ARE Section: Construction and Evaluation Part 2
In part two of this blog series, I will discuss site visits during construction. It is important to clarify that when an architect is onsite for a routine visit, they are there to observe and not inspect. Over the years, this point has needed clarification because generally, an architect's scope and responsibilities while onsite during construction are to observe (a term intended to be more generalized and leave room to not see or make note of a great amount of detail). Another reason for describing site visits as observations relates to the frequency and duration of each visit. Normally, an architect visits a site a couple times per month. This frequency lends itself to the act of observing rather than inspecting (a term more associated with a great amount of detail and time spent onsite).
So, what is normally accomplished while performing a site observation? When does an architect conduct an onsite observation? Regarding when to visit a site under construction, I coordinate with both the owner and contractor to review the entire project schedule. I make note of what activities are anticipated and collaborate with the contractor and owner to establish a schedule of site observations. At the beginning of a project, this might result in making one site observation in the first month as the contractor works to clear the site, perform some rough grading, and prep for foundations and utilities. Once the project pace picks up, such as when the structural framing begins, I normally find myself onsite bimonthly. The busiest time on-site is toward the end of the project. There are many trades usually working long hours as the project approaches completion. Because of the varying pace of construction, it is appropriate for an architect to adjust the frequency of site observations to align with the stage of construction in progress.
Once onsite, an observation normally encompasses four major tasks:
- Become familiar with the progress of the work (the point where the project is relative to the overall construction schedule).
- Make general observations related to the quality of the work in progress.
- Make note of the activities in progress, such as which trades are onsite, what materials are being delivered/stored, and what mock-ups are being assembled.
- Most importantly, observe the activities progressing onsite to assess if the work appears to be conforming with the intent of the contract documents.
The above observations (and more) are normally documented during the site visit in an architect's field report, which can become a very helpful record of events and activities.