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Federation of Reliable Builders

Opt-in system to encourage honest, reliable construction work
  (+11, -1)(+11, -1)
(+11, -1)
  [vote for,

Across the street from my place in York is a beautiful Georgian building that until last year operated as a youth hostel. Unfortunately it was so awful - no central heating, terrible private bar, dingy showers - that it folded.

About 8 months ago the property was purchased with the intention of renovating and reopening as a hostel once again. Scaffolding went up, along with the usual placards advertising the name of the construction firm, and work promptly ground to a halt. The hostel was supposed to reopen last month, but now it looks like it may be well into the new year before the doors open.

I've spoken to the new owner about the delays and it seems the construction workers are just terrible. They show up late (if at all) with the wrong equipment for the job, and have already made several costly and time consuming mistakes that have caused building code infractions. Unfortunately they're so far into the job that to fire them and employ another firm would be impractical. Meanwhile, the construction firm gets free advertising on the front of the building. Whether they do a good or bad job they increase their name recognition.

The idea

Here's a hypothetical. You hire Jones and Sons to renovate your building. You work out and agree to a budget and a timeframe, and this agreement is submitted to an impartial governing body (i.e. the National Association of Home Builders in the US, or the National Federation of Builders in the UK).

The work begins, scaffolding is put in place, and Jones and Sons erect a white advertising placard to the building. The placard confirms that the job is being tracked by the relevant governing body (perhaps using a recognisable symbol), and the agreed completion date is prominently displayed.

When the work is completed - on time and on budget - Jones and Sons may leave a bright green placard for an agreed period of time on the building, advertising the successful completion of the job by their firm.

If, however, the job runs over budget or past deadline the sign is removed and replaced with a bright red sign to advertise the failure. This sign remains until the work is completed, at which time it can be removed.

In the event of unavoidable, faultless delays or cost overruns (as can sometimes be the case), the governing body can step in and arbitrate. If they believe the delay/cost overrun is justified they will amend the agreement accordingly and the construction firm will not be penalised.

Most importantly - and this is where the construction firms really benefit from their good work - the governing body records successful and unsuccessful completions on a searchable database, allowing consumers to view the reliability record of their prospective builders. Naturally, those firms with a perfect record will be more prominently placed, while those with poor records will be relegated.

Many building federations already have a searchable database in place [link], so with a little modification this system could be implemented quite easily.

One final point. This would be a voluntary opt-in system for those construction firms who choose to be included. Such opt-in systems have proven effective in the past - for instance, the Federation of Master Builders in the UK allows builders to improve their reputations (and gain a valuable business advantage) by submitting to a strict code of conduct. Only those who abide by this code can advertise themselves as Master Builders [link].

sambwiches, Oct 03 2008

Master Builders http://www.findabui...co.uk/why/index.asp
Why choose an FMB member? [sambwiches, Oct 03 2008]

National Federation of Builders http://www.builders...ch/contractors.aspx
Serachable database for construction firms [sambwiches, Oct 03 2008]


       It's unlikely a federation of any profession will keep a list of its less reputable memebers, even if it's a quasi-governmental body.   

       Since reputable builders will be licensed, your best bet is to look for a licensed builder. If you end up having a beef with that builder, talk to the licensing organization. If enough people complain, the builder may get his license revoked.
phoenix, Oct 03 2008

       I'm not too familiar with the industry [UB] (my place is a listed building and I'm hardly even allowed to change my sheets without permission), but I assume the UK has similar safeguards and watchdogs to protect against cowboy builders. Incidentally, you must have solid brass balls to go against the family like that. Remind me never to piss you off.
sambwiches, Oct 04 2008

       One advantage of this system is that you can hold the AGM in a small living room.
4whom, Oct 04 2008

       This is pretty much the Freemasons. Of course, their membership costs quite a bit in monthly dues and won't work for the general public. Or atheists. So I guess this idea stands out enough to be different. [+]
Shadow Phoenix, Oct 04 2008

       unabubba, mate its old logic, it doesn't pay to work with family. mainly that its usually how you find out they, like pretty much else in a tight spot, is an arsehole.   

       on the idea, good idea. having the builder publicly disply the status of the job is good. but what I think [UB} is saying is that, the building process itself is complicated. often, its not just the builder's fault things go 'tits up'. having a 'perfect' builder would more or less exclude nearly all builders. from what I know, all builders have problems at all stages, and usually on all jobs. its very rare that a project goes from start to finish without delays (and building contracts have significant number of provisions for this) or cost overruns (same again). these issues are endemic to the process. building is not like a computer, it is still random, seeing into the future is difficult.
williamsmatt, Oct 05 2008

       Holy crap, Una, you tha man!
Voice, Oct 06 2008

       //the building process itself is complicated. often//   

       Very true, and I accept the point that it would be foolish to expect a smooth ride in any but the simplest of jobs. The hope, however, is that this sort of transparency and accountability would help weed out those builders who habitually screw up by taking on more than they can handle, or quote a low figure or unrealistic completion date to secure a job in the knowledge that most customers will just grin and bear it when they inevitably overrun. The governing body who arbitrate the contract would, as industry experts, be perfectly capable of differentiating between a genuine unavoidable delay and other situations.   

       On reflection I think a better idea may be to just give [UB] the names and addresses of anyone who's ever been accused of being a cowboy builder and let him go at them with a lead pipe.
sambwiches, Oct 06 2008

       //If the UK regulations don't allow for such action to seek redress against bad builders I would be very surprised indeed. //   

       In Oz you are required to have a license showing that you have completed the relevant training before becoming a builder. In the UK you are only required to say the words "I'm a builder". That's it. Most have a business card but it's not mandatory.   

       Now I know why my dodgy Aussie builder moved to London.
wagster, Oct 06 2008

       //In the UK you are only required to say the words "I'm a builder". //
Or you have to employ a Polish bloke.
coprocephalous, Oct 06 2008

       I just got fleeced for a much smaller amount by a Romanian builder who was doing similar tricks - namely using my money to finance a different build. It seems to be extremely common practice from what I can make out.   

       We'll see what the courts have to say.
wagster, Oct 06 2008

       Thanks [UB]. Fortunately at our last meeting I got him to sign a loan agreement for the amount I think he owes me, in exchange for a reference on the quality of his work (I couldn't really vouch for his business practices). I think his options are to pay up or vanish - though sadly I'm expecting option two.
wagster, Oct 06 2008

       While I fully support the idea I think you should call it the Confederation of Reliable Builders, or maybe the Reliable Builders Rebel Alliance. I've seen how many lousy contractors there are, sometimes it feels to me like the good guys are definitely in the minority.
elhigh, Oct 28 2008


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