Learn All About Construction Support Services
An often overlooked or misunderstood aspect of an architect's work is to provide construction support services for a client. During this phase of a project, a design which has been developed and detailed in the construction documents phase is actualized with the construction of a realized building, and the architect's role is to assist in this process. Understanding the roles and responsibilities of the owner, architect, and general contractor is key to providing construction support services and the overall success of a project. This topic is covered on the Construction and Evaluation division of the ARE.
1. Determining the Architect's Role
The services an architect provides during construction are typically described within the architect's contract with an owner. Thus, it is important that an architect's role during construction for a particular project is well understood before design work even commences and the architect's fees are determined. If a project is to be profitable for an architectural firm, then the scope and amount of effort anticipated during construction should be estimated as well as possible. If the contract utilizes or is based on the AIA family of contract documents, then the architect has the potential advantage of familiarity with typical services provided during the construction phase and can be assured that the architect will not be held to unreasonable expectations of services provided. In any case, the roles and responsibilities of the various parties should be clearly described in the contract to avoid confusion, conflict, and inefficiency later on.
2. AIA Contract Document B101
For those preparing to take the ARE, an excellent resource for study is the AIA contract Document B101, the standard form of agreement between owner and architect. This document is available at aiacontracts.org as a free sample preview. A review of the document aids in understanding what is typically provided by architects as part of their basic services and what would be beyond the typical services they provide, which would entail an additional fee. Effectively, the architect acts as a consultant for the owner in an advisory capacity. The architect is not "in charge" of the construction work, nor is the architect responsible for faults or delays in a project which are the result of failures on the part of contractors to execute the work defined in the contract documents. An additional point to note is that although the architect provides information on "what" to build (by means of the contract documents and responses to requests for information, RFI's), the architect is not responsible for the means and methods of 'how' this work is built. The design or positioning of scaffolding to do facade restoration work is an example of a "means and methods" issue which is not the responsibility of the architect to determine. The architect only needs to create a design which is able to be constructed by some means or another. This is sometimes referred to as the constructability of a project, which should be part of the design document quality review the architect (or another reviewer) performs prior to issuing the documents for contractor bidding. It is the responsibility of a general contractor to understand how they plan to do the work when the bid is placed on the project.
3. Conducting Site Visits
One of the basic services which an architect provides during construction administration is to conduct site visits. This is generally done at different points in time during construction so that the architect can observe the progress of the work over time. The number of site visits required is typically defined in the contract. There are a few reasons why the architect should perform site visits. One is to keep track of work progress in order to observe the work and help keep an owner informed of what has been done. The architect typically prepares a site visit report showing any issues of concern and the general progress of work. Issues of concern may include anything built which is either different than or substandard to what was shown in the contract documents. If work is not progressing according to the construction schedule, that should also be noted, and the overall progress of work observed also allows the architect to properly review and approve applications for payment which the contractor submits, which is another task of the architect during the construction administration phase. In terms of work quality or issues observed at a project site, though the architect must document and communicate these issues to an owner, he/she does not have the right or responsibility to stop any construction work. That directive can only be given by the owner or contractor. This even extends to potential safety issues observed on the site, which the architect can bring to the attention of an owner but is not in the contractual role of ordering work to be performed differently.
4. Reviewing Submittals and Answering Requests for Information (FRI)
Aside from tasks related to site and work progress observations, important roles of the architect during construction are to review submittals and to answer RFI's. The requirements for submittals should be defined within the specifications in the contract documents. The architect is typically responsible for reviewing the submittals which are received from the contractor for their compatibility with contract documents and the design intent. Responses to submittals may include: "approved," "rejected", or "revise and resubmit." The architect has only a certain number of days to respond to such submittals, and this is typically defined in the contract. Submittals may include shop drawings, product data, or product samples or selections. Other types of submittals may be informational only, without the need for the approval by the architect or project engineer, who may also be necessary to include in submittal review for submittals which relate to their aspects of the building design. RFI's are essentially questions which a general contractor finds necessary to ask either to clarify something in the construction documents that was not clear or undefined or concerning an issue with some condition or proposed element of construction. In answering RFI's, the architect assists the general contractor in resolving construction issues and helps keep the project moving forward.
5. Preparing Change Orders and Construction Change Directives
An additional responsibility of the architect is to prepare change orders and construction change directives which the owner would then approve. Change orders are essentially changes to the scope of the contractor's scope of work. Such changes may result in the increase or decrease in the contractor's payment sum and/or an increase or decrease in the project schedule. There are a number of reasons for change orders. These include errors or omissions in the contract documents, changes desired by the owner, or conditions at the project location that the contractor could not have foreseen. Construction change directives (CCD's) are issued by owners and do not require agreement by the contractor. The compensation terms of CCD's are determined by the architect.
6. Tasks Conducted After Project Completion
The architect also performs several tasks at the completion of the construction work. The architect determines the date of substantial completion and issues a certificate of substantial completion. Substantial completion is essentially the moment when the work has been sufficiently completed for the owner to occupy the building. At this time, the architect also conducts a "punch-list" walk-through, in which items that the contractor is required to repair or fix are noted before the construction work can be considered fully complete and any retainage payment made to the contractor. The amount of retainage differs by contract, but the essential point here is that the architect has a key role between the owner and general contractor in determining that the project is complete, and if it is not, then the architect details what items or issues need to be addressed before the contractor is fully paid.
The above description of the architect's role provides a summary of some of the key tasks which the architect performs during the construction phase but is not exhaustive. As mentioned, there may also be additional tasks that the architect performs which are beyond the level of basic services and may involve an additional fee, such as commissioning, on-site project representation, creating as-built record drawings, or conducting post-occupancy surveys. In any case, it is essential for architects to understand their role as defined in their agreement with the project owner.
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