Project Update 4 May 2010

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Category: Travel and Places

Now the long spell of dry weather has broken we are having very heavy rainstorms at the end of each day. As a result backfilling has been temporarily suspended although surprisingly at the site yesterday only a few small areas were actually muddy. The rest was firm enough to walk on without earth sticking to the soles of your shoes. But take one very heavy delivery truck and try it and you get a bogged down vehicle, so we must be patient. The forecast later in the week looks less stormy.

Yesterday morning when we visited the site we saw that a sliding door had been fitted between the walk-in closet and the master t&b. Unfortunately it was the same as our other internal doors so far to heavy for a sliding door. Maybe it was a misunderstanding on our part but we thought the plan was to install a glazed pvc door.
Now the interior of the master t&b has been re-organised (no separate shower and no urinal because the t&b that has been built is actually slightly smaller than the plan and also the bath we chose was perhaps larger than had been allowed for) there is ample space for a standard hinged swing door, so a switch will be made. Tiles will need to be replaced where the sliding track was fitted above the door but fortunately, as they have run out of matching tiles for the common t&b, Northcon can re-use some of those tiles to replace those damaged when the track is removed. A different, but similar, tile and trim will be used for the common bathroom as Wilcon have run out of the original tile we chose. So for the second time all the tiles they had fixed already (thinking they could get additional supplies) are having to be taken off the wall again and all walls will have the new tile design.
Glass has appeared in the transom above the front door but as yet none for the kitchen cupboards or the lanai french doors. Water was being sprayed around the spiral staircase to the viewing deck but no sign yet of final painting of railings or concreting and marble dusting of the steps. Painting of the outside of Hyner house has progressed but remains incomplete and Mangligot house has only just had its external walls prepared for painting. Security grilles are sitting by their matched windows and have been test fitted. Some have installation holes drilled (and some concrete areas damaged in the process) but all grilles are at primed-only stage and some do not yet have the central leaves design we chose.

