Specifying Masonry

Last Wednesday, I was part of a panel discussion at the Rocky Mountain Masonry Institute (RMMI).  We discussed “Specifying Masonry.” 

I was there to be the “put the info in the right place” person on the panel, and I learned a lot from the other panel members:  Diane Travis of the Rocky Mountain Masonry Institute, David Eatherton of Eatherton Masonry, Jay Retzko of Boral Best Block, and Brad Olson of Acme Brick.

Here’s the link to download a copy of my “Specifying Masonry” reminders hand out: http://www.lizosullivanarch.com/uploads/LizOSullivanSpecifyingMasonry.pdf

One of the things that I stressed in this panel discussion is that when architects need information on the masonry products that they’re designing with, they should contact the technical reps for those products.  The reps know more about their products than anyone else could be expected to know.

And for technical assistance beyond the masonry products themselves, architects can contact RMMI’s technical director Diane Travis at dianet@rmmi.org.

Architects can get AIA continuing education credits for attending the Rocky Mountain Masonry Institute Take-Out Talks, which are at 11:30 a.m. on the first and second Wednesday of each month, at RMMI, 686 Mariposa Street, in Denver.   Rocky Mountain Masonry Institute’s website is www.rmmi.org.

 

 

 

Hey, Architects, When It’s in the Specs, It’s in YOUR Contract, Too!

Architects, if your agreement with the Owner includes construction phase services, you are contractually obligated to administer the contract for construction according to the procedures defined in the agreements, the conditions of the contract for construction, and the specifications!

A commonly used Owner-Architect Agreement, AIA Document B201-2007, Standard Form of Architect’s Services: Design and Construction Contract Administration, states,

“The Architect shall provide administration of the Contract between the Owner and the Contractor as set forth below and in AIA Document A201-2007, General Conditions of the Contract for Construction.” – from Article 2 of AIA Document B201-2007

So that leads us to look at AIA Document A201-2007, which states,

“The Architect will provide administration of the Contract as described in the Contract Documents…” – from Article 4 of AIA Document A201-2007

Remember:

“The Contract Documents…consist of the Agreement, Conditions of the Contract (General, Supplementary and other Conditions), Drawings, Specifications…” – from Article 1 of AIA Document A201-2007

So, you know all those sections in Division 01 that say things like Architect will review each submittal…” “Architect will review each RFI…” “Architect will request additional information or documentation for evaluation within one week…”  Those are things that you are contractually obligated to do, because they’re part of your contract with the Owner.

If things get really bad on a project, and you end up in litigation, the lawyers will ask YOU, the Architect, “Did you request this?  Did you review this?” etc.  If you didn’t do the things that the specifications indicated that you would do, you could be in trouble.  The attorneys working to protect the interests of the General Contractor will do everything they can to shift blame away from the General Contractor.  That’s their job.  Don’t make it any easier for them than it needs to be!

Know, understand, and follow through on your obligations for procedural and administrative processes during construction contract administration.  Start by reading the agreements, the conditions of the contract, and the specifications!

 

If It’s in the Specs, It’s in the Contract

I’m going to say it again:  If something is required by the Specifications, it’s required by the Contract

A procedure or item specified in the Specifications is part of the Contract, just as much as if the procedure or item were specified in the Agreement.  (The Agreement is what many people usually think of as the “Contract,” because it’s the particular document that gets signed by the Owner and the Contractor, and it has the Contract Sum indicated in it.  But the Agreement is only ONE PART of the Contract.)

The Contract is made up of the Agreement, the Conditions of the Contract, the Drawings, the Specifications, etc.  AIA Documents state this requirement most clearly; Owner-generated Agreements and Conditions of the Contract sometimes fall short of being explicit about this.  (This is one of many good reasons to use AIA Documents instead of Owner-generated documents.)

This requirement is SO IMPORTANT that it makes up ARTICLE ONE of AIA Document A101-2007 (Standard Form of Agreement Between Owner and Contractor where the basis of payment is a Stipulated Sum), a very commonly used Agreement.

“The Contract Documents consist of this Agreement, Conditions of the Contract (General, Supplementary and other Conditions), Drawings, Specifications, Addenda issued prior to execution of this Agreement, other documents listed in this Agreement and Modifications issued after execution of this Agreement, all of which form the Contract, and are as fully a part of the Contract as if attached to this Agreement or repeated herein.”  – from Article 1 of AIA Document A101-2007

I don’t think I can say this any more clearly. 

