Thursday, March 7, 2013

Working With an Architect V

After the contract is awarded, the construction administration phase begins, the final phase of an architect's basic services. During construction administration the architect's principal tasks are to answer contractor-generated questions, or requests for information (RFIs), review and ultimately approve product submissions and applications for payment, make field observations, and for large projects, provide construction control*.

This project is substantially complete.
It's common and natural that the contractor will have questions or will require clarification regarding specific details of the design after construction begins. For good contractors and architects, these questions are always asked and answered in writing, preferably using a project-approved document or form. Various site visits made by the architect are made according to the contractor-generated and project-approved progress schedule during the course of the work so that the work in place can be assessed via observation and compared to the construction documents for compliance. These site visits usually correspond to progress milestones common to the particular project type underway. For example, for a new house, the first observation would occur when the foundation is complete, the second after the structural frame is complete, the third after the roofing and windows are installed and so on. Most contracts dictate very specific conditions under which the contractor can apply for payment, and the applications can be based on a 30 day schedule, a progress milestone or other verifiable time period. The architect's principal role in the application for payment process is to review the work indicated as completed on the application against what is in place on site. The two often do not match.

Most construction contract documents also stipulate very specific instructions regarding how specified materials to be used on the project are verified. This occurs through the submittal process. Many project materials are submitted solely for record keeping purposes because they comply with the project specifications explicitly. Usually the manufacturer's product data is sufficient to satisfy the project requirements for these types of submittals. Other submissions are too complex for this approach, and often full size mock-ups are required to substantiate the manner in which materials, means and methods, and processes will work and fit together in context. Once a more complex submittal like a mock-up has been reviewed by the project for compliance with requirements and intention, work can continue on that particular part of the project.

It would be unusual for a project not to have a final inspection and close out process. To trigger this process, a contractor will submit a notice of substantial completion, and attach a punch list to his penultimate application for payment. The punch list provides a compilation of all outstanding work and tasks to be completed by the contractor before a final inspection takes place. Examples of outstanding work would be things like final cleaning, installation of minor finish components, submission of project and operations manuals, and a certificate of occupancy. In general, any task or work that would require more time to complete than one payment cycle would be rejected by a good architect, because in that case the work would not be substantially complete.

After the items on the punch list are completed, the contractor submits a final application for payments and attaches to it any outstanding paperwork required by the project. The architect approved the final application, and the owner occupies his new building or home and lives happily ever after. That's the plan, anyway.

* Construction control is a series of building code-required site observations that are made by the architect.  Construction control is usually only required for large, non-residential projects.

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