Wednesday, March 26, 2008

If it works……….

Some time ago I came across an illustration depicting three individuals on three separate levels of a steep mountain face. A caption identified the individual at the summit as the Owner. The next level down depicted the Contractor and at the bottom of the mountain, covering his head from the barrage of material raining down on him, was the Architect. Upon closer examination, I realized that he was desperately trying to protect himself from "Shifting Responsibility." The author went on to explain the growing trend among Owners of shifting site and pre-construction responsibilities that would usually fall under the Contractor's umbrella, to the Architect. Needless to say, the author, an architect himself, was vehemently opposed to this relatively new practice as the current AIA Contracts already provided for these types of responsibilites under a section appropriately titled "Additional Services." Attempting to view this trend as an opportunity rather than a hindrance, I anxiously awaited the manifestation of this “new” thought of the Architect taking the leadership role in the profession armed with the latest computer equipment and smart programs. To my chagrin, I realized that the responsibility that was being shifted had little or nothing to do with the problems that the computer or higher education would resolve but rather with the time-tested quality control components that architects have universally employed during the pre-construction and construction phases of a Project. Components such as Shop Drawings and full-time site supervisors were being omitted with the Owner expecting the Architect to fill this void. Take Shop Drawings, for example. This is a vital tool of communication between Architect, Contractor and Owner. Short of becoming a mind reader, it is the only true and tested way for the Architect to determine that the Contractor fully grasps the design intent down to the minutest details. It is also gives the Owner an opportunity to have a last look before the costly job of creating custom millwork begins. But more and more we find that Owners are willing to bypass this important step and have the millwork built directly from the Architects' Drawings. Shifting responsibility.

An experienced Site Supervisor is an invaluable asset to the Owner during the construction phase. The day to day supervision of Contractors & their Subs is impossible for an Architect to provide. Having another set of impartial eyes and ears on the job can save time, money and aggravation. But yet again, the growing trend is for Owners to refuse a Site Supervisor and put the burden of day to day supervision squarely on the Architect. The result oftentimes is that mistakes are caught too late to be fixed and in the end a misguided attempt to reduce costs results in not only more time and money, but dissatisfied Owners.

This brings me to the crux of my argument; Design Build. A Design Build scenario in which the Architect is also the Builder and where the the Sub-Contractors are already familiar with the Architect's style and ideas can be the vehicle that moves this discussion forward. This can be a win-win situation for both Owner and Architect. The Owner will get his/her wish to have the Architect or Architect's Rep on site at all times and the Architect will have more control over the usual trouble spots; Costs, Change Orders, Deadlines, etc. A well executed Design-Build scenario can successfully move the industry from the traditional triage of Owner/Architect/Contractor to Owner/Architect. At the same time, time-tested, industry wide standards such as Shop Drawings and Site Supervision can be maintained without the Owner incurring additional costs. As I said, a win-win-situation.


Anonymous said...

The astronomer may speak to you of his understanding of space, but he cannot give you his understanding.

The musician may sing to you of the rhythm which is in all space, but he cannot give you the ear which arrests the rhythm nor the voice that echoes it.

And he who is versed in the science of numbers can tell of the regions of weight and measure, but he cannot conduct you thither.

For the vision of one man lends not its wings to another man.

And even as each one of you stands alone in God's knowledge, so must each one of you be alone in his knowledge of God and in his understanding of the earth.

Anonymous said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Sketchbook Revisited said...

Thank you Ruth,

I look forward to your thoughts,comments and inspiration to create other works.

Flowers said...

Nice blog. Enjoyed going through it. Keep it up the good work.