Our application for building consent has been lodged!
By law the Council has a maximum of 20 working days in which to complete their work on your application, but the clock doesn't start straight away. Firstly, they review the application and plans to make sure that nothing obvious is missing (sensible). Then the application is accepted and an invoice issued. This can all take several days. No work will start until you pay the fees, so we chased Council for the invoice (even so, processing time for our application started almost a week after it was originally delivered to Council).
Consent fees are pretty substantial, and you may have to pay more later if Council uses more time than the initial charge covered. There's a handy calculator here. Very roughly, at the time of our project, the calculators indicated that building consent fees would be about 1.1% of the estimated build cost.
We checked on progress weekly, by phone - the Council staff are very helpful (we suggest you make notes of when you called, who you spoke to and what you were told). The application proceeds through a number of groups. Be aware that just because a group's entry against the application has been created, it doesn't mean they have started work on it. Council can also tell you if any group has questions - they won't tell you what the questions are, but it gives you a heads-up that a Request for Information (RFI) will be coming to you at the end. And you can find out exactly how many of the 20 working days are left.
Firstly, you need some plans. We went to tender when the application was submitted to Council, which carried the risk of managing any changes WCC might require. On the other hand, it allowed us to get on with things. Often your plans and engineering drawings are a bit too big to email. If you donít already have a Dropbox account, you can get 2GB free and use it to share copies of the plans online (or use other cloud storage services, like Google Drive).
We chose the builders we wanted to approach through a combination of word of mouth, published information, and a few cheeky phone calls to some industry professionals.
We met with the builders to discuss our project. We shared plans before the meeting, which allowed them to judge the type of work and ask some initial questions. This session helped us to gauge suitability and how easy it would be to work with them. We also discussed the tender process and got an understanding of their team and how they work. This was good time to ask for references, which they sent through a bit later (one builder arranged a visit to a home he had recently constructed and set up a meeting with the proposed team foreman). Weíll talk more about references next month.
Our short-list got shorter when two builders took up contracts that were pending. This is a real challenge in a tender process and itís really important to have up-front conversations about availability. Good builders will often have several quotes Ďout thereí, and if one of those comes to contract, then they may suddenly be unavailable.
During the process, there are likely to be a number of questions of clarification. Share these with all the builders who are responding, so that everyone is pricing the same thing. All our builders needed at least three to four weeks to come up with a price (which may involve a quantity surveyor working for them), but this can drag on much longer if you need to clarify a proposal.
beforeUdig is a free referral service for information on locating underground utilities anywhere in New Zealand. Basically you describe online where you are doing work (and what you are doing) and they have most utility companies contact you with information on services that you may encounter e.g. power cables, gaslines etc.
Tony from Kieran Oliver Contracting needed to be sure he wasnít going to plunge the city into darkness when he cleared the section, so we lodged an application. The emails start almost immediately and the service is actually pretty efficient. You need to interpret the materials yourself in the first instance. You can select for some of the utility companies to do a locate, where they will visit the site and find any services. Some of these are free, and others cost a small sum. beforeUdig also advises you of any agencies they wonít do a referral for, and you need to make enquiries to them yourself.
The beforeUdig site is a bit intimidating (it feels like it is designed for contractors), but donít be put off. Use the comments field to explain exactly what you are doing if you feel the form fields arenít telling the right story about your project or you want to include special instructions. beforeUdig may ring you, and these calls are very helpful. And if you need to make another application because your first is getting a bit dated, then you can do so.