If You’re an Owner, Do Yourself a Favor: Require Record Specs

I have a simple piece of advice for owners who are having buildings built.  Require the contractor to submit Record Specifications.   

Step 1:  Require, as part of the Contract for Construction, that the contractor submit Record Specifications at project closeout.  This should be easy.  You don’t even need to make up language for it.  It’s already in the commonly used AIA A201-2007, the General Conditions of the Contract.  Article 3.11, Documents and Samples at the Site, reads, “The Contractor shall maintain at the site for the Owner one copy of the Drawings, Specifications, Addenda, Change Orders and other Modifications, in good order and marked currently to indicate field changes and selections made during construction, and one copy of approved Shop Drawings, Product Data, Samples and similar required submittals.  These shall be available to the Architect and shall be delivered to the Architect for submittal to the Owner upon completion of the Work as a record of the Work as constructed.”

Step 2:  After Step 1 has been undertaken, request that the architect expand upon this contract requirement in Division 01 of the specifications.  CSI’s MasterFormat has created a place for this requirement to be expanded upon – Section 01 78 39 “Project Record Documents.”  Arcom’s MasterSpec has some great standard language in this section, including requirements that the Contractor “Mark Specifications to indicate the actual product installation where installation varies from that indicated in Specifications, addenda, and contract modifications.”  “Give particular attention to information on concealed products and installations that cannot be readily identified and recorded later.”  “Mark copy with the proprietary name and model number of products, materials, and equipment furnished, including substitutions and product options selected.”  “Record the name of manufacturer, supplier, Installer, and other information necessary to provide a record of selections made.”

Step 3:  If Step 1 has been executed, execute Step 3 (whether or not Step 2 was executed).  At project closeout, make sure that the Record Specifications have been submitted by the contractor, along with the record drawings (the “as-builts”).  Do not pay the contractor the final payment until these have been submitted.

Step 4:  Store the record specifications, in a safe place, along with the record drawings.

A responsible owner might ask me some questions, and I will answer them:

Q1:  Will this cost me more money?

A1:  Yes, this will add a little bit of money to the construction cost.  It will take a little extra time for the contractor to update the record specs every day during construction.  It should take a contractor no more than 5 minutes a day, as long as he keeps up with it every day.

Q2:  Why would I want to spend this extra money?

A2:  Spending this tiny extra bit of money now will save you money in the future.  If you have the Record Specifications to refer to in the future, you will save yourself time that you might otherwise have to spend searching for a product name or model number that you urgently need.  If you have the Record Specifications to copy and give to other people that you hire to do maintenance on, or an addition to, your building, you will save yourself money because you will be saving the people you have hired some significant time.

Q3:  What would these people be spending time on?

A3:  If you have an existing building that you want to do an addition to, you might want to match the storefront, the brick, the stucco color, the precast panel concrete mix, the standing seam metal roof profile and color, the tinted glass color, the asphalt shingles, the stone veneer, the tile floors, the wood doors… If you wish to match any of the elements in the addition to their counterparts in the existing building, the architect will have to track down the exact products that were used in the existing building.

Q4:  But can’t I just have the architect write “match existing” on the drawings?

A4:  Yes, but then the contractor or his subcontractors will have to try to figure out what was used on the existing building.  If they don’t really know, or if they have preferred vendors that they purchase from, and don’t try to look too hard beyond those vendors, they might just “do their best” to match the existing.  That might be ok, or it might not be ok, but what leverage will you have to make them match it if you really want it to match, especially if you had put your project out to competitive bid?

Q5:  Why do I need Record Specs?  Isn’t that information on the Record Drawings (the “as-builts”)?

Q6:  Usually, specific product names, manufacturers, and model numbers are not on the drawings.  That information belongs in the specifications.  For example, the drawings should show the extent of, and the details of, a standing seam roof installation.  But if you want competitive bids, the specifications should list several manufacturer names and the acceptable product by each, and specific information such as the dimensions of the panel.  The drawings might list a generic color, or a specific color might be in the specs, but the type of metal finish (such as Kynar or siliconized polyester) will be in the specs.    

Despite your best efforts, things might not go flawlessly.  The contractor might not do a great job with these record specs.  The architect might not realize that he’s supposed to receive them from the contractor.  You might forget to make sure that you get them before you sign that final check.  But it’s really, really worth enforcing this common contract requirement.

