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Successful Scope of Work: Understanding An Architect’s Approach

Construction project costs continue to rise. In an environment where every penny counts, developers need to count on architects to deliver the greatest value. And sometimes that means spending more upfront to avoid costly pitfalls later on.

Architects are highly educated, experienced individuals. Their firms spend lots of money to hire the best and in return provide the best services for the built environment. This is especially true in the modern digital age, where lessons learned on projects are recorded and a new knowledge base passed down through generations at a firm.

Like other highly skilled professions, knowledge and skill come at a cost. Architecture is not cheap, and the more experienced and competent the firm, the more expensive it tends to be. But you must get clear on what you’re paying for.

The question of scope

Using a highly qualified architect or building consultancy should result in an intentional scope of work, including drawings and necessary detailing. However, historically there has been a good amount of negotiation over what is necessary and what is not. An architectural scope can be tricky.

Often architects are judged around the depth and quality of their design documents even when they have no control over how builders construct their designs. This creates one conundrum, as do architectural documents that are poorly coordinated or can’t be built feasibly.

But getting your project’s construction documents right early is critical; it can prevent wasting money in the future. Here’s what you should know to get the job done right.

Dig into drawings and details

The biggest part of an architect’s job on any project, large or small, is to create a complete set of drawings that allow a contractor to erect a building properly. But pay attention to detail sheets at the back of those drawings. This is often the meat of the work.

A well thought out and drawn set of details helps ensure that crews bringing the building to fruition have all the information they need and understand what they are being asked to construct. Often, the development of thoughtful details is beyond the scope of services the developer is willing to pay for, but it’s usually worth it.

The most efficient way to tell if you received complete construction documents from a thoughtful architect is to examine the detail sheets. A well organized, insightfully notated, clear, and complete set of details is often indicative of not just a competent architect, but also an adequate professional services fee.

Balancing deliverables — and the budget

So, if adding details, including schedules, isometrics and other information to a set of construction documents can create a better outcome, why don’t architects do it on every project? The answer is good old economics.

Organizing architectural information and developing a set of drawings is time-consuming. Time is money. And often owners feel that they are the best source for selecting bathroom fixtures, flooring, driveway traffic coatings, and many other parts of the building, so architects are asked to leave these areas of construction documents undeveloped.

But cutting an architect’s process short upfront can result in a poorly developed set of drawings or inadequate details. And we know what that leads to down the road: areas of construction that fail, leak, wear prematurely, or become dangerous to occupants.

And now you have a whole other set of problems.

The solution is the scope. Get straight on what you’re asking an architect for and what they’re delivering for the agreed-upon professional services fee.

If you’re wondering if your project’s scope of services and related documents are up to par or if you’ve got the details you need to build as precisely and efficiently as possible, Marx|Okubo can provide answers. As a third-party consultancy, we’ll tell you if your project is on the right track, requires some tweaking, or demands an overhaul. gary_cohn@marxokubo.com