Simon Perkowitz & David Lacey – Architects, Owners and Construction Documents Part 2

September 10, 2015

IRVINE, CA—Trouble can arise in the development process if the creation of construction documents is not done properly or with adequate care. In part 2 of a two-part Q&A, spoke exclusively with KTGY Architecture + Planning’s principal Simon Perkowitz and associate principal David Lacey in the firm’s retail studio about how architects and owners can work together smoothly to create construction documents that will work for everyone. In part 1, we discussed what owners, developers, architects and contractors need to know before they move forward with their next project. What role does the owner play in the construction document phase process?

Perkowitz:The owner has a very important role in the construction document phase. Among the owner’s responsibilities is the timely decision making and transferring of information to the design team and required owner approvals in proper sequence for the continuity of the process to coincide with the architect and the rest of the design team for the timely completion of the documents.

Lacey:Owners should also review the documents carefully at various times during the process so they have a good understanding of the contents of the documents. It is important to verify that the owner’s program requirements are being satisfied and to eliminate surprises during construction. What can the architect and the design team do to aid in the quality assurance and quality control of the construction documents process to minimize problems and change orders during the construction phase?

Perkowitz:  It is of great importance in the construction-document phase that the architect and design team have a specific QA/QC procedure of reviews at various stages of the process. Typically, 30%/60%/95% QA/QC review intervals for projects are commonplace among design firms, with owner and contractor participation in some form a plus. Outside consultants specializing in QA/QC reviews may also be an option. In addition, because of compressed schedules, it is imperative that architects adopt an attitude of ongoing quality control throughout the document-development process. Waiting until the documents are nearing completion does not allow adequate time to identify and address coordination items.

Lacey:It’s also important to involve the owner and contractor in the QA/QC process; and it’s not only just a “more eyes the better” concept. QA/QC comments can vary greatly depending on the perspective of the reviewer. As mentioned earlier, owners and contractors have distinctly different viewpoints and may lend a different blend of credible comments to the QA/QC process. This can be accomplished by an open, across-the-table review of documents by owner, architect and contractor. How can the architect manage additional service requests by the owner without appearing to “nickel and dime”?

Perkowitz: A clearly defined work scope in the agreement between owner and architect is a must so there are no ambiguities that can lead to conflicts between owner and architect for additional service requests. Minor revisions requested by the owner can be included in the scope of services at the discretion of the architect. In the event there are significant changes at the owner’s request, the architect should inform the owner that this is an additional scope of work. By discussing this up front, a potential conflict can be avoided.

Lacey:  The more that’s understood by all parties up front, the fewer surprises by all parties on the back end. What can be done to minimize change-order requests by the contractor when pointing to the construction documents as the basis for the change orders?

Perkowitz: The key to reducing the conflicts and/or omissions that lead to contractor change orders is for owners to allow the construction documents to go through their complete cycle of the professional process before going to bid and construction. That includes, fair and reasonable schedules for the document process to take place and governmental agency approvals to be completed prior to going to bid and construction.

Lacey:The perceived cost benefit of rushing to construction is often negated by the lack of completeness and coordinated documents, typically leading to strained relations between all parties involved. What can be done to address contractor’s submittals that attempt to substitute cheaper building materials and/or systems which may jeopardize the project quality or increase liabilities for the architect or owner?

Perkowitz: Contractors must adhere to the requirements of the construction document plans and specifications and the owner/contractor contract and general conditions. If substitution of any material or system is permitted by those documents, the design team will review them for equivalency and, if approved, can be used by the contractor in place of that which was specified. If not, the substitution will not be permitted. If the substitution comes with a cost saving, it should be credited to the owner. If there is no cost savings, the contractor should provide an explanation for the substitution or it will not be approved.

Lacey: Substitution requests should come early in the process in order to allow all parties the opportunity to adequately review the proposed substitution and determine if it is truly a benefit to the project. Requests made during the course of the construction typically do not allow for thorough review and reconciliation with the proposed design and typically come with an implied pressure to approve the substitution or delay the project’s completion schedule.