How many churches have you heard of giving all their money to the contractor and then the contractor running off? Or how many projects have you seen the church accept this wonderfully low bid only to have, during construction, the contractor rack up change order after change order after change order? This happens all the time and I feel it is a result of the architect not being a vital part of the project. Many states now require the architect to provide the construction administration as a representative for the owner. Most do not. In fact a lot of churches think the architect’s job is only to design and draw up their project, then get out of the way so they can make changes and decisions throughout construction without ever thinking of codes, life safety, future expansion, maintenance, longevity of the facility, or liability. There are a lot of architects that actually prefer this approach and will gladly allow the church to relieve them of all responsibility and liability due to them not providing construction administration. The fact is the smallest portion of the architect’s fee is wrapped up in the construction administration, where the largest portion of his liability lay.
Why would an architect NOT want to observe the construction if nothing else than to protect himself, much less his client? When the architect is hired to provide construction administration and is maintaining this working relationship with the church as their representative they are to “evaluate the work of the contractor during construction as it pertains to the contractor’s contract with the owner and the contracted set of construction documents. The architect is to visit the site at intervals appropriate to the stage of construction. They are to become generally familiar with the progress and quality of the portion of the work completed and to determine if the work observed is being performed in a manner indicating that the work, when fully completed, will be in accordance with the construction documents set of drawings”.
With this integral involvement of the architect, Change Orders should be more under control. My policy is that Change Orders should ONLY occur due to the church requesting a change in the design or details, or if an unknown element is found during the excavation process or the demolition/renovation of an existing structure. Contractors wanting a Change Order because they did not see or understand a detail, or forgot to place in their bid money for an item stated within the specification book, is unacceptable. This does not mean that I have not run into Change Orders outside of my policy guidelines that I find reasonable. When this happens, it is logically discussed with all the parties to determine what is best for the church and fair to all concerned. I am not there to create an adversarial roll between the church and the contractor, but I am there to represent and protect the church.
The architect is also to review and certify the amounts due to the contractor based on the evaluation of the work as shown on the Application for Payment. However, “the issuance of a Certificate of Payment shall not be a representation that the architect has made exhaustive or continuous on-site inspections to check the quality or quantity of the work or reviewed the construction mean, methods techniques, sequences, or procedures or reviewed copies of the requisitions received from the subcontractors and material suppliers, or ascertained how or for what purpose the contractor has used money previously paid on account of the contract sum.” This wording is as laid out in the AIA Standard Form of Agreement Between the Architect and Owner. As you can imagine because of all these legal stipulations it has been in the best interest of the lending institutes to require these churches to hire a third party inspector to review the applications for pay and have the contractor’s provide a release of liens for all subs prior to receiving their payment.
As I work to protect and serve my churches, I believe it is the Architects role to be the church’s advocate, to make sure that the construction results in a product as designed and detailed within the construction document set that were approved by the church, what the general contractor bids were based, and what the church is paying for. Without, and sometime even with, the architect’s involvement, too many times the contractors are able to substitute items or cut corners without anyone noticing. The architect should be there, involved with the construction, fighting for the church, to assure the church gets what they have approved and are paying for, but for many reasons this is not always the case.
It is a long journey; once a qualified Architect is hired it can be between three to five years or longer before a church is in a new building or addition. However, it is a great journey full of many ups and down, but at the end of the day when my churches are using their facilities in the way it was designed to meet there ministry needs and more – nothing compares, and it has all been worth it to extend God’s Glory.
John W.G. Rosecrans, AIA is the Owner and President of DIMENSIONAL DYNAMICS, Architects and Planners, Inc. located at 455 Old Baltimore Pike, Chadds Ford, PA 19317. phone: 610.388.0755 fax 610.388.2761 email: firstname.lastname@example.org webpage: www.dimdyn.com