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Architect Documentation

The following documentation should be created and maintained by the architect during the construction phase. Some documentation may go beyond typical CCA activities, such as owner suspended services. The purpose of documenting is to create a record of all activities whether generated or controlled by the architect so that actual actions, decisions and the end results can be supported with a tangible record.

Owner-Architect Agreement—Retain an executed copy of the Owner-Architect Agreement in the files with all exhibits. Similar documents, such as letter agreements sent initially on the project should also be filed. If general and supplementary conditions were originally agreed upon and were subsequently changed through re-negotiation, retain both documents for reference in the event of a dispute.

Owner Suspended Services—If the owner requests that certain contracted services not be provided, document the suspended services in writing to the owner and contractor, and retain in the project file. If the owner should later decide that it wants the services resumed, document the date of the resumption of the services in writing.

Site Observation Reports & Site Images—Retain copies of all Site Observation Reports issued. They should be numbered and dated, and one should be issued with each visit to the site. Site Observation Reports are evidence that the architect has met its contracted responsibilities.

Meeting Notes & Reports—Meeting notes should be taken in all meetings attended whether or not the attendee issues a meeting report. All meeting notes, meeting reports, rebuttal, and clarification emails should be retained in the project file.

Document Logs—Document logs should contain complete information on the timing and actions of the owner, architect and contractor. However, contractors often control web-based logging systems, and they only track the owner’s and architect’s delinquent actions. If the log cannot be maintained in a non-biased format, the architect should maintain the logs independently for claims defense.

Logs are typically maintained for submittals, RFIs, change orders, CCDs and ASIs. All document logs and copies of logs should be retained in the project files.

Architect RFIs—Any architect generated RFIs should be logged and tracked, and copies of the RFI and any related documents should be retained. Architect, owner and contractor RFIs should be differentiated by control numbers.

Change Documents—All change documents, including change orders, construction change directives, architect’s supplemental instructions, contractor change pricing, owner approvals, change order review meeting minutes, emails and any other change related correspondence should be retained in the files.

Applications and Certificates for Payment—All fully executed Applications and Certificates for Payment documents should be retained in the files along with related transmittal letters. In the event separate certificates for payment were issued due to separate contractors or consultants, it is import to have documentation to show that separate certifications were made.

Certificate(s) of Substantial Completion—All Certificates of Substantial Completion with attached or referenced punch lists should be retained in the project files. The date of substantial completion is usually the start of the legal statutes of limitation and repose that affect the architect since it is the date the owner can begin using the project for the purpose intended. If certificates are not required on a project, the architect should document the date in writing and retain in the project files.

Owner Accepted Nonconforming Work—A Certificate of Substantial Completion contains a space wherein the, “PROJECT OR PORTION OF THE PROJECT DESIGNATED FOR PARTIAL OCCUPANCY OR USE…”[1] is described. The document is typically interpreted to mean that the described project or portion of the project is substantially in conformance with the contract documents or will be in conformance when the work is completed.

The General Conditions state, “If the Owner prefers to accept Work that is not in accordance with the requirements of the Contract Documents, the Owner may do so instead of requiring its removal and correction…,”[2] and owner accepted nonconforming work exists on most projects. If an architect issues a Certificate of Substantial Completion without listing or referencing owner accepted nonconforming work, the certificate will be interpreted as representing that the project contained no nonconforming work. In the event work conformance is called into question, the architect could be accused of certifying work to be conforming when it is not.

Accordingly, each Certificate of Substantial Completion issued by an architect should include a listing of owner accepted nonconforming work. The list can be compiled as the project progresses, and any changes made to the work scope that are not reflected in the contract documents would be considered owner accepted nonconforming work.

Other Project Documents—The architect’s project files should include all documents relevant to the project, including the construction drawings. Should a claim be made, it can be helpful to have multiple versions of the drawings, including the bid drawings, the “contract set” on which the construction contract is based, and the drawings as they existed when the project was completed. The files should also include a project cost accounting if it is not maintained in another filing system. The objective is to be able to retrieve all needed project documents in the event of a claim.

Should issues arise during construction that are disputed or controversial, it can be helpful to assemble copies of relevant documents in an, “Issues File,” Such issues often become the basis of claims, and the Issues File can be helpful for early resolution.

Architect Documentation Discussion Summary:

  • Keep contracts and conditions available for quick reference
  • Document all services suspended by owner
  • Issue Site Observation Report with every site visit
  • Take meeting notes in all meetings
  • Issue meeting reports on all conducted meetings
  • Rebut meeting minutes prepared by others
  • Maintain list of all Owner-Accepted Nonconforming Work
  • Issue certificates of substantial completion on all portions of the project
Documentation can be time consuming and expensive, and the architect often ponders the question as to how much documentation to create and maintain. Most beneficial documentation can be created during the course of usual and customary CCA services. Bear in mind that claims damages are seldom if ever incurred due to too much documentation.

[1] AIA Document G704-2000, Certificate of Substantial Completion
[2] AIA Document A201, General Conditions of the Contract for Construction, § 12.3

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