And, of course, even if everything goes well, you might still waste some time.  Last week, a former co-worker of mine received an email from an interior designer who is working on a tenant finish in a space that I worked on 11 years ago.  The designer wondered if we remembered the manufacturer of the demountable aluminum and glass partitions in the space.  I couldn’t remember, and my old firm no longer had the record documents.  The designer actually had the record documents, but “that information wasn’t on the drawings.”  I suggested that perhaps she wasn’t looking at the specifications, which were on pages 2 and 3 of the set of drawings.  I heard back a few minutes later… the manufacturer’s name was right there, in the sheet specs.  You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink…  But it’s well worth a try.

Indemnification: I Do Not Think That Word Means What You Think It Means

I’ve been reading contracts again.  The AIA A201-2007, General Conditions of the Contract for Construction, has an Indemnification article in it.

Article 3.18 “Indemnification” starts like this:  “To the fullest extent permitted by law the Contractor shall indemnify and hold harmless the Owner, Architect, Architect’s consultants, and agents and employees of any of them from and against claims, damages, losses and expenses, including but not limited to attorneys’ fees, arising out of or resulting from performance of the Work, provided that such claim, damage, loss or expense is attributable to bodily injury, sickness, disease or death, or to injury to or destruction of tangible property (other than the Work itself), but only to the extent caused by the negligent acts or omissions of the Contractor, a Subcontractor, anyone directly or indirectly employed by them or anyone for whose acts they may be liable, regardless of whether or not such claim, damage loss or expense is caused in part by a part indemnified hereunder. “

I’m not an attorney, but I’m pretty sure that this clause means that if a passerby is injured on a jobsite, because of something that the Contractor did, if the Owner and Architect get sued for that passerby’s damages, and they have to pay the injured person, the money for the damages attributable to the Contractor will ultimately come from the Contractor, instead of from the Owner and Architect.

I looked at the AIA Document Commentary for this document for some further insight.  It says “The contractor’s obligation to indemnify is triggered by an act or omission of the contractor or one of the contractor’s agents or employees, and covers the indemnitee’s loss only to the extent that it was caused by such act or omission.  This is comparative fault language: for example, if the indemnitee and all other third parties are found to be 20 percent responsible, the contractor’s obligation to indemnify would extend to 80 percent of the loss.”

The indemnitor is the Contractor, and the indemnitiees are the Owner, Architect, etc.  What this says is that if the Owner or Architect is partially responsible for the damages, the Contractor wouldn’t have to pay for the part of the damages that the Owner or Architect is responsible for.

That all sounds fair to me, but, of course, I’m not an attorney, and I do consider myself to be impartial.  It sounds fair to me that each member of the team should be required to pay for damages caused by himself, and only for damages caused by himself.

I have come across several Contracts for Construction and General Conditions of the Contract for Construction which have a similar indemnification clause – identical, actually, except that the Architect and the Architect’s consultants are not included.  I have worked on at least one project in which the Owner used AIA A201 as the General Conditions, but, through the Supplementary Conditions, deleted “Architect, and Architect’s consultants” from the indemnification clause.

I got into a discussion with someone over lunch today about this particular situation.  I asked “How does it help the Owner to exclude the Architect from the Contractor’s indemnity?”  I did not get a good answer.

Here’s how I interpret this phenomenon:  Owners who do this (strike the Architect from the protection of a Contractor’s indemnity) mistakenly believe that excluding the Architect from this indemnification clause will help to protect the Owner’s interests. 

There’s a benefit to an Owner to require that the Contractor pay for damages caused by the Contractor

There’s a benefit to an Owner to require that the Owner not have to pay for damages caused by the Contractor

But leaving the Architect exposed to liability for damages caused by the Contractor provides no benefit to the Owner.

The Owner can always sue the Architect.  This indemnification clause doesn’t prevent that.  Any third party can always sue the Architect.  This indemnification clause doesn’t prevent that.  If an indemnification clause such as this includes the Architect, it only means that if the Architect gets sued by some passerby, for damages caused by the Contractor, the Contractor will have to cover the Architect’s costs for attorney fees and any damages awarded to the person who brought suit against the Architect.

Owners, please don’t do the extra work of striking the Architect from the AIA A201 indemnity clause.  It doesn’t help you, and it could really hurt the Architect.

Loan Relief for Architecture Grads, in Exchange for Pro Bono Work? Ok… But How?

We need architects in the world.  Architects are, and should continue to be, the interpreters of building owners’ needs, the problem solvers of the construction industry, the people who communicate their design solutions to the people who build the solutions.  Architects, and future architects, are critical to our built environment.   

