Updated: Apr 28
Sometimes I meet clients who only want to engage us for the design stage, who do not know that our full services include follow-up on site. In other cases clients choose not to have us involved during the construction because they think it will save money. Informed people make better choices, so here we can confront seven reasons people think they don’t need an architect in the construction phase...
1. THE BUILDING CONTRACT DOESN’T NEED TO BE “ADMINISTERED”
If we are engaged for services during the construction stage then we will administer the contract, ensuring that:
the builder’s cost claims are checked and approved,
provisional sums are correctly accounted for,
variations are correctly managed,
work is proceeding according to the drawings, specification and the agreed timetable,
clarification is provided when the contractor requires it,
more information is provided when the contractor requires it and
the design intent is followed.
If there is a dispute between builder and owner then we can assess the differing claims according to the contract. If there is a dispute when we are not engaged for services during the construction stage, the dispute can delay work for weeks or months while resolution is sought – who wins, and at what cost? Weeks of delay can certainly cost as much as the our fee for the stage, to say nothing of the stress.
2. THE BUILDING CONTRACTOR WILL FIGURE IT OUT, IT’S THEIR JOB
To put it simply builders want to build. For a contractor to provide a competitive tender price they need assurance that the design has been thought through in advance and that the construction will be able to run smoothly. Contractors do not want to have to pinpoint problems and to try to solve them on site in a last minute conversation with the owner. If the designer is not around who can they ask about the design intent? It is easy to lose sight of the overall picture when the contractor is demanding an answer ASAP.
3. BUILDING CONTRACTORS DO NOT WANT DESIGNERS ON THE SITE.
It may well be true that some contractors are happiest dealing direct with owners. However, variations can get confusing if the communications are not formally recorded. In our experience, all good contractors are happy to have the us available to answer questions, and as a single point of contact for instructions – a good team gets a great result.
4. BUILDING CONTRACTORS ALWAYS STUDY THE DRAWINGS.
Confirmation is often needed from the project designer to be sure that the detailed aspects are properly understood and included in the construction program. This can be the best guarantee – for both owner and the contractor – that the process will move smoothly, which saves money for both sides. We stay ahead of potential problems and can find solutions early in the process, which avoids costly oversights.
5. BUILDING CONTRACTORS KNOW WHAT WILL MEET THE BUILDING CODE.
The NZBC is a complex document referencing many NZ Standards. Most builders do not have time to keep up to date with details and variations in the NZBC as we must. Furthermore, the code is an absolute minimum requirement and we normally specify above this.
6. SUBCONTRACTORS ALWAYS STUDY THE DRAWINGS.
On many projects subcontractors sometimes don’t see all of the drawings. Subcontractors often consider their work in isolation from the rest of the project without understanding the whole - I often receive calls from confused subbies who have only been sent one or two pages of plans. If the designer is involved the big picture view will be clearly communicated.
7. THE OWNER WILL BE ON SITE TO OVERSEE THE CONSTRUCTION.
What often happens is that the building becomes an amateur’s interpretation of the drawings. If you pay for an architectural design and then remove the designer during construction do you really know that you are getting what you paid for? When the builder wants to make a substitution for a material or fixture specified in the documents, how do you know it is reasonable and won’t impact on larger design or the overall quality? Are you really able to make this assessment? And do you have the time to be there on site when you need to be? Managing a construction project is a big job and takes a lot of time and energy.
Clients who agree to have us continue the architectural services during the construction phase sleep better!