Simon Perkowitz & David Lacey – The Do’s and Don’ts of Construction Documents: Part 1

September 9, 2015

IRVINE, CA—Good communication and well-planned documentation are the cornerstones of a successful development project. In part 1 of a two-part Q&A, spoke exclusively with KTGY Architecture + Planning principal Simon Perkowitz and associate principal Dave Lacey in the firm’s retail studio about what owners, developers, architects and contractors need to know before they move forward with their next project. Coming up, part 2 will discuss how architects and owners can work together smoothly to create construction documents that will work for everyone. What are clients looking for when contracting with an architect for the production of contract documents for their projects?

Perkowitz: When it comes to the preparation of construction documents, there are three characteristics of their preparation that most developer clients are seeking when requesting the work from their architect and engineers. These are: aggressive completion schedule; high level of quality of the documents; and keeping the cost of the fees and the construction under control.

Lacey: The challenge for the design professional is to get as close as possible to achieving an optimum outcome in all of these, even if, as the saying goes, you cannot achieve maximum resolution in all of these characteristics in any given situation. “Something has got to give” to make room for the other in the process. Typically, you can have two out of three. Clients need to decide which two are most important for each project they undertake. What challenges does the architect face in their attempt to meet these goals?

Perkowitz: The challenges are further complicated by the design professional’s obligations to address “standard of care” of professional practice within the documents and protect the architect from professional liabilities, while at the same time trying to meet the architect’s internal budgets so the architect can achieve a profit from the contracted fees for the work.  
Lacey: What can be done when these obligations come into conflict with the client’s desire to get the least expensive solution to any construction issue (e.g., the client wants a cheaper solution to waterproofing of the building)?Communications early in the process to define expectations and discuss past experiences when it comes to building materials, systems and costs are a must. If necessary, these conversations should be driven by the architect and include the contractor, if possible. This gives all parties adequate time to vet out options and solutions. Do the owners, architects and contractors have differing goals with the preparation of construction documents?

Perkowitz: Contractors want it clearly spelled out; yet, architects don’t want to appear to be over-documenting in order to protect themselves leading to added cost. Owners want it right, but want to keep the cost down.  

Lacey: Often, during the document process, there would appear to be no way to satisfy everyone’s goals. Yet, ultimately, they all want the same outcome; a great project built per the construction documents on time and on budget.  Again, communication and agreement of goals early in the process are the key. What can be done to address all these individual concerns?

Perkowitz: Upfront discussion at the start of the work between the owner, architect and contractor about the goals of each and how to best achieve success for all should be a part of the process. The architect, at the start of the documents phase and again when the contractor enters the process, conducts regular dialogue with the owner and contractor about how things will be spelled out in the documents.

Lacey: Typically, this leads to the owner and contractor giving input on how that information will be received and used by the contractor, and a reasonable compromise in how best to express the information in the documents, without undue effort by the architect, can be achieved by all parties. A fair and reasonable schedule that allows for the proper preparation and coordination of the documents and allows time for the process for approvals by the owner and governmental agencies is a must. If that doesn’t happen, the chances of achieving everyone’s goals are minimized.