Right now, unemployment and underemployment among architects in the U.S. is high – very high.  Student loan debt from architecture school is astronomical.  Architecture firms’ billings and architects’ salaries are, well, not very high.  And they rarely ARE very high.  Architects are part of the construction industry.  The fortunes of architecture firms rise and fall with the economy.

Yesterday, there was a call by the American Institute of Architects and the American Institute of Architecture Students “for Congress to pass legislation that includes architecture school graduates in the same programs that offer other graduates loan debt assistance if they donate their services to their communities and elsewhere.”  Here’s the press release from the AIA. 

The press release compares recent grads in architecture to recent grads in medicine, law, and teaching. 

Everyone needs doctors, and we have a shortage of doctors in rural areas across the country.  All children need teachers, and we have a shortage of teachers in underperforming schools across the country.  We don’t have a shortage of lawyers, but we do have a shortage of available, affordable legal help for many disadvantaged people who need legal help, and can’t afford to pay the types of rates that many attorneys charge.

I don’t know much about this, but my understanding of the types of programs that offer loan relief for recent grads entering the types of professions mentioned in the press release (medicine, law, teaching) is that, in exchange for some loan relief, the new doctors go work in rural areas, or the young lawyers go work in low-paying public interest positions, and the freshly-minted teachers go work in underperforming schools.  These medical and legal positions are lower-paying than positions in different medical arenas and different kinds of law firms.  These teaching positions are much, much harder than positions at other types of schools.  These positions are hard to recruit for.

We don’t have a shortage of architects.  We don’t have a surplus of people who are in need of the services of a design professional, but who just don’t have access to one.  We don’t have easier-or-harder types of architecture jobs for emerging professionals.  We don’t even have huge differences in pay for intern architects at big firms vs. small firms, or firms in big cities vs. firms in small towns.

We also have the internship factor to consider.  If they wish to become licensed someday, architecture grads must work for a number of years under the direct supervision of a licensed architect.  They must become licensed in order to practice architecture on their own.  If they are to be the design professional in responsible charge of the construction documents for a building, they must be licensed architects.  In this country, nobody, not even an architecture school graduate, can call himself or herself “architect” unless he or she is actually licensed.  If they pass the board exams given at the end of school, doctors are M.D.’s when they finish medical school, and can practice medicine on their own.  Lawyers are licensed, and can practice on their own, once they pass the bar exam, which they usually take a couple months after graduation from law school.  

Many architecture grads and architects already give away, or nearly give away, their services, whenever they participate in a design competition.  Sometimes these design competitions are for non-profit organizations, or for governments, but sometimes, these design competitions are for for-profit businesses. 

Some interns are willing to work for free for big-name starchitects – although this practice is absolutely NOT condoned by most of the profession, including the AIA.  But this is the mindset of some emerging professionals, and a very small number of architects (work for free for the sake of the portfolio – the portfolio will lead to future, paying, work.)

This breaks my heart, but I have to say that I just can’t imagine how a loan relief program like this for architecture grads would work. 

What do YOU think?  Do any of you problem solvers out there have solutions to this problem? 

Architects, Take Back the Reins

Things are looking dismal in our profession.  We have lots of bad buildings in the U.S.  We have record numbers of unemployed architecture professionals, and many of the firms that do have work are getting lower fees for their services.  Architects seem to be respected a little bit less every decade by owners and contractors.

And, every decade, a higher percentage of design and construction projects seem to be led by the contractor team.

Yes, there’s a connection.  More contractor-led projects lead to more badly-designed buildings, lower fees for architects, less stability for architecture firms, and less respect for architects.

If we want better buildings to make up our built environment, if we want to be proud to be architects, and to be able to support our families on our salaries as architects, we need to change some things about how architects practice.  Once we make those changes, we can get back to being the leaders in the design and construction process, and we will have better buildings in the U.S.

Forget about this horrible recession for a minute.  I know it’s a big factor in our situation now, in February 2012, and it’s the reason for all the unemployment.  But just think back to 2007 or so, when the economy was fine.  Even then, we had a bunch of problems that we have now:

