The Design Process of an Architect Series is aimed at potential clients, with the goal of addressing the typical design process of an architect. De-mystifying the design process for the client affords them the understanding of what it is we as architects do, how we do it, and the value of our services. I believe that an educated client is the best client. Prior posts in the series covered Programming, Schematic Design, Construction vs. Project Budgets, Preliminary Construction Cost Estimate (PCCE), Design Development, Construction Documents, and Permitting and Bidding.
There is the never ending debate about Construction Administration (CA) and the architect’s role and whether or not he/she is even involved. As an architect you need to be doing CA; and as a client, you want your architect doing CA. Simple and clear- no debate. You’ve engaged an architect to design your home and prepare construction documents for such. It’s a significant investment of your time and money. Why not ensure the construction documents are followed? My role as your architect should not be limited during construction. I authored the drawings and have the most knowledge of them, I should- and as a client, you want me to- be the one interpreting them.
You wouldn’t represent yourself in a court of law, would you? Maybe you would if you’re on Judge Judy- but that’s not real court. You don’t self-diagnose and then perform your own surgery, do you? If you do, stop reading, put the scalpel down and walk away. So why would you think you could represent yourself during a construction project? The construction process is inherently complicated. As a client, you need someone representing you and your best interests. Who better for that role than the author of the design/documents? A contractor can ‘read’ the drawings but they cannot correctly interpret them as they are not the author.
What is CA? This is the construction phase of a project. The term CA refers to the role of architect during construction, which is to administer- and sometimes enforce- the agreement between you the client and your contractor. Basically, the architect is involved during this process to see that during construction the contractor is following the construction documents. An architect is also available to both the contractor and client to answer questions, mediate any disagreements that may arise, and in general serve as a resource for the project. During construction, there will almost always be questions, unforeseen circumstances, etc. The ability of the client, contractor, and architect to work through these events as a collaborative team will have a significant effect not only on the final product, but also on the client’s level of stress throughout. It’s important to note that CA not only occurs at the site, but also in the architect’s office as he/she reviews, prepares clarifications, responds to questions, etc. regarding the project.
To protect the incompetent, no names will be used. This did happen on a job of mine, I didn’t make this up- although I wish I had. Picture a freestanding garage under construction. Floor slab plan indicates a slope to the garage door of 1/8” per 1’-0; standard stuff. Driving past the site one day I glance over and what I see nearly causes me to wreck my truck. What was witnessed can only be described as a prototype ramp for an ‘X-Games’ event- one involving the reincarnation of Evel Kneivel. Long story short, formwork was put up at a slope ratio of 18” per 1’-0. We weren’t contracted for CA on the project- client felt he could do it himself. However, we were morally obligated to inform the client and contractor. You can ponder what would have happened if that wasn’t caught by the architect- i.e. me, named because I’m competent. A blatant error and easy to catch. However, all issues are not always so obvious. There are numerous things, big and small, that can go wrong during construction.
I believe in providing flexibility to our clients and their needs/wants. However, there are certain CA services I feel we must provide to feel confident that the desired end product will be achieved and the client’s best interests are kept in check. In addition, things don’t always go as planned in the field. As the architect, you need to be involved to confirm that the design intent is maintained. Below is a typical schedule of our minimum level of CA service- I rarely accept a project if we do not perform this basic CA:
Pre-Construction Meeting Prior to construction, this is a meeting between the client, contractor, and architect to review drawings, assign points-of-contact, discuss construction schedule, etc. This is done to establish a good working relationship, to make sure the drawings are understood and answer any questions about them, and in general to head off any potential conflicts.
1. Foundation and Footings- Site visit after excavation and prior to foundation/footing work. Site visit before framing starts to ensure foundation and footings have been done according to the drawings.
2. Substantial Completion of Framing- Site visit prior to any subcontractors moving too far ahead on their portion of the work. It is easier to make any field framing adjustments when they are not complicated by mechanical, plumbing, or electrical in the walls.
3. Pre-Electrical- Site visit to perform an electrical/lighting walk-thru with the client and the contractor, finalizing locations for switches, outlets, fixtures, etc. Boxes in-place for review, but not wired.
4. Before Drywall- Site visit before drywall is installed to review rough-in work of subcontractors, as well as insulation and sealing.
5. Trim work 50%- Site visit while trimming is ongoing to help resolve any issues in the field while they are there.
6. Substantial Completion- This is the point of construction when the project is sufficiently complete, so that the client may use or occupy the building project for the intended purpose, without undue interference. We will do a walk-thru with the client and contractor. The purpose of the walk-thru is to generate a punch list. The punch list indicates items of work requiring corrective or completion action by the contractor- a list of discrepancies that need to be corrected by the contractor prior to issuing final payment.
Keep in mind; this is the basic CA that we perform. There are various other optional CA Services we can provide. As part of CA, after ALL site visits, a field report should be issued to all involved parties.
Still not convinced you need an architect during CA? Fellow architect Lee Calisti, author of the blog think | architect, has a post addressing CA as well. Listed below is his summary of ‘10 myths why you don’t need an architect during construction:’
1. The contractor will work it out, it’s their job
2. Contractors don’t want architects on the job site
3. They should be able to figure it out from the drawings
4. The contractors know what will meet code
5. The client is paying twice if the architect and contractor are both there
6. The owner will be there to oversee the construction
7. Contractors always read the drawings
8. The subcontractors read the drawings
9. The contractor’s opinion of equivalent is the same as the architect’s
10. The owner can build this on their own and be their own G.C.
Be sure to read Lee’s full post here -> 10 myths why you don’t need an architect during construction on think | architect.
A successful design and construction project is a team effort. The team is comprised of the architect, contractor, and client. Would you bench a team player at the moment in time you need him the most, specifically to interpret the ‘plays’? As a client, do yourself a favor and retain your architect for CA
* Architect… it does CA good!