Why cost estimates by professional builders are higher
Construction cost estimates done by professionals may seem high to the layman when compared to estimates by local masons for the same project. But when you scrutinise the pricing mechanism, you will realise that the fundis (local masons) do not categorise the cost in terms of materials used for construction for the various classes of incomes i.e. low-, middle- and high-end. They will also not include all the details and accessories that need accompany the end product.
This is often because most people when embarking on self-build tend to overlook the various skill-sets involved in the construction process, often taking the final word from the fundi. Let’s use an example to illustrate this. Take the cost of a door: a flush door costs approximately Sh2,000 in hardware shops. But when estimating the cost of the door, the fundi will advice the owner that it will cost them Sh2,000 multiplied by the number of doors needed.
However, when professional advice is sought, the owner would be advised that a flush door comes with a door lock at an extra Sh1,500 which can be a two- or three-lever depending on the security level desired. In addition, the door hinges will cost approximately Sh200 extra each, and a door stopper at Sh200. Besides, the door frame will cost about Sh1,500 depending on the design, wood type and thickness desired. Labour cost and transport may consume an extra 10-20 per cent of the total cost.
So, professional cost estimates will amount to about Sh6,000 compared to the Sh2,000 from the local fundi. The difference arises from the fact that the professional estimates the total costs from purchasing to fixing while the fundi gives the price of the door only. This variance of over 200% in cost estimate is what the fundi fails to advice the house owner.
The consequences are thus: 1) If the money the house owner is using for construction was borrowed from a bank, the house will not be completed due to cost overruns. 2) The house owner would have liked to know the possible options for materials in terms of prices available in the market so that they can make an informed decision. 3) In severe cases, the structural quality is compromised due to poor planning and a building may collapse.
The reason why the cost estimates vary so much is because while the fundis are generally well-versed with the actual construction techniques, they do not have the necessary tools and skills required to estimate construction costs. On the other hand, a professional will also not be able to advice on techniques such as how to best fit the door and door frame. This mis-match in skill-set can cost a builder a lot, and consulting bodies such as the Architectural Association of Kenya (AAK) or the Board of Registration of Architects and Quantity Surveyors (BORAQS) would inform potential developers on where to find construction industry professionals.
Gichuhi is principal architect at consultancy firm A4architect. Email: email@example.com