect and Building Designer can design residential houses, and they can help clients to get their house plans approved by the city authorities. However, you have to note that an Architect is a highly qualified professional whose role is not limited to building design but providing value to the client. With that said, you will find different types of architects in the construction industry. An Architect is somebody who completed a 5 year Bachelor Degree in Architecture at a recognized university or tertiary institution. Upon completing a university degree, this individual will work as an AIT (Architect in Training), and later on if the person wants to practice as a licensed or registered architect, they are required to write and pass exams by a professional body. Being a Registered Architect has many benefits in that you can open an Architectural practice, and you will be preferred for high value projects. In some countries, specific building design contracts (e.g. government jobs) are only open to registered architects.

If a residential design consultant is not an Architect, then this consultant is either an Architectural Technician, Architectural Technologist or Building Designer. A person may hold a Diploma or Degree in any of these courses but that does not qualify the individual to be an Architect.

In choosing a building design consultant, you have to find out if the individual has certification or not. It’s less risky to hire experienced residential design consultants who hold a Diploma/Degree in Architectural Technology, Architectural Design or Building Design.

This brings us to another group of design consultants – uncertified building designers. These consultants acquired their knowledge and experience through on-job training. They either worked a number of years in a drawing office or they are self-taught, but they what they lack is certification. If this type of consultant has a good track record and recommended by many people, there is no reason why you should not hire them. The advantage of hiring uncertified but experienced building designers is that they charge a much lower rate than certified professionals. On the other hand, Registered Architects are the most expensive.

As a summary, the following is a list of residential home design specialists that you can hire. The design fees (or hourly charge) should decrease as you go down the list:

  1. Registered Architect (Very expensive)
  2. Architect in Training (Expensive)
  3. Architectural Technician, Architectural Technologist ( Less Expensive)
  4. Certified Building Designer (Affordable)
  5. Uncertified Building Designer (Cheap Rate)


Consultant’s Charging Options

It is good to know the professional level and class of consultants that you can hire to design your house, but another important thing that you should consider is how the design consultant bills clients. Depending on the type of project and its contract value, an Architect or Building Designer can charge a client:

  • Fees based on a fee structure set by the professional body
  • Fees based on a percentage of the Final Contract Value
  • Fees based on a Fixed amount (Lump Sum)
  • Fees based on Hourly Rates
  • Combination of Lump Sum and Hourly Rates for additional services
  • Fees based on Estimated Total Time
  • Fees based on the total floor area or building area

Before design work commences, you have to agree with the designer, the type of method that will be used for charging work. It should be convenient for you.

Architectural 3D Models

In order to visualize your house in its finished state, you might need a 3D model representation which can be viewed on a computer. This live model will allow you to have a virtual walkthrough of the building – i.e. opening doors to different rooms, inspecting the internal and external elements of the house etc. During this process, you can suggest changes to the building design and specifications with the help of the architect.  You will be involved in the design process from the beginning to the end, and as the building takes shape you will be monitoring progress. This process is called BIM (Building Information Modelling) and in this modern age, it helps to hire an Architect who is familiar with BIM.

Alternative House Designs

When looking for an Architect, it is important to choose an Architect who will give you alternative designs to choose from. If one house plan is too expensive, the other plan might be affordable. You will need a Construction Estimator / Quantity Surveyor to estimate the cost of implementing each house plan. This procedure is called “costing a design”. If a client is budget-conscious, they can tell the Architect the amount of money that they have budgeted for the construction project. The architect will produce house plans that fall within the required cost range. In this method, the architect will be careful in selecting items that have a bearing on cost, for example if expensive floor tiles were prescribed for the house, alternative floor finishes have to be considered. This is called “designing to a cost” or designing to a budget.

How To Find an Architect

An architect should be involved in your project at the earliest stage. One of the requirements of an Architect is visiting the site where the new building will be situated. He or she must inspect the land (vacant lot) to assess the ground conditions, terrain and local climate. After assessing the site conditions, the architect will be able to prescribe the right foundations, design, method of construction as well as the direction in which the building should face. In this exercise, the design consultant will help you comply with building regulations.

