Risk of Owner Earthworks
Some home owners take on the task of organizing the earthworks and their certification themselves, rather than the builder charging for the responsibility. The aim of this is often to reduce building costs, removing these works from the contract with the builder.
This in theory sounds fine, until you look into who holds the liability for these works, according to a Master Builder member consultant, Structerre.
Where earthworks are excluded, the owner will secure the necessary permits and ensure the earthworks are done properly. While many blocks may be flat, stable and have little rock, this may not be the case. The true state may be revealed after a contour survey or a soil test. Owners will need to check the proximity of earthworks to infrastructure such as water, sewerage mains, electricity and gas networks.
The risk associated with accepting owner earthworks is high for the builder as they are fundamental to the integrity of the entire build. Although the agreement to remove earthworks from the contract can potentially save the owner money paid under the building contract and influence the decision to sign on the dotted line, the question needs to be asked, what is the real cost to the builder?
In the event that earthworks are not carried our correctly, the builder may potentially be seen and accountable and responsible for the successful completion of the earthworks, or at least obligated to ensure that they were completed adequately before commencing the build. The owner may be found responsible for subsequate structural problems if it is found the earthworks they commissioned were not to an acceptable standard.
The builder would need to take steps to minimise their risk and liability through confirming that the earthworks are indeed satisfactory and in accordance with AS3798-2007 ‘Guidelines on Earthworks for Commercial and Residential Developments’ and address issues such as drainage, soil testing and uncontrolled fill.
If owners do take on the role of organising earthworks, consultant Structerre says it is advisable that the parties:
• Ensure the earthworks are removed from the building license. This should be documented in order to transfer the responsibility from builder to owner.
• Seek certification of owner earthworks from an independent and experienced consultant. This would require multiple inspections at varying stages of the earthworks and would provide the builder peace of mind that earthworks have been completed in accordance with AS3798-2007 and the site is structurally suitable for construction.
Use our free Find a Member service to find a suitable builder or consultant.