The common t&b is still at the tiling stage with no internal fittings apart from the wooden sink base. The floor has already been tiles however.
The main living/dining room area is still work in progress. Some walls have been first coated but there is still much rubbing down taking place to the ceiling area, so when it will be fully painted is anyone’s guess.
The front doors await a final varnish but the painter phoned in sick yesterday so the doors were just leaning against a wall. The doors need some repair work to hide the circle made by the earlier positioning of the door handle and lock but this shouldn’t be a problem to do. But they will need to restore one door where they moved the handle position. At present on both sides you can still see the circle mark of the previous door handle position. The circle of wood removed was restored but the filler used still shows the old position. There must be something they can do to disguise this blemish.
We pointed out to the architect that the plans we approved show two steps up to the lanai but no steps have yet been constructed. We wondered why it seemed such a difference between the backfill and the lanai level. Now we know.
So far rooms completed (but no ACUs yet installed) are the master bedroom, theatre/play room, music/office room, bedrooms 1&2 and kitchen t&b. Master t&b will be when the swing door is installed. So the largest room, the living/dining room is still work in progress as is the kitchen, dirty kitchen, lanai, viewing deck, spiral staircase, external painting, roofing etc etc. No water connections have been tried yet and sanitation piping is also work in progress.
15 May is still the finish date Northcon are aiming for but there still seems to be a long list of things to be accomplished. We don’t want the job rushed as that will only produce a poor result. Perhaps if Northcon will remove all sandpaper and filler materials from the site we will witness an end to the constant rubbing down so that some actual painting can be done!
The switch to room by room finishing was a good decision by Northcon. It means that many areas are now complete (ACU installation still not done however) but still more are work in progress and require a more methodical approach and a hard push to get them finished. Reliance on local labour has proved to be Northcon’s weak spot as some men, even though most of the time jobless, seem to prefer sitting around doing nothing some days or recovering from a "headache" from too much gin or Red Horse beer the night before! We want to support the use of local labour but they must be properly supervised to ensure that time is not wasted on unnecessary preparation work. We’ve lost count of how many days we’ve seen doors and door jams being prepared. It seems to have gone on for months.
All of this means that work that should be done efficiently is not and much work has to be redone, in some cases, more than once, which must be eating into Northcon’s profit on the job. Of course, provided the end result is high quality, Northcon will have a showcase to use to win other business, so we shall see.
Despite our moans we would still recommend Northcon simply because we think they are trustworthy and professional but maybe we have been too close to the project and as a result have witessed at first hand the flaws in their management and supervision of the project.
The changes in supervisory personnel, whether engineer or architect, have not helped the continuity of the project either. Things tend to get overlooked in each handover and we spend a lot of time repeating things we’ve told the previous engineer/architect which is annoying. Having said that Northcon staff are always helpful and courteous. They mean well so there is no point in getting cross with them as they want the project to succeed as much as we do.
Had we been abroad we would not have been aware of the many problems they have encountered but this might have lead to a longer defect list at the end. So to some extent our watchfulness helps Northcon minimise the defects.
At the end we should give Northcon a list of recommendations that will help them with future projects. This of course was my job as a director of risk management and internal audit for Nynex Cablecomms, then for Cable & Wireless Communications and most recently for Avis Europe and Thus. Better still, I should probably offer to do some paid consultancy for them, reviewing their end-to-end process. There must be many areas to save money and make the whole process more efficient as well as a number where maybe the economies made using their current approach have actually not be cost effective. Now part of the difficulty admittedly is the fact that they are not producing cookie cutter houses. Every project is different and the design is left enti
rely to the customer. That is Northcon’s unique selling proposition but it is also an extremely difficult thing to manage.
Already this morning when we visited the site they had removed the sliding door track to the master t&b and replaced the screwholed tiles. At first the new tiles are darker than the originals because to begin with they absorb water from the fixing cement. By tomorrow they should dry out to the same colour as the rest. We also noted that the steps of the spiral staircase were being cemented and out front the missing leaves design for the security grilles was being welded on. On the roof further guttering was being installed to the back of the garage and the irregular apex capping now looks much flatter. So full marks to the roof installers who are the original contractors. Thank goodness they came back! Mangligot roof is looking almost finished and Hyner roof is undergoing both fitting of missing guttering and flashing plus sealing of joints.
One surprise yesterday was the supervisor advising us that he has instructed the truss welders to come back as during his own inspection of the trusses of the Mangligot roof he found a number of spot welds and quite rightly insists that they must be made into full welds. So full marks to him!
Inside again today there were still cupboard doors being rubbed down and other surface preparation taking place. No sign of any painting, just preparation work. The same with the ceiling area, particularly the raised feature wood strips.
Outside, the first external lights were being installed under the eaves of the roof.


Work continues on the perimeter wall. Today they were cutting the excess steelwork protruding from the tops of the pillars and smooth cementing them. Once this is completed they will add a top cap of concrete to every pillar.
There was no backfilling again today because of the heavy tropical rainstorm we had last night. Instead Nelson measured up for the plastic pipe he will install to restore the unofficial irrigation canal that runs under the road, down the side of our lot and into our neighbour’s land. This source of water disappeared when we dug out the trench for our perimeter wall but we need to put it back now. Another section of pipe will also be added taking the irrigation water through our compound and out the other side into the top of our ricefield. A third and final section of pipe will take the water along the front of our compound into the lot next to ours that we are renting for the next two years. All this will make it far easier to irrigate our ricefields when we need to and it will also be possiible to block off sections when water is not required so this gives everyone the control they need. It is important to be a good neighbour, particularly where irrigation water is concerned.
At our end of day visit we noted that the gutters/flashing for the laundry roof has been completed, a number of marble dusted concrete steps have appeared on the spiral staircase, and there is now a concrete step down at the back of the lanai deck, so they have moved very fast to correct this ommission.
The replacement tiles in the master t&b still looked much darker than the other tiles but we will check again tomorrow. A lock has appeared on the french doors to the lanai but as yet still no glass. We will have to see how secure the lock is as it is only held to the frame in one place. Northcon will probably need to weld on another steel plate behind it so it is more secure. We don’t mind that they have fabricated the door on site but the end result should be just like any french door one would buy in the shops.