Who’s Responsible for the Work? In its capacity as supervisor, coordinator, and director of the Work, the contractor must obviously develop and implement a reasonable and prudent plan for organizing, phasing, coordinating, scheduling, and implementing the Work. This responsibility is clearly stated and repeatedly emphasized in the AIA’s General Conditions of the Contract for Construction. • Section 1.1.3 identifies the Work as the contractor’s responsibility: “The term ‘Work’ means the construction and services required by the Contract Documents, whether completed or partially completed, and includes all other labor, materials, equipment and services provided or to be provided by the Contractor to fulfill the Contractor’s obligations.” • Section 3.3.1 states that the contractor is in complete charge and control of the Work and is the only contracted entity that bears such responsibility: “The Contractor shall supervise and direct the Work, using the Contractor’s best skill and attention. The Contractor shall be solely responsible for, and have control over, construction means, methods, techniques, sequences and procedures and for coordinating all portions of the Work under the Contract, unless the Contract Documents give other specific instructions concerning these matters.” • Section 3.1.3 states that the responsibility is absolute and cannot be assumed or circumvented by the actions of the architect, or deferred upon the architect: “The Contractor shall not be relieved of obligations to perform the Work in accordance with the Contract Documents either by activities or duties of the Architect in the Architect’s administration of the Contract, or by tests, inspections or approvals required or performed by persons or entities other than the Contractor.”
Few projects today require the precision of Saarinen’s arch, but every project requires an effective Work Plan if it is to be successful. The constant checking and re-checking of planning, process, and progress as the two legs grew together in the sky is an ingredient that every successful Work Plan should include. Given the characteristics of our construction industry today, it appears unlikely that a structure of the precision and quality of the arch could be completed in 20 months and within the budget of today’s equivalent of $30 million in 1965. On such a complex and demanding project today there would likely be thousands of RFIs, finger pointing and accusations, a lengthy search for the guilty, and years of discovery and lawsuits.
Suggested Actions It is unfortunate that contractor Work Plans may become an endangered project element, especially given the extent they are required, referenced, and celebrated by design and construction associations alike. Some level of emphasis on their creation and management will likely be required if you expect to discover more than fossilized remains on your project. Like submittal schedules, the more the Work Plan is discussed
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and required, the more it will adhered to. The following suggestions are provided as a guideline: • become acquainted with AIA and MasterSpec requirements; • start with your specifications (This is ground zero.); • look at what others are doing (e.g., U.S. Army Corps of Engineers); • help the owner understand its importance; • add it to your preconstruction conference agenda (Review contract requirements.); • require submitted evidence (Do not approve or make changes.); • require updates in project meetings; • tie specified conformance to payment applications (Give ample warning.); and • document contractor negligence and defaults when observed. Let us hear your suggestions and successes on your efforts to enforce this vital contractor work tool. Also, remember the following about the Contractor’s Work Plan: • It is solely the contractor’s responsibility. • Do not stop requesting evidence and compliance. • The less satisfactorily the construction is planned, the less chance for success.
Conclusion The contractor’s diligence in planning and executing the Work will vary from project to project. Smart contractors will recognize the Work Plan’s value, not just as a working tool, but also as a marketing tool. Opportunistic exploitation of poorly enforced contract requirements (such as the submittal schedule and pre-installation conferences) are often used to manipulate the Work scope and quality to the contractor’s advantage. The bottom line is that the contractor is solely responsible for and guarantees the conformance and completeness of the Work, period. Unless the preventive and beneficial clauses and conditions (such as those provided in the AIA documents and MasterSpec are used and enforced) many contractors will continue to deliver below-spec projects of poor quality while aggressively pursuing the assessment of liability toward the architect for their own contractual and professional negligence and nonconformance. So, as you prepare your contract documents for you next project, think about how you might explain to your owner and his contractor that the architect is not the only participant in the project that must plan service efforts. And, as always, remember to be careful out there. James B. Atkins, FAIA, is an independent project management and litigation support consultant. He was a senior principal HKS Architects for over 30 years, and he has served on the AIA Documents Committee, the AIA Risk Management Committee, and chaired The Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice, 14th edition Revision Group. He currently serves on the AIA Trust. Contact him via firstname.lastname@example.org. Grant A. Simpson, FAIA, is an independent standard of care consultant who has served as a project delivery leader for several large international firms where his responsibilities included construction documentation, project management, and loss prevention. He has served on the AIA Practice Management Advisory Group and currently chairs the AIA Risk Management Committee. Contact him via email@example.com. Atkins and Simpson are the authors of Managing Project Risk: Best Practices for Architects and Related Professionals, published in 2008 by John Wiley and based on a popular series of articles written for both Texas Architect and AIArchitect.
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