To find an Architect, you have to search the local business directories, but a quick Google Search on your smartphone or computer will give you the desired results. It is recommended to find an architect who lives in the same city to keep travelling charges low. A lot of consultation will be done over the phone, in the architect’s office as well as on site. The architect will have a lot of travelling to do – organizing progress meetings and site inspections. Ideally, an architect should manage the project and monitor progress on site until the contract is finalized. During the construction phase, an architect is responsible for approving work done by the contractor, approving payments and issuing variation orders.

To find an Architect in your location, the following is an example of search phrases that you can use on Google:

Architect, Dallas, Texas

Residential Architect, Raleigh, NC

Building Designer, Boulder, Rocky Mountains

Google Local Business Search for Architects


Building a House – Buy Land, Residential Lot or Plot

Building a House – Buy Land, Residential Lot or Plot

After you have found the best location or neighbourhood to build a house, you should search for land or a residential plot to buy in that location. There are many ways to find plots or land for sale in a specific location. From real estate websites to local classifieds publications, you can find suitable space to build a home. The following is a list of 7 sources to find building lots for sale:

Search Vacant Lots Online

A quick Google search will show you residential lots from different sources that are available for sale. However, in order to get what you are looking for, you have to type in properly defined keywords that confine your results to a specific city or suburb. For example, let’s say you want a building lot in the City of Cape Town. Cape Town is a big city with at least 160 suburbs, so you have to narrow-down your search to a specific suburb. Pinelands, Durbanville and Somerset West are some of the suburbs in Cape Town. To get what you want, you have to type in appropriate phrases:

“Plots for sale Durbanville, Cape Town”

“Vacant plots for sale Somerset West, Cape Town”

“Vacant land for sale Pinelands, Cape Town”

You can also search for land that has been serviced by the municipality.

Real Estate Agency/Website

There are a lot of real estate agencies which specialize in selling and buying land, including residential property. Look for a real estate agency in your city or town. You can find these companies by searching on the internet. In order to get well defined results that are confined to your location, you have to use proper keywords on Google Search. For example, if you are searching for real estate agencies in the city of Cape Town, you have to type a phrase like:

“Real Estate Agencies Cape Town”

If you are searching for companies in Austin, Texas:

“Real Estate Agencies Austin, Texas”

This search phrase will bring local results of all real estate agencies registered on Google business listing. Google business listings appear on top of search results. The name of the company, including its street address and telephone number are listed, so you can call the company or visit the website to see what they have to offer. User ratings are also shown on each listing, so you can find out what other customers have to say about the real estate agency.

Start by browsing the listings on the website, and if you can’t find what you are looking for, move to the next agency. Check the top 5 websites, and if you didn’t find what you are looking for, you should ask the agency to find a vacant lot for you. Estate agencies are always looking for leads, and in most cases they will ask you to leave your contact details. If they happen to find a building lot, they will call you to find out if you are still interested.

Property Developers/Website

Property developers specialize in the purchase and development of land, including properties with a goal of letting or selling the developed properties and land. They can specialize in all types of developments (e.g. commercial, industrial and residential developments) or one type of development. If you are looking for land to build a house, they can give you an offer, which might be a vacant lot in a proposed community or a newly built residence that is part of a new community e.g. flats, apartment, duplex house or patio house complex. You have to choose what you want. If you need a custom-design home, then you would need to buy a vacant plot to build your unique house.

To find property developers in your area, go to Google Search and type the following phrases:

If you want a company in Cape Town:

“Property Developers Cape Town”

If you want a company in Grand Rapids, Michigan:

“Property Developers Grand Rapids, Michigan”

Telephone Directories

You can find a listing of real estate agents and property developers on local telephone directories. Check the yellow pages at the back of the directory to find a list of trades and professional services.

The City/Town Municipality

The city recorder of deeds as well as the department of housing and land zoning are responsible for apportioning and selling land. You can approach your municipality or county office to find opportunities of buying land for residential development. Most of the times, if there is land on offer, it is advertised in the press and other publications. Land may be sold on a bidding basis or it may be reserved for specific buyers who meet the requirements of the local authority. Land can be sold to anyone including people from other regions. Look for plots that have already been serviced by the municipality as these are ready for sale.