  1. We have intern architects clamoring for the right to call themselves “architects” without having to take those pesky Architect Registration Exams.
  2. Architecture school costs students more money every decade, yet, every decade, teaches them less that will help them in their practices as architects.2
  3. We have architecture firms recommending Construction Manager as Constructor project delivery to owners.3  We have contractors leading most Design/Build projects, and architects who are happy to partner with them. 4  Essentially, we have more contractor-led design projects than we did a few decades ago, and architects have played a part in letting this happen, and as a result, we have more bad buildings.
  4. We have some architects who don’t understand owner-contractor agreements, and who don’t know what the project specifications say, administering the contract for construction on design-bid-build projects.  They get led around by the nose by contractors, and are not providing to owners the services the owners expected and contracted for.  The owners get less value than they should, and therefore the owners have less respect for architects.
  5. We have some architects who don’t know much about building codes, building technology, and construction detailing, yet who are producing documents that contractors are supposed to build from.  So we get some building designs that are really poorly executed in construction, and look like junk in a few years.
  6. We have some guys who call themselves construction managers poorly managing the documentation part of bidding and negotiation with their subcontractors, and architects who don’t even recognize how poorly the owner is being served.  The architect who doesn’t know much about procurement and contracting, and doesn’t know much about construction, serves very little purpose to the owner on a construction manager project, whether the CM is a good one, or just someone calling himself one.

The more we have design decisions made by contractors (who are driven by costs), the more badly-designed buildings we will get, and the less the public will think that design matters.  The less good design people see, the less they think they need it in their world, and the less they’re willing to pay for it, and the more buildings will be built for the lowest price possible, and the more contractor-led projects we’ll have, and the more bad buildings we’ll have, and the fewer practicing architects we’ll have.  This is bad for our built environment and bad for our profession.

The more students, emerging professionals, and licensed architects focus on design (the way the building is intended to look) to the exclusion of the technical stuff (the instructions to the contractor for achieving the design intent – the specifications and the construction details), the more we will back ourselves into the corner of having to rely on contractors to design the details.  At that point, owners may be pretty easily persuaded by contractors that it’s just a short jump from designing all the details to designing the whole building.

The more architects focus on design, and the less they work on improving their knowledge of construction documentation, construction details, building technology, construction specifications, agreements, and construction contract administration, the more work (including design work, starting with the detailing) will have to be handed over to contractors, which will lead to more bad buildings in our world, lower fees and less respect for architects, and less value to building owners.  It’s counterintuitive, but the more architecture schools and architecture firms focus on design (and ignore the technical stuff), the more bad design we’ll see in the world.  The focus on design to the exclusion of the technical stuff is counterproductive; we’re “designing” ourselves right out of our traditional scope of work.    

Architects need to take back the reins, and keep a firm grip on them.  Here’s how:    

  • Architects need to understand that part of their job is to interpret the code and incorporate the code requirements into the project documents.
  • Architects need to understand what they are drawing, and need to have a good feeling for how the building and their details will actually be constructed.
  • Architects need to understand that the specifications are contract documents, too, and are complementary to the drawings.
  • Architects need to understand that they are responsible, (according to the code, and according to their owner-architect agreements) for coordinating the work of all the design disciplines.
  • Architects need to get better at construction contract administration – they need to understand construction contracts and Division 01 of the specifications as well as the technical sections.

In order to get the chance to produce good designs, architects have to get back to understanding, and properly drawing, the construction details, the way architects used to (before they started handing this architectural work over to contractors).  In order to get to work on building designs that are executed well in construction, architects must get back to the basics of understanding building technology, thorough product research, specifications writing, good construction contract administration practices, and good agreements that include fair compensation and appropriate allocation of risk.

Architects need to think about their work in a different way. 

Of course, there are good architects whose firms are doing everything they should be.  And there are good construction management firms who are true assets to projects.  With good architects and good contractors, good working relationships between architects and contractors are possible, and are happening right now.  And the owners are often getting a good value.  But architects don’t have to have contracts with contractors, or give away work to them, or go along with them to the detriment of the owner, in order to get along with contractors.  Good contract documents (clear, concise, correct and complete drawings and specifications) and an understanding of roles and responsibilities during construction are the appropriate foundation for good working relationships between architects and contractors.

The Construction Specification Institute can help architects improve their practices. CSI’s certification programs can help architects develop a better understanding of the construction process, better construction contract administration skills, better construction documentation abilities, and better means of communication with the contractor on projects.

If we don’t change the way many firms are practicing architecture right now, I see a future with fewer practicing architects, even lower fees, more poorly-designed buildings, more poorly-constructed buildings, and less respect for architects.  If architects don’t get more technical, but keep focusing on design instead, we’ll actually end up with less good design in the world. 

