SoW (Scope of Works) and Project Variation Costs

Scope of Works - Project Variation Costs

We, at TOP Consulting Group, have been involved in investigation, remedial design solutions and management of remedial projects of structural and waterproofing defects for over 25 years.

Our experience had shown that there are two things that are true in remedial industry; knowledge is power and not all remedial engineers and consultants are made equal.

I can not say that I have seen it all, but I have seen a lot, from badly designed and constructed buildings to poorly specified and performed remedial solutions.

Apart from challenges arising from a discovery of defects in the building construction, one of the biggest concerns for an owners corporation is finding the correct remedial consultant/engineer. The other is facing crippling effects of remediation costs.

Historically, owners corporations select their remedial engineer or consultant based on the lowest cost and not the consultant’s ability to properly design their remedial project and appropriately detail a SoW.

Presently there are two types of remedial consultants in the marketplace; remedial engineers and building contractors who became remedial consultants. Some of the former and many of the latter provide their initial reports with colourful pictures and little substance that may be used in properly identifying the cause of a defect and detailing its proper rectification methodology. Generally, their SoW/Specification is little more than a performance specification, a document that transfers the investigation, design and detailing responsibility to a building contractor. The person least qualified to undertake the task and most likely to vary the cost.

Some remedial consultants elect performance based documentation which omits specific remedial design and detail. They may elect to do so as they are forced to compete against those who have no expertise nor capability to produce anything different. 


For the best value for money, a scope of work should be clear, with adequate works specification and detailing. Thankfully, the new the Design and Building Practitioners Act 2020 No 7 requires this detailing to be provided, especially for waterproofing works.

Unfortunately, the Design and Building Practitioners Act 2020 No 7 currently only applies to works requiring consent and not to works pursuant to SEPP Exempt Development. A substantial number of waterproofing and remedial projects will still fall under the banner of Exempt Development. Therefore, it is up to the strata managers and owners corporation to request their project be detailed in a manner similar to that required by the Design and Building Practitioners Act.

Do not seek the cheapest consultant you can get. Engage the one that serves your project best. It will save you a lot of pain and money.

In my experience, every $1,000 saved on adequate defect cause investigation, remedial design and proper detailing and documentation will result in $10,000 of additional construction cost. 


The troublesome “V word” is where relationships get strained and sometimes fail altogether between the contractor and an owners corporation. 

The majority of strata managers and owners corporations struggle to keep up with remedial works and variation costs as they occur.  I do not believe there is such a thing as a remedial or a building project without a variation cost. What matters is how much. Is it 5% or 60% of initial project value?

Once again, the secret to controlled project costs and reduced variation claims is properly specified and documented remedial design and a good contract document, not just a standard contract form off the self.

Author: Vadim Topolinsky