Claims against architects for negligence in professional services are a reality that is generally unavoidable. The AIA’s insurance partner Victor O. Schinnerer reports that architects experience around 15 claims for every 100 projects, and as a result the more projects one undertakes, the more likely a claim will be realized. Since the great majority of claims against design professionals originate during the construction phase, improving one’s effectiveness in Construction Contract Administration, CCA is a recommended endeavor.
Architects may respond, “But I observe the work, check all the shop drawings and answer all the RFI’s, so what else should I do?” For a more effective defense the answer lays not just in providing appropriate construction contract administration (CCA) services, but documenting those services and covering all the bases. Timely responses, appropriate record keeping and managing owner expectations are an integral part of covering one’s assets with good CCA, and when administered routinely, uniformly and efficiently, this risk prone phase of services can serve as a proactive claims defense.
The reality is as architects we concentrate on creating a design and graphically expressing the concept of that design in the contract documents. Maintaining records and crossing t’s in paperwork is laborious and difficult to maintain as a priority. This paper will approach CCA from a baseline perspective with the goal of addressing the elements necessary for effective documentation. Please bear in mind that project conditions and needs vary, and this information should not be taken as a prescriptive on any specific project.
The following topics will be addressed.
The Services Agreement—The primary guide for services is what is agreed upon between you and the owner. Your agreement may not encompass the complete project or all of the traditional services. This is the baseline.
Statutes and Standards—Above all, the architect must meet the standard of care, and the SOC may be affected by how the project is contracted. Also, there may be statutory requirements for the particular state or territory of jurisdiction.
CCA Services Activities—CCA services will be addressed that are traditionally included in the architect’s construction phase services.
Each section will conclude with a Discussion Summary listing of bullets to consider on each project. At the end of the paper all of the listings are included together for a downloadable checklist to consider for each of your projects. It is recommended that you review this checklist before the project begins to help in developing your work plan and make appropriate preparations.