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The Architect Before Construction

Updated: Mar 10, 2020

Picture of architectural drawings

This is the fourth in a series of articles that will examine issues that can arise in the relationship between the architect in a construction project and the property owner, the contractor, subcontractors and others who may be involved. 

Whenever an architect undertakes a new project, the terms of the agreement between the parties should be carefully thought out and negotiated. The terms of the agreement should be clearly understood by all the parties to it. It is very important that the architect have a clear understanding of all the “boilerplate”, aka standard language, in the contract. Since most contracts of this type will be AIA standard form agreements, there will be a great deal of such language. The careful architect will closely examine each such form contract which may be used. There may be some terms that do not fit the project or the desires of the architect. The form contract is not cut in stone. All terms contained in it can be modified consistent with professional standards. This review should be done with all such contracts before the project arises. The architect should have the appropriate changes in place before negotiations begin.

Having said all of that, the contents of this article will be limited to the standard terms often found in AIA agreements.

The architect’s function, services and duties will often include the following:

  • Choosing to hire consultants outside the Architect’s firm to perform usual and customary structural, mechanical, and electrical engineering and enter into agreements with those parties.

  • Managing his or her own services, consulting with the owner, researching design criteria, attending meetings, communicating with the project team, reporting progress of the work to the owner, and submitting a schedule of services showing anticipated dates for the start of construction and substantial completion.

  • Coordinating his or her services with the services provided by the owner and owner’s consultants. The architect is permitted to rely on the accuracy of these services.

  • The architect is not responsible for changes made by the owner without the architect’s consent.

  • During schematic design phase, the architect prepares a preliminary evaluation of the owner’s program, schedule, budget for the cost of the work, project site, and the proposed procurement or delivery method and other initial information, each in terms of the other. The architect also makes recommendations on environmentally responsible design options available and applicable to the project and discuss with the owner the feasibility of incorporating these options. He or she also considers materials, building systems, and equipment consistent with owner’s budget and schedule.

  • The design development phase follows the schematic design phase, and the architect submits drawings and specifications showing the development of the design to the owner and updates the price estimates.

  • The construction documents phase follows the design development approved by the owner, and documentation of the project continues in a more detailed manner. An updated estimated cost of the work is included. These documents will be sent to the owner, who will forward them to various contractors during the bidding or negotiation phase.

  • The architect shall assist the owner during the bidding or negotiation phase and offer possible substitutions of materials.

There are many moving parts within each of the foregoing duties. They should all be considered carefully, taking into consideration, among other things, everything that could conceivably go wrong and the means to prevent each of them.

Appreciation to Perkins & Will Research Journal, 2012, Vol 04.01, Architectural Services During Construction, Duties and Liabilities, Helena O’Connor.


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