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Who's Who in a Building Project?

01 Mar 2018

Journal (Journal Type)


The Contractors

There’s a triumvirate in every building project: a holey trinity, as it were (see what I did there? Holey as opposed to Holy? Like a hole in the ground? No? Ok. Nevermind).

The aforementioned trinity goes like this: Consultants – Contractors – Client/Developer. All three of them have their own very specific roles to play in every building project. It’s fairly common to have the same entity perform two jobs (for example in the case of a Developer/Contractor), but it’s a little rarer to have one entity doing all three (The best example of this being the biblical representation of God, where he played the roles of Consultant, Contractor and Developer during the creation of the universe).

We’ve had a look at what the consultants bring to the table (aside from the design of the table itself, replete with lights and indoor plumbing, a potted plant and a retro paintjob), now lets have a look at the role(s) of the Contractor.

From the very dawn of time (a bit of an exaggeration, granted, but I’m claiming creative license), the world has been divided into those who can build, and those who think they can. The former are the good people known to the world as ‘Contractors’.

The Cambridge dictionary defines a Building Contractor as:

“a person or company that organizes the building of houses, offices, etc. , for example, by supplying workers and buying materials”.

(As a side note, the Dictionary uses this particular sentence to illustrate use of the word: ‘Their building contractor continues to reject their architect's design plans’, which, in a nutshell, tells you everything you need to know about the ‘special’ relationship between Consultants and Contractors).

The Main Contractor is responsible for erecting the building as designed by the consultants, as per the developer’s brief. Sounds fairly simple, right?

Not quite.

The Main Contractor, in general, is basically an organizer of manpower, expertise and resources. Above all else, they are managers. They get things done. If you were to compare the building project to a film, the Main Contractor would be the Leading Star in the production; the fellow tasked with ensuring the vision of the Director (The Consultants) is executed to perfection.

But in order to do this, the Actor needs a fairly strong cast of Supporting Actors, which is where the Sub-Contractors (Sub-Cons) come in.

The number and nature of these Sub-Cons varies from project to project. They may come in the form of Nominated Sub-contractors, Domestic Sub-contractors or Named Sub-contractors (the explanations of these are worthy of an article in itself. So I’ll save it for it’s own article, thereby giving me something else to talk about when I’ve run out of ideas, the advent of which I can see close to the horizon).

Some of the more common Sub-Cons are:

The Electrical Sub-Contractor: As the name would suggest, this lot deal with all aspects of the electrical requirements of the building, as directed by the Electrical Engineer.

The Mechanical Sub-Contractor: First of I’d like to clarify that these are not the fellows that repair the vehicles that break down on site. It’s a common misconception. You’re forgiven. Mechanical sub-cons basically work on the plumbing and HVAC of the building (Heating, Ventilation and Air-Conditioning). They may be handled by a solitary sub-con, or separated into more distinct sub-divisions (ie a Plumber, Air-con specialist etc). Additionally, you could club in the Solar Sub-con into this list as well. With the advent of Solar Heating Regulations in Kenya, the Solar Component of a building takes up a new level of importance. The Solar Sub-con needs to work closely with the Plumbing Sub-con to ensure the system works properly. And a little divine intervention wouldn’t go amiss too.

The two sub-cons above are present in pretty much all building sites, with few exceptions, but there are others that may or may not be involved depending on a variety of factors (complexity of the building, specific requirements of the building etc). Some of these include:

Joinery Sub-Contractor: Hits the nail on the head. Literally. The Joinery Sub-Contractor deals with all the timber aspects of a project (kitchens, wardrobes, doors etc.). In majority of the cases the Main Contractor will appoint the joinery sub-contractor directly, or has joinery specialists in his team. In some instances, however, it may be required to send out a tender for the works separately (such as when the Main Contractor is unable to produce work of the required standard, or when they have priced high for the item, or when you just gotta have good work with the wood work).

Aluminium/Glazing Sub-Contractor: Personally I pride myself on never getting fooled by Windows. I see right through them. Ok I’ll stop with the puns. Not very punny anyway. But seriously: The Aluminium/Glazing Sub-Con deals with the fabrication and installation of the Aluminium and Glazing requirements of the project: Windows, some doors, shower cubicles and curtain walling. Similar to the Joinery Sub-Con, The Main Contractor normally appoints this particular Sub-con directly, or fabricates in house. In certain circumstances (expertise, beneficial pricing etc) it is opted to source the sub-con directly. In certain circumstances, you may have a specialist Facade Sub-Contractor as well, who's primary function is to erect that intricate facade the Architect came up with after a particularly vivid chemical fueled night of dreams.

There are a variety of additional Sub-Cons that are represented in projects: The Lift Sub-Con, The Generator Sub-Con, the Paint Sub-Con….the list is potentially endless (as is the amount of paperwork and supervision required to ensure they all work in sync).

Each project has it’s own individual mix of requisite and preferred Main Contractors and Sub-Contractors, much like each person has their own unique fingerprint. And similar to fingerprints, this mix has the potential to either confirm your Identity and status, or ensure you’ll get in a lot of trouble!