Real Estate Directories

A real estate directory is a special listing of real estate agents. Just like Craigslist, it can be a listing of companies in all states and cities in the country or it can be a regional directory covering a single state or city. Some of the top online real estate agent directories are Zillow, Realtor, Reals, GlobalPropertyGuide, AgentPreview and RealEstateAgent.

Property and Real Estate Magazines

If you want to be in the know about what’s happening in the real estate industry, then you should probably subscribe for a real estate magazine. There are a lot of online magazines that you can start reading by simply signing up with your email. Some of these magazines feature a list of top realtors and land opportunities.  If you are not a fan of online magazines, there are several print periodicals with a loyal following. You can find these in local stores or you can subscribe and have the copies delivered to your doorstep. Some of the best realtor magazines are Realty411, TopAgent, TheRealDeal and Realtor (by National Association of Realtors).

Classified Ads

Almost every popular local newspaper has a classifieds section with a listing of real estate and property for sale. Buy a regular copy of a local newspaper to find vacant plots for sale. If you are looking for vacant lots in another city or town, you would be better served by using an online classifieds ads website. Some of the most popular classified ads sites are Gumtree, Craigslist, BackPage, OLX, Kijiji and Facebook Classifieds.

Vacant Land for sale – Craigslist



Building a House – How To Choose Your Location – 10 Considerations

Choosing a location for your new house is an important decision because your chosen area or neighbourhood will be your permanent residence. There are a lot of considerations that you have to take into account when choosing a location to build a house. You have to ask yourself, does the location satisfy your needs, standards, tastes and personal requirements? You have to imagine yourself living in the area and if you are comfortable with the thought of staying in the neighbourhood for many years, then you should go ahead and build a home. The following are some of the things that you might want to consider or investigate:

Does The Location Suit Your Income Status?

A lot of towns and cities are divided into low-income, middle-income and high-income areas. Middle class areas are further subdivided into lower-middle class and upper-middle class. Why do we need categories? The town and city municipalities have to classify areas according to income levels to maintain development standards and property value. Investors are attracted to real estate earmarked for specific purposes i.e. residential, commercial and industrial developments. If people were allowed to build random structures anywhere, the neighbourhood would be unsightly and it would lose its market value.

If you are planning to build a house, evaluate your income status and decide if you should build a house in a low class, middle class or high class area. Building regulations and requirements may be different in each area, for example to build a house in a middle class or high class area, the gross floor area of your house plan or value of your building should fall within a specified range. There are many other building codes that you have to satisfy. Therefore, building a house in a specific location is not always about choice, but what the city authorities require you to build.

The building cost per square metre varies across locations in the city. Land is cheaper in low-class areas, and the price will increase progressively as you go up the salary scale. Because of the small building space and simple housing structures that can be built in low-class areas, the cost of building is much more affordable than in upper-class zones reserved for exclusive architect-designed houses.

Still, there are huge plots reserved for super luxury houses and villas. These are usually located on coastal areas and the countryside.

Is the Location Extensively Serviced with Electricity, Water Supply and Roads?

As you go about looking for a place to build a house, you will realize that some places are not serviced with electricity, water supply and access to traffic. If you intend to build a home in a place without electricity supply, then you should consider using alternative forms of energy such as gas or solar panels for your cooking and lighting needs. This may be used as a temporary measure until your area is connected to the national power grid.

Some property developments have water supply, but they are not connected to the sewage system. In this case, you can install a temporary septic tank for your household unit, but you have to find out if there are any regulations for septic tanks in the area. Once the local drainage system is connected to the area, the septic tank can be dismantled or connected to the drainage system.

If the area is not connected to the local road network, temporary strip roads which join the network can be made.

Are there Consumer Supply Services in the Area?

