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Correct Flow of Information During Construction

The roles of all the parties working on the project are clearly defined in the building contract, and in the various agreements between the client and their advisers. These contracts map out our liability and responsibility in the construction process in fairly strict legal terms. For this reason, communication must follow a predefined format which respects the legal definitions of the parties’ roles and responsibilities.

Retaining information and records of communications is critical.

There can be unforeseen cost and liability issues for anyone involved in a building contract if records are lost, or people don’t know what they’re supposed to know, when they need to know it. It’s very important to follow these simple rules when working on construction. 

  1. Where a full design team has been appointed, they should typically circulate emails and correspondence among the team. It is worth discussing some project specific ground rules for the communication during construction at pre-contract stage. 
  2. If the architect or consultants have been appointed for very limited (low cost) packages of services, there may not be provision for the high level of communication typically seen during well resourced construction processes. This should be considered at pre-contract stage, and alternative arrangements put in place by the client.  
  3. All communication between the client and the builder should go through the architect’s office, or through the consultants assisting the architect. 
  4. This means there will be a complete record of correspondence, should a dispute arise.
  5. The client should never instruct the builder directly, in the normal course of events. 
  6. If a client wishes to make a change to the design, they contact the architect who records the change. 
  7. The architect will implement this change by “instructing” the contractor. 
  8. Instructions can be in drawings, lists and sketches, can be spoken verbally and or described in writing. 
  9. If the contractor encounters unforeseen circumstances, they communicate them to the architect, and “instructions” may be required directly from the architect to meet the building regulations.
  10. Nearly all instructions have cost implications, so they are examined by the QS and compared to the pricing structure of the project.
  11. If the pricing document is unclear, negotiation may be required to settle the cost of changes or unforeseen work.   

The Payment Communication Procedure

  1. The main contractor creates a claim for payment in writing in keeping with the terms of the building contract
  2. This should ideally be prepared in a detailed, professional format by a QS
  3. The format should relate clearly to the structure of the pricing document
  4. The architect should review the payment claim and check that it corresponds correctly to the pricing document, that all work claimed is complete, and there are no issues of quality with the work.
  5. The architect should issue a standard form interim payment certificate.
  6. The client (employer in contract terms) should pay upon issue of the interim payment certificate.  

What Kinds of Problems Can Result from Poor Communication

  • Records of instructions are directly linked to claims for payment, so incomplete records can result in payment disputes.
  • Direct instructions from the client to the builder are not likely to consider the full range of design considerations, and may have unforeseen consequences for the success of the building, which may only become apparent later in the process.
  • Unauthorised redesign by the contractor or the supplier can create design conflicts later in the construction process. 
  • If records of inspection and certification by consultants or suppliers are not provided to the architect (or assigned certifier) as appropriate, it can be impossible to trace accountability for building defects. 

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