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P R A C T I C E

The Work, Part II: Contract Obligations and Options AIA contracts are clear on contractor requirements by JAMES B. ATKINS, FAIA, AND GRANT A. SIMPSON, FAIA

As we observed in Part I (published in the previous edition) of this two-part series, the term “the Work” in the construction contract comprises more than labor and materials. In fact, the success of a project relies heavily on the contractor’s ability to plan, coordinate, and execute the means, methods, techniques, sequences, and procedures required to put the Work in place. This is not a new concept. Ten Books on Architecture, written by Marcus Vitruvius Pollio in 30 BC for Roman Emperor Augustus, emphasizes planning as being integral to good building construction. In Part I we identified many of the components of the contractor’s Work Plan. We referred to several available resources and pointed out various indicators to look for as one administers the construction contract, including how to tell if a plan is in the works. In Part II we take the next step to examine alternatives and actions to take if there is a weak or nonexistent plan, including a look at efforts by some contractors to manipulate work scope to avoid conformance. We will conclude with a successful case study followed by suggestions for managing the risks and liabilities that so often arise when the Work is not properly planned or managed.

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AS INCREDIBLE AS IT MAY SEEM, there are contractors who attempt to construct a project without an identifiable or adequate Work Plan. They may be construction brokers who do not self-perform the work, or they may simply be overwhelmed by the project’s complexity due to inexperience. Such circumstances almost always result in poor construction quality and project delay. One public project in Texas was of such poor quality the owner stopped the Work just short of completion, sued the contractor, and eventually razed the new building because it was found to be uninhabitable. With this public project, some tell-tell signs of the impending catastrophe included no prior project experience documented at the time of selection (although experience was verbally represented), no licensed surveyor laying out the Work and setting grades and elevations as specified, and other lingering construction problems that could not seem to find resolution. This debacle may not have been prevented since the industry tends to rely on contractor representations during interviews, but indicators of a weak Work Plan often arise early during the construction phase. (See sidebar on the next page for the elements of a good Work Plan.) Many owners and architects think it inconceivable that a contractor would attempt to construct a project without a complete and identifiable Work Plan. However, many contractors do not prepare and use Work Plan elements such as submittal schedules, coordination drawings, or qualitycontrol plans, and they do not conduct pre-installation conferences or openly discuss critical planning topics in progress meetings. Moreover,

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Texas Architect Sept/Oct 2011: Design Awards