But somehow, there are a number of Contractors out there who don’t seem to realize that the Specifications are part of the Contract, and there are even a few Architects out there who don’t seem to realize that the Specifications are part of the Contract that they are supposed to be administering during construction.  An Owner agrees to pay a Contractor a certain sum, the Contractor agrees to provide the Owner with certain things indicated by the Drawings and Specifications and other Contract Documents, and, in a separate Agreement, the Architect and the Owner agree that the Owner will pay the Architect a certain sum, and the Architect will administer the Contract between the Owner and the Contractor.  We all have contractual obligations during construction, and we all need to understand, and follow through on, all of those obligations. 

Remember, if it’s in the Specs, it’s in the Contract.

Contracts, and My Hope for the Day

I hope that today is the last day in my life that an architect-client of mine tells me that the Contractor will not be providing the project record documents required by the project specifications because the requirement to provide record documents “is not in their Contract.”

Remember, per AIA Document A201-2007, (which is the General Conditions of the Contract that I most frequently work with) the Contract Documents “consist of the Agreement, Conditions of the Contract (General, Supplementary and other Conditions), Drawings, Specifications, Addenda issued prior to execution of the Contract, other documents listed in the Agreement and Modifications issued after execution of the Contract.”  Specifications are part of the contract.

For more of the basics like this, check out my informational website, www.specificationsdenver.com

To better days!

“Well, If It’s Not on the Drawings…”

Recently, I was preparing a masonry spec section for a remodel project.  The project has an existing CMU wall which is to receive a small area of new CMU infill.  It’s an exterior structural wall, and the architectural drawings indicate that the infill CMU is to be grouted solid. 

I asked the structural engineer if we need reinforcing bars (rebar) in the cores of the CMU, and I told him that I would delete rebar from the spec section if we don’t need rebar, so that the Contractor knows he doesn’t need to provide it. 

The engineer said, “You can just leave it in the specs.  If the rebar isn’t on the Drawings, they’ll know they don’t need it.” 

NNNOOOOOOOOoooooooo…..!!!!! 

“Drawings and Specifications are complementary and what is called for by one shall be as binding as if called for by both.”  This is according to the General Conditions of the Contract for this project.  This is a typical provision in construction contracts.1 

So, if rebar isn’t required for that wall, there should be no rebar in the spec or on the drawings.  If rebar is in the specs, even if it’s not on the drawings, rebar is required by the contract.  If rebar is on the drawings, even if it’s not in the specs, rebar is required by the contract. 

Design professionals need to completely comprehend this concept, and for some unknown reason, many don’t.  Contractors need to completely comprehend this requirement, and for an understandable reason (it’s not in their best interest at times) they don’t always seem to grasp this.

The lead design professional on the project, the entity who is performing construction contract administration, is the party who must enforce the contract documents, including the specifications.  This party has to understand the relationships among contract documents before he or she can properly enforce them.  If the specifications and drawings have been prepared to be complementary, and are clear, concise, correct, and complete, they will be easy to understand (for all parties) and easy to enforce.

I’ve said this before, on my informational website, www.specificationsdenver.com :

“Unless the design team intends for something to be included by the contractor in the project, it shouldn’t be in the specs (or drawings).  There shouldn’t be a bunch of things in the specs ‘in case we need them’ if we don’t actually intend for them to be in the project, because by doing that, we’ve taken the first step to our documents’ not being taken seriously by the contractor.  If there is extra information in the specifications, the contractor will assume that the specifications are boilerplate specifications that are reused on all projects, and are not specific to the project, and will ignore all the specifications. 

“Also, the architect should enforce the provisions of the specs and the agreement and the conditions of the contract, or else these documents won’t be taken seriously.  We have to say what we mean, and prove that we mean what we say.”

If the contractor starts ignoring the specifications, the architect or engineer who’s doing construction contract administration will have a much harder time trying to enforce the specs.  When the specs include a lot of inapplicable things, the contractor will start ignoring the specs, because guessing at the intention of the specs, or constantly asking about the intention of the specs, will be a waste of the contractor’s essential time.  (Of course, the contractor is usually contractually obligated to ask for clarification in the case of conflicts in the documents, but it’s not fair for design professionals to knowingly issue documents with conflicts.) 

So, architects and engineers, remember that the drawings and specifications are complementary and what is called for by one is as binding as if called for by both.  Enforce this during construction! 

And, architects and engineers, don’t put extra stuff in the specs!  It wastes your time and the contractor’s time during construction, and it may waste the owner’s money.

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Notes:

  1. AIA A201, The General Conditions of the Contract for Construction, indicates that the Contract Documents consist of “the Agreement, Conditions of the Contract, Drawings, Specifications, Addendaet cetera.  AIA A201 goes on to say “The Contract Documents are complementary, and what is required by one shall be as binding as if required by all…”  (AIA A201 is used on most of the projects I work on.) 

Ummmm, What is He Thinking? AIA chief economist Kermit Baker suggests that architects should do what they do best—design—and hire paraprofessionals to do the rest.