Notes:

____________________________________________________________________________

  1. Check out “Architect” magazine’s article “The 50-Year-Old Intern.”  http://www.architectmagazine.com/architects/the-50-year-old-intern.aspx  Remember, “Architect” is “The Magazine of the American Institute of Architects.”  The article actually asks, “Does Licensure Matter?”  Also check out this article by John Cary published in the online magazine “Good”: http://www.good.is/post/why-architecture-s-identity-problem-should-matter-to-the-rest-of-us.  Even though they work in architecture firms, many emerging professionals don’t know what it means to be an architect.  This dilutes the respect that the public has for architects.  The International Building Code requires documents to be submitted for permit by a “registered design professional in responsible charge”, who is “a registered design professional engaged by the owner to review and coordinate certain aspects of the project, as determined by the building official, for compatibility with the design of the building or structure, including submittal documents prepared by others.”  I can’t imagine this requirement changing anytime soon.  This person can be an engineer or an architect.  It’s best, for our built environment, to have this person be an architect.  It’s best if this architect is directly hired by the owner, instead of by a contractor who is part of an alternative project delivery team.  On most buildings, design professionals can’t submit for permit if they aren’t licensed.  You can’t lead if you’re not licensed.  Students and interns need to understand this, and the public needs to understand this.
  2. One thing I learned really, really well from my 2 summer internships and my 5 years in college (the whole first half of the 1990’s) was that I didn’t know much, and that I had a lot that I needed to learn after graduation, during my internship.  This is a concept that many of today’s emerging professionals seem to be unable to grasp.  I suspect that they are not being taught this in school, and I think this has something to do with the lack of experienced professionals who are teaching in architecture schools.  The National Architectural Accrediting Board “2010 Report on Accreditation in Architecture Education” tells us, “Of the total number of assistant, associate, and full professors, 934 (29.4%) are registered to practice in a U.S. jurisdiction.”  Less than a third of faculty in accredited architecture schools are licensed!  Only 25.9%, about a quarter, of full professors are actually licensed.  This report can be found on this page.
  3. When you don’t know much about construction or the technical parts of architecture, doing construction management project delivery method takes some of the pressure to figure out how to meet the owner’s budget off the architect.  Having the Contractor’s input during preconstruction seems to take some of the risk out of the project for the architect.  I know how it feels.  When I was a project manager in an architecture firm, I knew that there was a lot I didn’t know.  I was so relieved to find out that a large project that I was managing was going to be a Construction Manager as Constructor project.  That project wrapped up in 2000.  (I haven’t been happy with a CM as Constructor project since 1999.   You do the math.)  The fact is that if you don’t really know what you’re doing, and the CM gives you no preconstruction input, but you were counting on it, you’re in bad shape.  And the truth is that your actual liability as an architect doesn’t change if the contractor is a CM as Constructor.  Take back the scope of architecture work that should be yours – do design-bid-build project delivery and hire a good estimator as your consultant to help advise you on designing to the owner’s budget.
  4. When the contractor is the entity who has the agreement with the owner, well, the contractor is your client.  Wouldn’t you rather work for the owner, whom you may be able to convince to implement good design, rather than work for the contractor, who is almost always going to make design decisions driven by the dollars?  When architects don’t have a direct relationship with owners, and serve only as the contractor’s consultant in order to produce a permit set for the contractor, respect and fees for architects get chipped away at, and get progressively lower.

Company Culture and Architects’ Contractual Obligations

Architecture firm principals, managing partners, anyone who signs Contracts or Agreements:  Always give a copy of your Owner-Architect Agreement to your project architects, project managers and job captains at the beginning of the Schematic Design Phase.  If your construction contract administration team is made up of different people, give that team copies of your Owner-Architect Agreement at the beginning of the Construction Phase, at the very latest.  Give your team copies of your Architect-Consultant Agreements, too.  (If your firm keeps fee info confidential from employees, obscure those numbers.  But give them the documents!) 

When you give them the documents, tell them to read them!  Tell the construction contract administration team to read the Owner-Contractor Agreement, and the General Conditions of the Contract for Construction, as well as the Owner-Architect Agreement and Architect-Consultant Agreements. 

All of these documents spell out some of the Architect’s obligations.  Many emerging professionals are not familiar with all of the Architect’s typical obligations.  Those who haven’t yet begun the process of studying for their architectural registration exams may have no idea what’s contained in an Owner-Architect Agreement or in the General Conditions of the Contract.  But when these Agreements get executed, the Architect becomes legally responsible for performing the activities required by these Agreements.  If you have unlicensed people managing projects, you have to be especially explicit about the requirement that project managers are familiar with these documents, because they may have no way of knowing, except through your guidance.  (Remember, they’re interns, working under your direct supervision, learning how to be the architects of the future.)