Unless you have a car or you prefer travelling to the city centre to do your shopping, it is smart to choose a location where shops and other consumer services are within walking distance from your house. This way, you will save money on fuel and if you ever run out of supplies such as food, firewood, airtime or money, you can always visit the nearest shop or shopping complex. Check the local map or drive around to find out if there are shops, fuel stations, ATMs, banks and other services.

Are there Schools in the Area?

If you have a big family or planning to have one, the best thing you can do is choosing a location where there are schools in the proximity of your residential address. Find out if there is a Kindergarten, Elementary and High School in your neighbourhood. The nearer the school to your residence, the better it will be, because you are going to save transport money. Your children’s education should be prioritized at all times, and if they have only a few minutes to get home from school, more time will be available for homework and other important duties.

Is it a Low Crime or High Crime Area?

Most of the times, the majority of low-wage earners stay in urban areas with high crime rates. These townships are high-risk when compared to upper class areas. Low-class areas have high incidences of burglary, theft, robbery and other crimes related to social ills. If you are concerned about your safety or the safety of your kids, then you should choose a low-crime area, and these are usually quiet neighbourhoods with a high income earning community. The cost of building a house (rate per square metre) in high-class areas is much higher than low class areas.

Choosing a quiet neighbourhood is not just about safety, but it also affects your insurance rates. For example, if you stay in a high crime area, your car insurance premiums will be higher than a person who lives in a low crime area. This is due to the fact that in a high crime area, your car is more likely to be stolen, vandalised and broken into.

Location can also affect your home insurance premiums. A home which is located in a high crime area is more likely to be burglarized, and therefore insurance rates against theft and burglary will be higher than in low-risk areas. If you live in a high-risk area, you should take steps to protect your property, and hence reducing your premiums by installing security systems and equipment such as alarms, surveillance cameras, anti-snap locks, razor wire and high boundary walls.

Is it a Low Traffic or High Traffic Area?

If you have children attending elementary school, the worst place you can choose is a home address near busy roads. For the safety of children and anybody who uses the streets frequently, you have to choose an address within a low-traffic area, far from the highway and busy roads. These are quiet neighbourhoods where it’s hard to see a moving vehicle, except during peak hours when house owners are going to work in the morning and driving home after 5pm.

There are housing developments where cars are not allowed in the community square or public spaces. The city centre is often a busy area, as well as metropolitan areas. The further you live from the city, the lower the traffic you will get. Residential places located in the outskirts of the city and the countryside are safe for kids and other residents who don’t like engaging traffic on a daily basis.

Is it a Quiet or Noisy Area?

A densely populated area is more likely to have high noise levels than a low-density area. Noise in a high-density community comes from a number of sources – people in the streets, next door neighbours and social hang-outs such as liquor stores. Often, it’s hard to regulate such a community and unlicensed activity will sprout everywhere.

The place that you are going to build a house should not be close to a highway or railway track, because you don’t want to deal with traffic noise on a daily basis. Unless you want revellers to disturb your weekend rest or every other night when there is a gathering or event, your residential address should be far from a night club, bar, stadium or entertainment venue.

For reasons best known to themselves, some property developers have residential space close to an industrial zone. This might not be the best place to set up your home because of the frequent machine noise coming from factories and plants. At least, a residence close to a shopping zone or office block is much better because there isn’t that much noise compared to an industrial zone.

In the city, middle class and upper class areas are quieter than low class settlements. Coastal areas and rural areas are also known to be quiet places, the best places to enjoy peace and tranquillity.

Are There Alcohol Drinking Spots and Red Zones in the Area?

Unless you are asking for trouble, you should never set up a home in a red zone area or other murky place where you are more likely to encounter drunken revellers on a regular basis. Avoid places with night clubs, pubs, bars and liquor stores. Stay away from places near strip clubs, casinos and gambling zones.

These places are not only high risk, but they can have a negative impact on children and teenagers who legally prohibited from visiting such places. Living in such a place will expose your kids to immoral activities such as alcohol abuse, gambling and prostitution.

Is there Air Pollution in the Area?

