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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.

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