If you don’t demonstrate to your employees the importance of these documents, some of them may never understand that they are contractually obligated to perform the exercises required by these documents! 

Attitudes about the importance of following through on contractual obligations come from the top.  The attitudes of the principals shape the company culture of the firm.  Do you want your firm to be known for following through on obligations?  Or do you want your firm to be known for having employees who aren’t sure what the firm’s obligations actually are?

A Note on “C.A.” – Administration of the Contract

We architects throw around the acronym C.A. pretty casually.  We all know it means the work that we do during construction of the building we designed.  But some of us think it means “Construction Administration.”  I used to think that, until I started paying better attention to contracts.  

AIA A201-2007 General Conditions of the Contract for Construction, refers to these services as “Administration of the Contract.”  The services architects provide during construction constitute “Construction Contract Administration.”  So, really, C.A. stands for “Contract Administration,” NOT “Construction Administration.”  As Ron Geren pointed out in an excellent blog post a few months ago,  http://specsandcodes.typepad.com/specsandcodes/2011/06/construction-administrationor-is-it.html the term “Construction Administration” really could be interpreted as meaning something more like “Construction Management” than “Administration of the Contract.”

Melissa Brumback’s post this morning prompted me to respond.  Except for the use of the term “Construction Administration,” her article is good, and has good advice for architects.  Check it out: http://constructionlawnc.com/2011/11/03/construction-administration/

 

“Architect” Magazine Actually Asks “Does Licensure Matter?”

I got my “Architect” magazine in the mail today (you know, “The Magazine of the American Institute of Architects”).  There’s an article called “The Problem with Licensure” or “The 50-Year-Old-Intern” that is all about “… a decline in registered professionals…  And should we care?”

Outrageous. 

Here’s a link to the article: http://www.architectmagazine.com/architects/the-50-year-old-intern.aspx  It’s about the so-called “philosophical debate” about whether licensure matters.  It matters.  

Without licensure and regulation by the states, the public has nothing reassuring them that people practicing architecture are qualified to do so.  The Colorado Revised Statutes state that the regulatory authority of the Colorado state board of licensure for architects “is necessary to safeguard the life, health, property, and public welfare of the people of this state and to protect them against unauthorized, unqualified, and improper practice of architecture.” 

Without architects’ professional liability insurance, their clients don’t have much recourse in the case of errors and omissions by an architect.  When I obtained my architect’s professional liability insurance in the state of Colorado, the first question my agent asked me was whether I was a registered architect in Colorado.  I told him that I am, and he said, good, because you can’t get insurance without being licensed

This is telling.  The stuff that floats to the top when the lawyers and the insurance companies get involved tells us that licensure matters to the public, licensure matters to the governments, licensure matters to the courts, licensure matters to the insurers, and licensure matters to sophisticated clients.  And it should matter. 

Ron Geren’s recent blog post, “Towards a More Irrelevant Architect” http://specsandcodes.typepad.com/specsandcodes/2011/10/towards-a-more-irrelevant-architect.html touches on this issue when he says:

“In an effort to protect its members, and the profession in general, from undue risk, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) inadvertently reduced the influence of the architect by minimizing the liability to which the architect may be subject.  This shirked risk was quickly snatched up by other members of the construction industry—namely by contractors and members of the growing construction management profession.” – Ron Geren

Risk is often carried by the people who are willing to be grownups, and risk is often shirked by those who are less willing to step up and take responsibility for their own actions (like, well, children).  Remember that whole risk-reward thing?  When architects are willing to take more responsibility for their own actions, they’ll have more freedom, and will earn more respect. 

Architects, we need to protect ourselves.  But we don’t do it by ducking responsibility, and we don’t do it by having the magazine that is the so-called voice of our primary professional organization practically condoning design professionals’ remaining unlicensed. 

First, architects need to have very good agreements.  Don’t sign Owner-Architect agreements that have the potential to screw you over.  

Second, architects need to have very good construction documents.  Don’t issue bad documents.  Have good drawings, have good specs, have coordinated documents.  If you have interns doing most of your drawing production, review carefully before those documents go out with YOUR stamp on them.  

Third, architects need to have very good insurance.  (Oh, yeah, and you need to be LICENSED to get that.) 

Then work hard.  Do your best.  And encourage your employees to follow in your footsteps and get licensed.  Maybe you can’t give them raises for getting licensed, but at least give them verbal encouragement to take their exams, and praise them when they pass all of their exams.  We are in this thing together, and the interns are the future of our profession.  And interns need to be on a path to licensure!!