Design needs to stop before the Construction Documents phase begins. New scope1 shouldn’t be added by Owners after Schematic Design. Changes to building systems2 shouldn’t be made by Architects after Design Development. The only “designing” that should happen during the Construction Documents phase is the refinement of things already decided upon.
But don’t stop designing until all those decisions have been made! Until all major building systems have been selected, the Design Development phase shouldn’t be over.
As an outside specifications consultant, at the end of Design Development, I ought to be able to take my 100% Design Development Outline Spec, review it side-by-side with the Architect’s 100% Design Development Drawings, discuss any conflicts and gaps and unknowns with the Architect, produce a final Table of Contents for the Project Manual, and run with the Construction Documents specifications, asking a few questions along the way. I shouldn’t have to be adding or deleting spec sections in the middle of CD’s, or worse, in an Addendum.
These thoughts are from my point of view, the specification consultant’s point of view, but I am not just thinking of myself. If everyone on the Project Team (Owner, Contractor if there’s a Contractor on board before bidding, Architect, Consultants) subscribes to this idea, and helps to enforce it in his own company, and holds the other members of the team to it, we’ll have much better Construction Documents, much smoother construction phases, and fewer unknown costs for everyone involved.
Implementing this requires some careful communication among the Project Team. Architects need to take the lead on this, and need to explicitly explain to Owners their expectations about timelines for Owners’ decision-making. Architects need to explain up-front that they will require extensions of schedules and additional architectural fees if Owners make changes to scope or changes to systems after the appropriate time for scope changes or systems modifications. (If these untimely changes happen, Architects then need to insist that the schedule extension and fee addition requirements be followed-through on.) Architects need to realize that since it makes sense to charge the Owner more money for this sort of untimely decision-making, it makes sense to ban this sort of ill-timed design from their own practices. (This is often a company culture thing – attitudes about this come from the top. So, principals, if you want your projects to be profitable, you need to communicate your expectations that your project managers will not make design changes during the Construction Documents phase. You also need to keep yourself from making design changes during the Construction Documents phase!)
This post is adapted from the comment I posted on David Stutzman’s “Architectural Design Phases” post on the Conspectus blog, http://www.conspectusinc.com/blog/2011/12/architectural-design-phases.html . David’s post, and some comments on the post, also provided me with some additional ideas.
- “Scope” is “scope of work,” which defines the extent of the project.
- “Building systems” are the assemblies that make up the building. Window systems include storefront, curtainwall, etc. Exterior wall systems include brick veneer with steel stud backup, metal panel rainscreen, single wythe CMU, etc. Roof systems include single-ply membrane roofing, asphalt shingles, metal roofing panels, etc.