Air pollution is a hazard that can have serious consequences on your health. Modern industrialization is the major cause of air pollution in developed countries. Urban areas have high volumes of traffic which release carbon emissions into the atmosphere. These emissions along pollutants from factories and power plants combine with sunlight to create ground-level ozone also known as smog. You have probably seen cities covered with smog on TV or internet e.g. New Delhi, Mexico City, Beijing, Dan Diego, California, Washington DC and San Francisco.

Living in a smog covered area can expose your lungs to pollutants. Partaking in strenuous activities such as running (which force you to inhale at a faster rate) increases the amount of pollutants in your lungs. Smog has been known to cause a variety of health issues from asthma to lung infections.

To escape air pollution, choose a non-industrial area with little or no traffic. This can be a small town, tourist resort, countryside village or coastal area. Less developed towns have little to no air pollution, and there is plenty of fresh air, vegetation and trees, which is good for your lungs.

Is the Location Close to Dumping Sites and Contaminated Water?

When you are looking for a site to build a house, check the surroundings for any dumping sites and contaminated water. Living close to a dumping site can be an unpleasant experience because of bad smells coming from rotting rubbish. Since the rubbish needs to be burned or incinerated on a regular basis, the atmosphere will be constantly filled with smoke. Rubbish dumps also pose a health hazard caused by windborne germs and particles from disused chemical products.

Toxic waste is also found in rubbish dumps, including rivers, lakes and seashores affected by water pollution. Above all, make sure that your construction site is not situated close to a sewage pond or waste water treatment plant. People who decided to set up residence next to a sewage treatment plant are regretting because of unpleasant smells that linger on a daily basis.

Are there Recreational Facilities in the Area?

The presence of recreational facilities is an attractive incentive for people to set up residence in the location. A peaceful and safe environment is what everybody needs, but a dull place with no places to relax and interact with the community can be boring. Kids need a place to play with other kids. Teenagers need a social life, and adults need a hobby.

A residential development with a community park, children’s playground, library, gym, DVD rental, movie theatre, shopping mall and church is ideal for people who need a form of recreation.


To summarize, if you are looking for a place build a house or set up your permanent residence, you must choose:

  • A location that suits the value of your residential development
  • A location that is serviced with electricity, water supply and roads
  • A location with consumer supply services – shops, banks, post office, fuel stations, ATMs etc.
  • A location with kindergarten, elementary and high school
  • A safe location with low crime rates
  • A safe location with low traffic volumes, away from busy roads and highways
  • A quiet location with low noise levels (noise pollution)
  • A location that is far from alcohol drinking spots and red zones
  • A location with clean, fresh, unpolluted air
  • A location that is far from dumping sites and contaminated water
  • A location with recreational facilities (park, playground, gym, shopping mall, library etc)

17 Steps To Building a House (Design and Cost) – Guide for Prospective Home Owners / Clients

Building a house is a long process that involves a lot of planning in the preliminary stage of the project. Once a client has decided on building a home, they should consult relevant professionals in the construction industry that will help them achieve their goals. The building contractor is the first professional that comes in the mind of a prospective home owner, but before you consult a construction firm you have to consult two professionals – i) an Architect or certified Building Designer who will design your desired home, and ii) a Construction Cost Estimator whose role is to calculate the cost of building of a house in a specific region or location.

If you have the budget, you should allow the Architect to come up with at least two or three design alternatives. Get the input of people that you intend to stay with in the finished house i.e. your partner, kids and relatives. This input will be critical in determining the final plan that suits everybody, but remember that the plan has to be adjusted by the Architect to comply with building regulations and codes.


Where To Get Home Designs?

If you are short on ideas, the Architect can give you ideas obtained from a portfolio of completed works. You can also find inspiration from local homes constructed in your neighbourhood, works by other architects and building contractors. There are a lot of resources to find home designs, and you can find a variety of home styles without leaving your home. Just by browsing the internet on your laptop, you can visit home design websites such as Maramani to view dozens of home styles. All you need to do is choose your desired plan and get an Architect or design consultant to modify the plan to suit local conditions and regulations. The plan has to be submitted to the local building authority for approval, this is usually your town/city municipality. Every revision has to be approved by the municipality or city council. By working with a local Architect, you will not have problems in approving your architectural drawings because they are familiar with the regulations.

