Engineer offers view on building standards

A respected and experienced voice in the building industry in Samoa has offered his views on concerns about poor workmanship in property building projects.

Leiataua Thomas Tinai, of Tinai, Gordon & Associates Ltd, said that while there is some truth to recent criticisms, he believes that from his experience, there are many good building contractors in Samoa.

Tinai, Gordon & Associates Ltd has worked on many building projects in Savai’i and Upolu for many years. As one of the first members of the Institute of Professional Engineers Samoa (I.P.E.S.) and having contributed to the 1992 and 2017 building code revision, Lei’ataua said the industry is constantly looking to improve the standards.

"That is something we like to do, is to improve and make better the workmanship and the skills of our local contractors,” he said.

The former President of I.P.E.S. said builders should be able to read the drawings and specifications, understand, and comply with the documentation involved in the work.

But he said one of the challenges builders often encounter is when people try to cut corners and reduce their costs. This means builders are exposed to having to find ways to finish the projects.

"Often, somebody says, I’ve only got two dollars; can you go and buy me a $10 house?

“One has to be practical and reasonable in terms of cost to build something that is sound and will be durable.”

For contractors who do not follow the building code, or show inadequate performance, Leiataua said there are guidelines in place to deal with them.

"It depends,” he said.

“It happens. We cannot say it doesn't happen, but in some cases, yes.

“It also depends who's supervising the job, so if the supervisor misses out on that, then the contractor can get away with it.

“Good supervisors and good people on site working as a team will make sure that the documentation is correct.

"If it is a very important structure and you don't do exactly what the design says, then it will compromise the quality."

Lei’ataua reiterated that the supervision of any project is very important. He said the supervisor must keep an eye out for these things and make sure the contractors do not deviate from plans.

From time to time, there may be issues with incomplete documentation and designs. This often leads to variations, he said.

"This goes back to the review aspect of it all, by getting an independent consultant, it makes sure that variations can be minimized to a very great extent and if you follow standard practice," he said.

He also offered a simple solution to avoid bad contractor work.

“Design first, peer review before it goes out to tender and finally, get a good feel as to what the actual cost would be for your project.”












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