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Construction expert evaluation: the balance between security and economic freedom

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Construction expert evaluation: the balance between security and economic freedom

Expert community advocates for a quality rise in expert project evaluation in Russia: Builders want expert evaluation to be cheap and qualified.

 Within the framework of the recent 3rd All-Russia conference on housing construction development (http://rcmm.ru/content/topics/955.html), a meeting on Russian legislation in the field of expert examination of design documentations and the results of engineering investigations took place.

A piece of paper makes a difference…

As the discussion showed, the topic is still of great importance, as it directly influences the quality and the cost of construction. Moreover, there are still a lot of unsolved problems. The expert community needs consolidation - it’s an important and necessary stage in forming integral approaches in the field of expert evaluation, thinks the President of the National Association of Construction Expert Organizations, Shota Gordesiani. But there is a long way to go in reaching this. According to him, we are now at the stage of defining the main points we must solve. Comprehensive development of the expert evaluation of territory is very important for the future, Andrei Granko, Development Director of a large GC, is sure. But it is important to understand the current situation, where expert evaluation is necessary.  Thus, in the course of comprehensive development of land, a lot of different objects are constructed. And if subordinate networks are not to pass expert evaluation, there is no need for the documents to pass it. But current practice carries such a demand. 

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Low-rise details

One of the most acute items is whether or not low-rise construction needs expert evaluation. The Ministry of Construction, Housing and Utilities of the Russian Federation is sure it does, but this results in additional financing and time demands. For example, the total expert evaluation of a start-up project of 1 bln rubles increases a developer’s expenses many times. But the expert community is not unanimous on this point. The Urban Development Code (UDC) excludes carrying out expert evaluation while constructing houses of up to 3 floors. But the concept of UDC was devised at a different time, when low-rise construction was rare and mainly suburban. Now cottage settlements are being built - that is, this segment has changed to (http://www.rcmm.ru/content/topics/900.html) mass scale construction, where utility facilities lines are laid and all necessary infrastructure created.  This is a different level of construction work with different consequent risks.  Thus, an object’s safety becomes a priority and determines the need for expert evaluation. If expert evaluation is not carried out, all safety parameters are the constructors’ and owners’ responsibility. But practical experience shows that they do not always fully observe fire safety, sanitation measures, etc. So, we have additional expenses versus the life and health of people.  According to Shota Gordesiani, this point is being discussed now. He thinks that it is necessary to establish a special directive for carrying out expert evaluation of individual houses and whole settlements.  

 kubanmakler.ru

Practice shows that, very often, four-storey buildings are constructed instead of three-storey ones, as had been claimed. The fourth floor is an attic quite suitable for habitation. Such trickery should be stopped short at the design documentation preparation stage, Gordesiani is sure. When a fire or other disaster happens, the state spends money on the consequences and pays compensation for the loss of property - and everybody knows that, more often than not, a disaster happens because of carelessness.  The Chairman of the board of “ProectStroyStandart” SRO, Sergei Zhuravlev, has another point of view. In his opinion, it is not reasonable to introduce expert evaluation for low-rise construction: carrying it out at the stage of area planning is quite enough. And the process’ quality must be enhanced, this specialist is sure, as expert evaluation in the regions is sometimes very time-consuming and of low quality.   

