Where the Rubber Meets the Road

The construction phase of a project is where there is the highest probability for problems to crop up. As a contractor friend says, “It’s where the rubber meets the road.” During the design phase, nearly everything is hypothetical and speculative because design is based on guidelines, specifications, calculations and experience. Every attempt is made by the project team (owner, architect, engineer and, many times, contractor) to foresee problems and solve them with thorough plans, coordination meetings, reviews, and more meetings. But until construction begins to take shape, it’s simply an idea on paper.

Clients sometimes request that we step out of our team role and waive construction phase services so they can save money. But in almost every case, an architect will likely save the owner (and contractor) time and money through continued coordination and interpretation of the plans, and by visiting the site frequently during construction to see that what’s being built is in sync with the plans. An architect has a crucial role during construction.

View a slideshow of BR&P’s recent construction projects.

We try to inform clients up front that there are no perfect plans. There is always a possibility for error, misinterpretation and misunderstanding. The drawings we prepare are diagrammatic and will require a degree of interpretation by contractors and subcontractors. There will be times when conflicts arise from one drawing to another, or the contractor may have an alternate solution to a detail. We practice a standard of care to ensure the design meets functional requirements, complies with local codes and is of an aesthetic that speaks well of the client and community.

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) publishes several standard design contracts, and nearly all of them identify these responsibilities of the architect during construction.

  • Administration of the construction contract, including preparing change orders and other modifications to the construction contract
  • Acting on behalf of the owner to the extent provided for in the contract
  • Visiting the construction site at appropriate intervals to observe the work
  • Reporting observed deviations in the work to the owner and contractor
  • Rejecting work not in conformance with the contract documents
  • Reviewing contractor’s applications for payment, and certifying the amount due
  • Reviewing samples, shop fabrication drawings, and product information prepared by the contractor
  • Responding to requests for information from the contractor
  • Rendering decisions on claims or disputes between the owner and contractor

Some clients modify these based on the skills they may already have in house or on staff. Although contracts for design and construction are typically separate agreements, they should each contain language that takes into account the interrelationships among the owner’s, architect’s and contractor’s responsibilities. The family of AIA documents does this especially well.

An architect does not always have the last word, but he or she typically has the broadest viewpoint of the whole project, and should act on behalf of the owner and project as a whole to resolve differences. Don’t sell your project short by removing the architect from construction phase services.

If you would like to know more about the design and construction process, call Bruce Adib-Yazdi, AIA, LEED AP at 417-865-6100. Bruce has more than 20 years of experience and is a registered architect in seven states, including Missouri.