In addition to hiring an architect for the production of construction files (drawings and specifications) for a home improvement project or a new house, the architect can be a real resource in protecting the owner from the really hard procedure which is a construction project. Besides being well-versed in the construction procedure, a knowledgeable architect knows totally the pitfalls of construction and has a working understanding of construction law and, in my case, Washington DC.
An architect can make real suggestions for protecting the homeowner for a dishonest or unskilled contractor
Protecting the house owner from an unskilled or unscrupulous contractor.
When an architect is employed to provide services throughout construction, he/she will generally:
- Review shop drawings for all materials on the project
- Answer Ask for Information (RFI’s)
- Review Material and Labor Cost Set Up and Contractor Requisitions
- Make regular sees to the job to evaluate the development of the work
Shop drawings supplied by the contractor or subcontractor, through the general contractor, show the manufacturer’s information on the actual material and in some cases his recommendations on how the product ought to be set up. When a contractor asks authorization to substitute one item for another, the designer would make sure that the products are equivalent products.
The architect who is worked with for services during the construction phase will review the pay requests and ensure that what the client is getting is what remains in the permitted drawings. When he/she goes to the site, the architect can make certain that what was sent in the shop drawings is actually what is being installed in the field.
In addition, the architect can make sure that the contractor is not “front-loading” the schedule of material and labor costs. Front-loading implies that the contractor is trying to secretly gather more money up front by stating that items which are to be installed first in fact cost more than they do. In other words, he will put in more money for the steel for the footings and the concrete than what they in fact cost so that he can put more money in his pocket at the beginning of the job.
By supplying these four services throughout the construction phase, the architect will help the house owner prevent a dispute with the general contractor or his subs. It is easier to PREVENT a conflict with contractor than to attempt to fix a conflict once it begins.
Here are a few ideas to prevent when dealing with a general contractor:
- Hiring a contractor without checking him out thoroughly. Recommendations are necessary. Visiting several projects he has actually built is a great idea
- Making the contractor upset at the very start of the project. Expenses have to be paid on time. Cooperation with the contractor will develop the “tone” for the project and the project will run smoother. When I am worked with to do jobsite conferences, I like to start the meeting with what went right that week on the job. This is an incredible tool to get the contractor’s cooperation. All individuals like to be recognized for what they do right and not what they do wrong.
- Contractors with limited construction knowledge and experience. The contractor may not understand the strategies and this could cause errors in the project.
- Contractor demands and collects significant quantities of money from the client prior to doing any work. I advise my clients never ever to provide more than 10% of any contract for mobilization (to start the project).
- Altering any details, but especially structural information, without the previous approval of the architect/engineer. This might result in a problem that is not noticeable in the present however might trigger a problem in the future.
- Paying the contractor excessive money with each pay demand, leaving the customer susceptible to the contractor not finishing the job. The amount of work that is left could end up being more than the cash that the contractor would gather, if he ended up the task.
- Signing a contract with the contractor which the contractor drafted, that is not to any recognized requirement, such as the ones released by the American Institute of Architects.
- Paying the contractor month after month without verifying that the needed county/city evaluations are getting done.
- The customer pays all the money required by the contractor at each pay requisition, however fails to obtain Partial Releases of Liens from his subs, leaving the customer vulnerable to having to pay each sub again, if the contractor runs off with the cash.
- Employing a contractor for a task that the contractor considers a “little” task for him or where the company is a big company with considerable resources to spend years in court fighting a claim. Search for a company that is neither too big nor too little to finish the project and who will wish to end up the project correctly.
- Not getting a final city/county evaluation and not getting a last certificate of occupancy/completion.
- These are a couple of tips that need to be carried out on any construction project, but working with an architect to offer services throughout construction could actually conserve the homeowner cash in the long run. An experienced architect can bring years of knowledge on the construction procedure and prevent a house owner from making pricey mistakes due to his lack of experience.