Each to his own 

There are also a number of issues of principle to consider. For example, many specialists think that one can do without expert evaluation of inner nets, as they belong to the house. Adequate amendments should be introduced to UDC for that purpose. Others stand against ecological expert investigation, being sure that “it is a fuss over nothing” in the sphere of housing construction. From the point of view of Elena Khanova, Deputy Director of the State Services Department in construction and permissible activities of the Ministry of Construction, Housing and Utilities of the Russian Federation, the quality of construction leaves much to be desired - that’s why budget-financed expert evaluation is necessary. But the state understand developers’ worries about expenses and time increases in the construction process. It is not interested in creating additional barriers to conducting business. Thus, the opportunity for a simplified procedure of carrying out expert evaluation to tight deadlines is being considered. But there is no doubt about the necessity for expert evaluation itself, as its absence leads to additional expenses for premature repairs to buildings.Shota Gordesiani also agrees that expert evaluation is necessary, but its execution must not become an additional administrative barrier, he thinks. But now there are a lot of extra formalities when documentation is presented for state expert evaluation.  A limited list of the necessary documents should be established. Clearer and more distinct demands should be carefully worded in the ecological chapter: there have been cases when the chapter contained up to 100 pages with minimal useful information.  That is: an expert writes everything in his own individual way, and this must end. Neither should specification documents pass expert evaluation: they are too big and their study takes too long. Expert evaluation must be carried out on design documents: at this stage, it is quite possible to assess the main constructive solutions to an object’s problems.  Drawbacks and mistakes discovered should be eliminated in the process of construction. If they are serious, it will be necessary to re-investigate the project.     Looking for balance Authorities are paying attention to criticisms of the current state of affairs in expert evaluation and to the remarks and    suggestions of constructors and designers – or at least, Elena Khanova assured the participants of the meeting of this.    According to her, the RF Government resolution ?87, dated February 16th, 2008, “On the contents of the chapters of design    documentation and requirements to their contents”, will be amended.  The purpose of the amendment is to establish all the    requirements in one document. At the same time, all agency-level rule-making will be eliminated.   The task of the expert evaluation is to provide a balance between the safety of an object and freedom in economic    activity. This task will be difficult to solve if the situation with the experts doesn’t change. There is a serious    personnel problem: that of under-qualified specialists. Why? In 2011 a mistake was made by government authorities: they    lowered the barrier for private customers entering this market. It resulted in under-qualified experts getting certified.  It is necessary to raise the qualification level of specialists, to establish qualification requirements for them, and to    certify them. If they make mistakes, they must be debarred from this kind of job for 5 years, and the licence should be    revoked from the expert organization employing such specialists. Experts must be highly responsible people. But developers    should also be very attentive, as they often promise to conduct expert evaluation in the shortest possible time and for    ridiculously low money.  Construction expert evaluation is an integral issue, stresses Shota Gordesiani. It requires serious, all-round    consideration. There is a working group at the Ministry of Construction, Housing and Utilities of the Russian Federation    where all the acute problems in industry expert evaluation are being constantly discussed.                                            

Looking for balance

Authorities are paying attention to criticisms of the current state of affairs in expert evaluation and to the remarks and    suggestions of constructors and designers – or at least, Elena Khanova assured the participants of the meeting of this.    According to her, the RF Government resolution ?87, dated February 16th, 2008, “On the contents of the chapters of design    documentation and requirements to their contents”, will be amended.  The purpose of the amendment is to establish all the    requirements in one document. At the same time, all agency-level rule-making will be eliminated.   The task of the expert evaluation is to provide a balance between the safety of an object and freedom in economic    activity. This task will be difficult to solve if the situation with the experts doesn’t change. There is a serious    personnel problem: that of under-qualified specialists. Why? In 2011 a mistake was made by government authorities: they    lowered the barrier for private customers entering this market. It resulted in under-qualified experts getting certified.  It is necessary to raise the qualification level of specialists, to establish qualification requirements for them, and to    certify them. If they make mistakes, they must be debarred from this kind of job for 5 years, and the licence should be    revoked from the expert organization employing such specialists. Experts must be highly responsible people. But developers    should also be very attentive, as they often promise to conduct expert evaluation in the shortest possible time and for    ridiculously low money.  Construction expert evaluation is an integral issue, stresses Shota Gordesiani. It requires serious, all-round    consideration. There is a working group at the Ministry of Construction, Housing and Utilities of the Russian Federation    where all the acute problems in industry expert evaluation are being constantly discussed.                                             

Vladimir Gurvich

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