Custom Design or Ready Made Designs?

A question that most prospective home owners will ask is whether to get a custom design or pick a ready-made design. A custom design is a non-existent design that has to be designed from scratch and a ready-made design is a complete design alternative available for cherry-picking by the client.

If your budget is limited, it is smart to get a ready-made design because there are no design costs involved. All you need to pay for is the house plans available in digital CAD files or blueprints. The price is way lower than a custom home. Designing a custom home is more costly as the Architect will charge you an hourly fee or percentage fee based on the contract. As an example, you can get a ready-made 3 bedroom house plan for US$250 and a custom design for US$4,000. Now that’s quite a big difference.

In terms of cost, the benefits of getting a ready-made template are clear, but if you need a unique home, you have to get a custom house plan.

What is the Cost of Building a House?

So you have hired a certified building designer to design your house, but there is one thing that you are worried about – you still don’t know how much it will cost to build your house. Architectural drawings, especially 3D models are so beautiful and eye-catching. They show the real life representation of your home in its finished state. In the process of designing your home, you got carried away by the beauty of the 3D model, and you overlooked the cost involved. Upon consulting a Construction Cost Estimator to estimate the cost of your proposed home, you realized that the cost is out of your budget and too much for you. Don’t worry, you are not alone, this is a familiar scenario that is encountered by most clients. The design process is a stage for testing the feasibility of your proposals and ideas. Your proposals are tested against a variety of feasibility assessments which will determine the success or failure of your project. The financial feasibility of your project is important if you are to succeed in building your house. If the cost is too high, you will be required to change your design plan and specifications. You may be required to change the floor and wall finishes, reduce the number of rooms, remove or substitute items that are too costly.

Most construction projects are aborted because of lack of critical funds that are required at each stage of the construction process. Knowing the anticipated cost of your construction project in the planning stage allows you to budget the required money. A Construction Estimator (or Quantity Surveyor) can calculate the cost of building a home before construction begins. This estimating professional can find the cost of building your home from initial drawings, producing relevant cost estimates and documents at each stage as more drawings are produced by the Architect.

There are many methods of estimating the cost of building a house, but there are 4 methods used by professional quantity surveyors, all which depend on the available information at the time of estimation. The final cost document prepared in the late planning and design stage is the Bills of Quantities.

Before the project is open for contractor bidding, the Estimator will produce a detailed BOQ (Bills of Quantities) that has to be priced by selected contractors. The best price, which is often the lowest price (but not necessarily the lowest) is chosen by the Estimator, who also takes the role of Tender Evaluator in this procedure.

To find the rough cost of building a house in your town or city, multiply the Building Gross Floor Area by the Cost Per Square Metre:

Building Gross Floor Area x Cost Per Square Metre = Cost of Building

To keep track of your building costs, you have to hire a Quantity Surveyor as soon as you get the first drawings from your home designer.

The exact steps to building a house are outlined below:

Steps to Building a House:

  1. Choose Your Location
  2. Buy Land or Plot
  3. Get an Architect or Certified Building Designer
  4. Produce Alternative Building Plans
  5. Get a Cost Estimate
  6. Compare Costs of Building Plans
  7. Get your Building Plans Approved
  8. Get Building Finance
  9.  Consider Insurance Needs for Your New House
  10. Prepare Bills of Quantities and Tender Documents
  11. Get Construction Tenders for Your House
  12. Choose the Best Contractor
  13. Preliminaries – Site Setup
  14. Start Building Your House
  15. Monitor Progress on Site
  16. Pay the Contractor
  17. Contractor To Prepare House For Handover to Client


What is BIM ? – 3D Architectural Modelling and BIM Software Explained


Inside a 3D virtual room

Inside a 3D virtual room

Architectural 3D Modelling is something that an Architect is familiar with, especially if the designer is well-versed with software like ArchiCAD. Engineering design also involves a lot of computer-based 3D modelling. When it comes to BIM, an acronym for Building Information Modelling, you have to imagine an architectural modelling platform that is open to other members of the construction team besides the architect. This means that anyone who is involved in the project, or anybody who has an interest in the project (for example, the local community) can access this platform to contribute their expertise, give suggestions or view the virtual building in its completed state.

