Atkar project manager Travis Parker has cautioned builders about the hidden costs of swapping out materials originally specified by a project’s architect with cheaper, often imported products.

Architects specify materials based on research and experience, ensuring the specified products are suitable for the required applications. Parker provides some convincing examples from his experiences working for Atkar supplying acoustic and architectural panel solutions for projects.

There have been situations when Atkar has lost an order to a competitor that initially appears cheaper, with the builder facing unforeseen problems that don’t surface until after the order has been made. For instance, many of these ‘cheaper’ suppliers have different rates for standard panels and custom sizes with the builder ending up paying extra for the latter. Atkar quotes a single rate for their panels to cover both standard and custom sizes. There are no hidden costs with Atkar’s quotes.

When it comes to architectural panels, builders choosing non-specified materials also risk additional costs from the potential lack of proprietary installation systems; the builder is often left to improvise ways to install the lower quality panels, leading to longer installation times, deadline blowouts and extra labour costs. When the non-specified panels do not stand up to the project’s requirements, the builder faces further delays and costs.

Experienced builders will adhere to the architect’s specifications because they know that architects carefully invest their time in finding the right products, which reduces risk and ultimately saves costs for the builder. Even if something goes wrong with the specified products, builders can rightly claim they were simply following the blueprint and seek the support of the architect to address the situation.

Parker worked closely with Building Engineering to deliver an acoustic solution for the University of Melbourne Founder’s Library after Atkar’s products were specified by project architects Peter Elliot.

For Building Engineering contract administration manager David Waters, the reduced risk to the builder when working with architect-specified products is the most important reason for adhering to these guidelines. Waters explains that they simply go with the specified products by safely assuming that their risk is minimised as these products have been researched, their quality has been inspected and they have a proven warranty. All of these factors reduce risk for the builder, especially if the product happens to fail.

Despite being aware of the risks, builders often deviate from architect specifications because they already have a relationship with another company and are unfamiliar with the products chosen by the architect.

Architects specify materials so that the final built structure meets their design vision. They are also motivated to safeguard the quality and long-term performance of their buildings. When builders swap out the specified materials with cheaper alternatives, it often compromises the integrity of the project.

Brand Architects specified Atkar’s Au.diLux, Au.diPanel, Au.diStyle and Au.diSlot perforated panels to provide the acoustic solution for Alamanda College’s secondary school building. The scale of the project called for a superior acoustic solution that would meet the design brief and nurture a learning environment.

Gerard McCurry, director of Brand Architects explained that they chose Atkar’s panels after researching the market and selecting these materials for their quality, properties, aesthetics, longevity and cost.

Addressing a client’s vision is integral to fulfilling design briefs, especially when working on large-scale projects such as Alamanda College. Researching and specifying certain products is one way that architects can ensure their project outcomes are met and their designs are built without compromising on quality.

However, the same builders who deviated from their architects’ specifications often turn out to be the best advocates for following an architect’s recommendations.

Parker says a bad experience with non-specified materials often makes the builder go with the architect’s specifications on their next project as they know they will receive superior service and product right from the quote stage through to after-sales. He adds that builders can save money in the long run, and also avoid a lot of stress and unnecessary difficulties with their projects.