I was reminded of another incident when we lived in a newly constructed house and were dismayed to find water leaking through the roof every time it rained. The builder came back several times to try different solutions without success. Eventually, the leak was isolated to a rainwater pipe in a concrete column. The builder had to break open the concrete to get to the pipe, only to find the ‘plumber’ who installed the pipe didn’t use proper plumbing connections to install a bend in the pipe, rather trying to cut and heat the pipe to make it work. A real butcher job that wasn’t done by a real plumber – a job that obviously wasn’t going to work.
One thing I learned in construction was that you don’t take short-cuts when water is involved. Water will always find mistakes and poor quality work. Inevitably there will be leaks when waterproofing isn’t done well, plumbing is of poor quality, concrete isn’t compacted properly and roofs are constructed poorly. Indeed I have previously told the story how it has taken the builder eight years to solve the leaking swimming pool in an apartment complex. Think of the cost and inconvenience which could have been avoided if the pool had been designed and built correctly.
But sometimes contractors’ hidden sins can have more dramatic consequences which have resulted in injury and death. Buildings have collapsed during earthquakes killing occupants while surrounding buildings sustained much less damage. On investigation, it was found that the buildings that collapsed had defective work, which included; in some cases, missing reinforcing, and in other instances concrete foundations which contained empty oil cans.
In another example, a school building suffered severe damage when a tornado struck – damage more severe than was expected. The investigation revealed that the concrete panels weren’t secured together with the correct bolts.
Far too often contractors turn a blind eye to potential quality problems. Mistakes get covered up by dirt, concrete, sheeting and paving. Hopefully never to be found by the client or anyone else in the future. Some Project Managers become adept at walking architects, the client and quality inspectors past quality problems. It’s sometimes easy to distract the person and get them to look in the opposite direction, or temporarily block the offending work from view (there are probably a few wry smiles and nodding heads now). Some contractors even carry out clandestine operations at night, or on weekends, to quickly ‘patch’, or hide, defective work.
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