We recently received a list of questions about “construction administration” from a client. Construction admin is often shortened to “CA” or also called “construction observation” and it is the idea that you keep the designer or architect involved during construction. This may be a few hours a month or even less of the architects time, and it is usually billed hourly.
Many clients like to remove the architect after they get their plans. They figure it’s money saved. However, all contractors know that it is extremely rare that a set of plans has all of the specs detailed perfectly and even in the extraordinary chance you do have a perfectly complete set of plans, you, as an owner will still change your mind about a few things.
Some contractors argue that “I can take it from here so you don’t need a designer” They probably can get the project done, but the counter point is that both the finished project and your experience will be better with a second opinion from the architect – even if it’s only an hour a month of review with them.
The questions from our client are surprisingly informative . If you’re about to accept a bid, you’re probably asking yourself these questions, and here are the answers:
Before we can make a decision about whether to engage the architect to do Construction Admin, we need to better understand what that would entail, so can I ask for a bit of a primer…Q: What type of tasks/responsibilities would architect take on as part of Construction Admin?A: Biweekly or monthly site visits that take one or two hours for a fee of $130 per hour. Clarifications if the contractor has questions and posts a note, texts or calls to discuss. Revisions to the drawings if a major revision is needed. (only the architect of record is allowed to modify the drawings and this is a law, not a choice that we have). Changing heating systems, windows, walls etc can all be major revisions.Q: How does a Construction Admin function differ from or overlap with the roles the contractor typically plays?A: The architect’s role is to provide insights based on what is usually 6-12 months of thinking about the project. Often times in great depth. The architect also functions as a second opinion when the contractor sees a way to do something that you may not want or may need to discuss.The homeowner?A: The homeowner doesn’t have all the experience to make all of the decisions quickly or effectively. It’s easy to get tripped up on things as a homeowner (people say there are 10,000 decisions in a remodel or new house) and we’ve been thinking about them for decades.Q: Would we pay architect on an hourly basis?A: Yes, absolutely. You pay as you go, for what you need/want.Q: What do you estimate the costs would be if we were to ask architect to take on role?A: $250 a month for 6 month for regular visits or $1,500. Then one or two actual design changes at four hours each for approximately $1,000 additional.What does it mean when you say architect would “may want to step back” if we opted not to engage you in Construction Admin — are there tasks you were planning to / had scoped to do on the project that you no longer would?
A: If we are not consulted as changes are made by the contractor then we are exposed to liability. For example, something is built wrong (either not to code, not built according to drawings, or the engineer was not consulted appropriately (we are usually the go between for engineering and special inspection questions too)). Or something is done that you don’t like. In either case it comes back to the architect and the architect is not going to work for free to fix things that they should have been consulted about before it went bad. However, If there is a verifiable mistake that we made to the drawings that we agree to we will correct at no charge.