Friday, August 17th, 2018

Isabela House (Construction Log 20) Work Continues & Fence Permits Revisited


When we arrived at the site a couple of days ago, from a distance, it looked as if they had already installed insect screens in two windows of the Mangligot house. On closer inspection we realized that it was large dimension steel wire security netting to protect the materials they will store temporarily in the house. The only insect prevention would have been against giant mosquitoes, but it gave us a good laugh

Although no roof tiles have been delivered yet, two internal doors have been hung and preparation for mounting the ceiling panels was evident. Fortunately the weather has continued hot and dry (37 degrees Celsius yesterday afternoon).

In the kitchen the carcass of the worktops has been concreted into place. We have supplied cooker and refrigerator dimensions to Northcon and have asked for a third time for the proposed kitchen design. Each time we have been told it will be later. On the last occasion they said it would be when the kitchen dimensions were known for definite, which they have been for a few weeks now. We hope it will not be necessary to re-do any of the work to date if we are dissatisfied with the proposed layout.

We also learned that the project engineer is to be replaced although as yet we do not know whether this was planned and have received no formal notification of the change from Northcon.

We expect these kinds of hiccup. I don’t know anyone who has built a house who hasn’t had similar experiences. The contractor wants to get on with the job, which is good, but sometimes they forget the need to keep their customer informed and consult with them on any periphery design matters. So we hope nothing is forgotten in the changeover to the new engineer.

This morning we will meet again with the men who are constructing our perimeter wall and railings to discuss the design further and agree what materials are to be purchased.

While we wait for city hall to issue the fence permit, the men will prepare the steel railings ready to install. The rest of the construction will use hollow block but there will be additional features because of the back fill situation. Currently the largest hollow block costs 6 pesos so we will compare local prices against those of the city engineer’s hollow block making business just up the road from our site. If his prices are in line with or lower than other local suppliers we may as well buy from him.

We had a meeting at the site today with the outgoing project engineer and the two incoming architects who will support the finishing stage. A constructive meeting with full commitment from Northcon to rectify the faults we identified with the roof trusses. One of the new architects is the daughter of a professional welder so has a keen eye for spotting a bad weld. We discussed the seam welding of the steel (like a line of dimes) and also the necessity of having adequate surface connection between trusses. Thankfully we appear to have turned a difficult corner on the project. We will review the fully welded structure once the necessary rectification work has been completed. We also chose external colors today.

Separately we reviewed the prefabrication of the perimeter posts which will commence construction as soon as the fence permit has been issued. The latter is being done by a different team at the site and is being funded directly by us on a piece rate and materials basis. Rather than waste time while we await the issue of the permit it seemed sensible to do as much prefabrication as possible to reduce the building time later. Sensibly they were ordering additional prefabrication material today so that several teams can construct at the same time. They will also hire a mechanical digger to speed things up. All this was quite refreshing news and we rather like the approach of these young men. What they have produced already looks exceptionally professional, just like the plan they presented at the start for our fence.

In the meantime Northcon have requested an extension to the delivery date for our project which we have willingly granted. We have our rented house until July so it is no problem, and at the end of the day we would rather they didn’t rush as this only seems to lead to problems like those we had with the roof trusses.

Yes, we’re ready to fence our perimeter. All the pre-fabricated molds for the posts are ready together with the internal steel frame. But, as usual, we are waiting for the city engineer to apply the remaining signature to the fence permit. The question has been asked, can we hire a digger to start the trenchwork even though we don’t have the permit yet. We think the answer is no, because it would still constitute some kind of construction activity even though we won’t actually be pouring any concrete. We are not keen on asking the city engineer for permission to dig the trench because we remember what happened with the building permit. It is best not to ask any favour or dispensation with these officials. Even though they must be aware of the penalties they could incur under the republic act 9485, some are still prepared to take a chance.

If the fence permit is not issued next week we will take up the matter with the Patul barangay captain and ask him to put a call into the mayor’s office as it will be two weeks on Monday since a young engineer contact we have in the city engineer’s department prepared the fence plan and submitted the application for us together with our supporting documentation. By last Thursday he told us that he had obtained two of the three signatures required and the last he hoped to get on Friday. There was no text message on Friday so we assume he was unsuccessful.

Update 16 February: It is now over two weeks since our fencing permit application was submitted. We received a text from our contact to say that the city engineer wanted a meeting with us. He implied there was something wrong with the building permits. We called in yesterday afternoon and challenged him as he was leaving the office, however, he asked us to return this morning between 8 and 9am. We sat for over an hour in the reception area and he didn’t appear so we left saying we had an appointment with our lawyer and could they direct us to the mayor’s office. Later around 10.30 we received a text to say that the city engineer was now available but we refused to have any further meetings with him. We hold two signed building permits and we know that there is nothing wrong with our fencing permit application as we were shown the file by our contact while we were in the engineer’s department and everything is ready except the city engineer’s final signature. Even the fee to be paid has been calculated. There is therefore nothing to discuss. If necessary we will arrange for our lawyer to meet with the city engineer to discuss any issues he has with the fencing application but we hope the barangay route will make this unnecessary.

We visited the barangay captain as planned and explained the situation. He we livid. As far as he is concerned we have a perfect right to protect our property and he has already issued the barangay fencing permit. He said he would take it up with the mayor and assured us we should proceed with fence construction and advise him if anyone from the city engineer’s office attempted to stop it. As an expression of our appreciation we asked if there were any projects with which we could help. We will therefore be providing 400 hollow blocks so they can build a chapel in the yard outside the barangay hall. This is for residents of Patul who do not have space to hold a wake in their own house. We also promised to donate our air conditioning unit when we leave our rented house as we are having split wall mounted units in our new home.

Which reminds me, I must do a special blog about Patul barangay hall. It almost brought tears to my eyes when I saw the number of different ways in which they help support their local community. Talk about caring, these guys deserve an award!

On Friday we received the bids from Northcon for the sub-projects such as the remaining back fill and the driveway. Thankfully these days we are far more aware local pricing so we could see immediately that the bids were far to high. It puts Northcon out of contention altogether and we will therefore award these pieces of work to local contractors who we know by reputation are reliable. A swimming pool is the one project which we will continue to discuss with Northcon. We need to have a better understanding of the plan which supports their bid and we lack sufficient detail at present to make a judgment. If this information is not forthcoming or we feel that the price is still excessive, that again will be awarded elsewhere. A pool requires special engineering skills but surprise, surprise, we have actually found a local contractor who has constructed a large public pool and, according to a family contact, done an extremely good job.

Unlike the major currencies, the Philippines peso has appreciated so much that it is beginning to undermine these kinds of decision and many potential customers will defer building their dream home here until the fx rates improve. Manila-based companies tend to charge more but you would still expect them to be somewhere in the same ballpark price wise, especially as they in fact use a lot of local labor and very few Manila-based employees.

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