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Actions taken and decisions made by the architect on a project will be judged by the existence and adequacy of documentation created and maintained. When a claim is made, a presumption of guilt usually accompanies the allegations, and unless and until a documented defense can be made, the architect can be held responsible. Documents created and managed during the project, however mundane and unimportant they may appear, are the corroborating crucible that often serves as the only tangible evidence available for a claim defense. Accordingly, the more thoroughly an architect documents, the greater the chance of substantiating activities that have been called into question.

While the digital aspects associated with IPD and the “paperless” project may help expedite and make documentation more flexible and portable, the documentation itself will always be a necessary defense element until lawsuits and claims are no longer made. Therefore, records of key discussions, instructions, approvals and required documents should be maintained although IPD and a “paperless” project delivery may make it more inconvenient to keep records. Claims against design professionals cannot usually be defended without adequate documentation. Don’t let new delivery processes rob you of necessary documents.

Meanwhile, the practitioner is best served to approach project documentation with the same effort and intensity as he or she does documents preparation. A structured process with established project procedures can be applied by the architect to all projects with no appreciable increase in required time and effort when planned for and executed consistently.

Get your documentation in order and be prepared to prove yourself innocent when a claim of guilt is made. And as you organize your approach to documenting your project and decide on your filing protocol, don’t forget to be careful out there.

For More Information:

The Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice
(Wiley, 2013) by The American Institute of Architects,

  • Article 10.1 – Managing Architectural Projects
  • Article 10.9 – Construction Phase Services
  • Article 10.10 – Project Completion and Post-Construction
  • Article 12.4 – Quality Management in Construction Procurement, Construction Contract
  • Administration, and Post-Construction
  • Article 16.1 – Risk Management Strategies

AIA Emerging Professional’s Companion (

  • Article 3B – Construction Administration
  • Article 3C – Construction Phase: Observation

Managing Project Risk: Best Practices for Architects and Related Professionals
(Wiley 2008) by James B. Atkins and Grant A. Simpson

  • To Document or Not to Document: Basic Documentation Requirements
  • Zen and the Art of Construction Administration – Parts 1 and 2

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