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a cautionary tale

There are complex and fixed mechanisms to development and no place for corner cutting and quality sacrifice to save a buck.. it too often backfires.

A cautionary tale arises from a recent project involving a small infill subdivision creating residential lots within Greater Sydney. Despite having obtained the necessary approvals, this project encountered significant setbacks and financial burdens due to the inexperience of the contractor chosen to undertake the subdivision works.   


The developer engaged a contractor to act as principal contractor to build the subdivision works and demolish the existing dwelling, pool and other improvements to the land. The principal contractor was left to manage the process and build, our involvement included to manage the subdivision certificate application and registration of the plans at NSW LRS. There is nothing unusual about this process which can work well for all involved – particularly for small-scale developments.

However, troubles began to emerge when we were asked to conduct an as-built survey of the completed works. It became evident that the construction on-site had deviated significantly from the original design, disregarding minimum grades and overall design intent.


Upon closer inspection, it became apparent that crucial aspects were neglected. Services for the lots had not been installed and the retaining wall was lacking the integrity of a Structural Engineer's design and inspection. Additionally, uncontrolled and inadequately compacted fill of up to 1.5 meters was placed on the site in amongst buried rock piles/topsoil and remnants of demolished materials such as bricks, concrete footings, drainage lintels, vegetation and pipe conduit.


This discovery unfortunately led to the conclusion that the completed works were irreparable and required demolition. A new contractor recommended by our team was appointed, and although they were able to swiftly complete the project, the financial repercussions were significant. The necessary steps to address the works included modifications to the design, obtaining new certifications, removal of non-compliant works, regarding the site, installation of services to the lots and clean-up of the material for demolition waste. 


The root cause of these complications lay unfortunately in the inexperience of the original contractor in handling subdivision works and their unfamiliarity with the general requirements and standard council regulations. Regrettably, the subcontractors hired by this contractor proved to be equally inexperienced and lacking in commitment to quality. Consequently, their work required extensive remediation or complete replacement, resulting in considerable costs for the developer.

At our organisation, we prioritise effective project management and recognise that our success is intrinsically linked to the quality of our consultants. By surrounding ourselves with experienced and likeminded professionals within the industry— we consistently deliver value for money, minimise on-site errors, ensure thorough inspections, facilitate smooth certifications, and produce high-quality end products that developers can proudly associate with their names.


There are complex and fixed mechanisms to development and no place for corner cutting and quality sacrifice to save a buck.. it too often backfires.


Whilst we do not normally offer construction superintendency services – we outsource that to experienced specialists – we took this role on given the size of the project and the experience of the new contractor.


If you require assistance with designing, planning, and managing your subdivision or development, our experienced team of town planners and surveyors are ready and equipped to take on the challenge. We invite you to experience the difference that our trusted team of consultants can make in your project.


Our actions are always transparent, and you have the ultimate authority in selecting the consultants to be involved in your project. In the end, the developer has proceeded to engage our services for their next subdivision project.

June 5 2023

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