This month’s Architect Magazine has an article about using design “paraprofessionals,” written by the AIA’s chief economist, Kermit Baker. 

“AIA chief economist Kermit Baker suggests that architects should do what they do best—design—and hire paraprofessionals to do the rest. Try it. Your profitability might just skyrocket.” 

http://www.architectmagazine.com/business/add-a-layer-the-case-for-paraprofessionals.aspx

I think Mr. Baker is misguided, or misunderstands how our profession works.  Here’s my response, which I posted on the website.

“In this scenario utilizing paraprofessionals in architecture firms, who would train the interns?  What would they learn?

“Since interns who want to become licensed someday have to work under the direct supervision of licensed architects, what would they be learning if the licensed architects aren’t doing anything technical?

“The best way to learn how a technical detail is supposed to look is to draw that detail from scratch.  If interns never learn that, we would be very, very poorly training the future leaders of the firms.  What we are licensed to do is to design safe and sound buildings.  We are not licensed to just design whatever we want. A good start to designing safe and sound buildings is to understand building technology.  We are not training architecture students in building technology in architecture school, and if we stop training interns in building technology, we are headed for much tougher times for the profession.”

Medical students receive 2 years of clinical training, working in hospitals, while they’re in medical school, before they graduate as M.D.’s.  Architecture students have no official training working in architecture offices while they’re in school, but they don’t graduate as Architects.  They go to work as architectural interns after they graduate.  They receive their training on the job, before they’re allowed to sit for their licensing exams and, if they pass their exams, become Architects.

In school, we do not train architecture students in what they need to know to become licensed.  If we quit training them them in technical matters on the job, how will they even become licensed?  And if they do become licensed, how will they be able to oversee the paraprofessionals working for them, if they actually have no technical understanding themselves?  Who will do the construction contract administration?  The licensed architects are the ones who need to seal the drawings and specifications.  The licensed architects are the ones with the professional liability and obligation to design safe and sound buildings.  That’s what they are licensed to do.   

It’s not all about profitability.  Unless the system of architectural education and training completely changes, architects have an obligation to train interns in practical and technical matters.  We can’t shift that responsibility to paraprofessionals.  Soooo… if we have paraprofessionals doing the work that interns and young architects usually do, why would anyone hire an intern?  And if there are no interns, who will be the architects of the future?

Words Matter… Especially in Contracts

I am not an attorney, but once in a while, I look at contracts all day long.  Why would I do that to myself?  Because these documents directly affect my work of preparing architectural construction specifications.

The contract documents for a construction project include contracting forms (such as the owner-contractor agreement), conditions of the contract (such as AIA A201), the drawings, and the specifications.  These documents, all together, make up the contract.

These documents should not conflict.  All too often though, because different parties prepare different documents, conflicts occur.

The owner-contractor agreement may say one thing, and the conditions of the contract may say the opposite.  The conditions of the contract may say one thing, and a Division 1 specification section may say the opposite.  A Division 1 specification section may say one thing, and a technical section of the specifications may say the opposite.  The technical sections of the specifications may say one thing, and the drawings say the opposite.  I’ve even seen General Conditions directly conflict with Supplementary Conditions!

My attorney and insurance professional friends will happily tell you that when a contract is ambiguous, courts usually side against the party who drafted the contract.  What does that mean for design professionals?

We have to coordinate, coordinate, coordinate.  If the Owner prepares General Conditions, the person preparing the specifications needs to make sure the specifications are coordinated with the Owner’s General Conditions.  If AIA A201 General Conditions are used, and the Owner just prepares Supplementary Conditions, the person preparing the specifications needs to make sure the specifications are coordinated with the Owner’s Supplementary Conditions.  If the Owner prepares General Conditions, Supplementary Conditions, and Division 1, the person preparing the technical specifications needs to make sure that his work product does not conflict with the Owner’s documents.  To protect his firm, the person signing the Owner-Architect Agreement should make sure that the Owner’s General and Supplementary Conditions do not conflict with provisions in the Owner-Architect Agreement.

And the issue on my mind all day today?  If the Owner has a Guide Specification/Technical Specification/Specification Standards sort of document that he expects design professionals to adhere to when preparing drawings and specifications, this guide SHOULD NOT CONFLICT with the Owner-prepared General Conditions and Supplementary Conditions.  Ah, yes, this should go without saying… However, I have spent days of my career as an architectural specifications consultant trying to coordinate conflicts among Owner-generated documents to make sure that the work I produce does not conflict with any other contract documents.

Again, I am not an attorney, but I have a feeling that uncoordinated Owner-prepared documents increase our risk as design professionals.  We have to produce coordinated documents, no matter what our Owner clients give us.  Every word matters!