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What Does the Architect Do During Construction? Construction Stage Services FAQ

First – time clients are often confused about what we architects do during construction. Architects do not direct day to day building works, manage site operations, deal with subcontractors, or organise the schedule of when works will physically happen; so how do we keep things on track?  Check out our “design team” articles.  The architect’s primary legal role is to administer the building contract between the client and builder impartially. In short this means: “instructing” the builder about what should be done, and “inspecting” work that has been done. This is the basis for all the other duties we have on building projects. We typically visit the site every 1-3 weeks for 1-2 hours; to meet with the builder, walk- through the site to examine what has been done, and on some projects there are formal sit-down site meetings with the whole design team.  

Many clients intuitively expect a more hands on involvement, and wonder how this can be enough time to make sure everything goes smoothly, so we have provided a complete explanation below. 

Who Is In Charge of What on a Construction Site? 

Responsibility and control are divided out according to the building contract, the plan for inspection and certification, and the duties of each party can be expanded or limited by the level of service they have agreed with the client (employer). Traditionally, the architect acts as your main point of contact with the project but the main contractor definitely “runs the job” after commencement of works.  

  • Client: is responsible for everything by default unless or until they hire a professional to assume responsibility for specific work. 
  • Architect: Inspect the works at key times in construction, administer the building contract, design changes. 
  • Builder: manage the day to day running of the site
  • Structural Engineer: Inspect the works at key times
  • Quantity Surveyor: act as expert consultant for costs, assess contractor claims for payment

How Do We Decide When to Visit the Site

Most projects have a “Preliminary Inspection Plan” for Building Control purposes, or a simple spreadsheet setting out design, inspection and certification duties for the various companies involved in the project. This lists the main parts of the building, and says whether the architect, a consultant, other specialist designer, or a supplier checks each part. When planning our inspections of sites, we consider:

  • Are other consultants due to inspect at this time, such as engineers, or specialist designers who are experts in a particular aspect of the job?
  • When are important works set to happen according to the PIP?
  • When will important work be covered up?
  • Has the contractor indicated in calls or correspondence that there are issues which need the architect’s input?
  • It is possible to issue Opinions on Compliance (sign off) for a building with relatively few inspections, if they are timed strategically and other records for the project are good, however 
  • Too few site visits lead to missed design opportunities, or a slightly reduced architectural quality.
  • Too many site visits make the builder feel unnecessarily pressurised, disrupt the flow of work and are a waste of man- hours, ultimately paid for the client.   

What Is The Typical Format of a Site Visit?

With a minimal level of architectural service at construction stage necessary to issue Opinions on Compliance: 

  1. The architect arranges to meet and gain access to the site in consultation with the main contractor
  2. Review of health and safety for the site visit
  3. Review of progress; contractor reports on work since last meeting. 
  4. Review of changes impacting cost (report from QS if present)
  5. Review of structural issues
  6. Troubleshooting and brainstorming technical issues 
  7. Taking photographs and key notes of progress on site
  8. Look ahead at next week
  9. Review of main timelines. 

Additional services, which may be of great value to the client, are listed below.  

Itemised Breakdowns of Architectural Service Fees for Construction Stage

We usually base our fee agreements on defined lists of design work, not percentages of build- costs. So we create a project plan at the start of every design process and list itemised prices for the tasks we plan to undertake. One shortcoming of this system is that the scope of small tasks related to construction can escalate. 

We usually ask clients to consider the scope of the work they need during construction, which may include the following costs:

  • Physically visiting the site, and our time during site meetings
  • Processing pay claims under the contract
  • Additional paperwork required by banks
  • Any requirement for additional drawing work, design or technical research
  • Design of changes by the client, or required by unforeseen circumstances 
  • Ad hoc correspondence during construction, including small queries by the client and main contractor.
  • Possible additional requirement for formal site meeting minutes
  • Possible requirement for regular updates or progress reports. 
  • Setting up a file, maintaining our own records of inspections, use of our own proprietary templates and working processes  
  • Procurement of standard form documents from the RIAI
  • Gathering certification information, checking certificates against the certification framework
  • Issuing Architects Opinions on Compliance
  • Post completion services, dealing with possible defects and ongoing contractual duties. 

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