To get a better understanding of BIM, you have to imagine a 3D virtual video game. There are many 3D virtual games that you can play on your PC or video console, for example Google Earth 6 Street View, Apollo 11, Dreadhalls, Dungeons & Dragons and The VOID.

Among 3D virtual games, there are single player games and multiplayer games (MMOGs).An architect working alone on a building model is like a single player game, and a building model where several members of the project team contribute to/or affect the design is like a multiplayer MMO game. The BIM environment involves multiple players (collaborators). However unlike in a MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game), where users can assume any role, in a BIM environment you have actual specialists in various disciplines working on the model. For example, Architects work on the architectural aspects, Structural Engineers work on the structural aspects, Environmental Planners will assess the environmental conditions, Civil Engineers will design the drainage/water supply plan and Interior Designers will prescribe some suitable fittings, finishes, decorations and furniture. All these specialists are applying their specifications and prescriptions in relation to the 3D model. They have to find conflicts across the disciplinary specifications, and work out a solution. Compromises will be made and alternatives will be suggested before the final drawings are printed and issued to the Building Contractor. BIM allows the project team to foresee challenges and issues in the virtual model prior to the construction phase. On its own, BIM is a useful tool for performing feasibility studies across various fields on a centralized system.

The building contractor will assess the architectural model with a view of finding the most practical building methods gained from experience i.e. scaffolding, hoisting material, site access, logistics, movement and circulation.

The owner will log into the virtual platform to view the state of the virtual building in the planning and design stage. He or she can suggest changes to the aesthetics and layout of elements, as well as the quality and type of material used.

The Quantity Surveyor or Construction Cost Estimator will log into the virtual platform to extract quantities from the model, and consequently price the quantities to get a cost estimate at any stage of the design. This cost estimate will be used by the owner for financial planning and budgeting purposes.

If the client is a property developer, they will also be interested in the cost estimate. They will also want to check the virtual floor space of the model. BIM allows them to have a walkthrough in the 3D virtual project, checking the rooms, parking etc.

In the modern world, you cannot just build anywhere. You have to comply with local regulations and building codes. In some cases, the community needs to be consulted prior to building a structure in the area. An environmental impact assessment needs to be made. Therefore, in such a scenario where the community is involved, they are also stakeholders in the project. They will want to know how the building will affect the environment – will it disrupt the ecosystem, bring social problems, pollute the area, disturb the view or fit in well with existing dwellings? All these questions need to be answered and as such, the community representatives should have access to the virtual model to get a walkthrough.

Now that you have an idea what BIM is all about, you have to imagine all the relevant specifications by different specialists contained on a 3D Model object or item. When you click through to analyze that item, you should see the properties of that item, specification detail and preambles to trades (i.e. information on quality, workmanship, standards and methods of fixing, installation, construction, storage, treatment etc.)

When any of the above information or specifications is changed, the changes will be instantly applied to the model. On a 3D BIM model, changes are automatic, for example, when you change the door type, finish, material etc, the model will be updated. Dimensions are also automatically updated, resulting in new quantities which can be extracted by the Quantity Surveyor to prepare a cost estimate.

BIM is the fastest way of producing construction quantities. It automates the quantification process, saving the Estimator a lot of time. If the template is a BOQ, you can easily get Bills of Quantities and price them using your price list or costing system.

The following are BIM solutions that you can use to collaborate with construction teams ,project specialists, stakeholders and interested parties:

BIM Solutions

  • ArchiCAD by GraphiSoft
  • Revit by AutoDesk
  • BIMsight by Tekla
  • NBS BIM Toolkit –
  • Edificius BIM Software by ACCA Software
  • BIMx by GraphiSoft
  • Aconex
  • Vico Office by Trimble – 5D BIM for Estimating/ 3D BIM for Quantity Takeoff/4D BIM for Scheduling
  • Vectorworks Architect