Everyone knows that architects design buildings but, if you don’t happen to know an architect personally, you might not have any idea what we do all day. Today we pull back the curtain on the final project phases to share the way we spend our hours while we’re seeing your house or commercial space right through to the end.
We highly recommend our Series on the Process of Design for anyone who is thinking of undertaking a construction project. Don’t miss our previous “What your architect is doing” posts on Early Design and Intermediate Project phases.
In this post, we’ll talk about what is going on behind the scenes in order to produce the final drawings and schedules that result in a great building and how we ensure that that vision becomes a reality. Today we’ll explore what a designer (specifically one of us here at moss) does during the final project phases of creating the Issue for Construction drawing set, and shepherding the project through Construction Administration.
Right-Sizing in the Last project phases
Once we’ve got the bids in and choose a contractor, you might choose to re-evaluate the full scope of the project. This process, also known as value engineering, really just means making sure that the project is still the right scope for you and matches your desired budget. Since we start our design with every good thing you and we could imagine – this is a time when all of the ideas are distilled into a final scope prioritizing what you want the out of the project. Then we touch up the drawings to show exactly that.
Creating the Final Drawing Set
The devil is in the details. This is the point at which we work all of those details out. To make sure that you get exactly what you asked for from the contractor, we create a final complete drawing set – the Issue For Construction, or IFC Set – which is intended to give every contractor and sub exactly the information he or she needs with no extraneous matter.
Nailing down the Details: We confirm the specification for every faucet, light fixture and tile with you, to make sure we know exactly what you want. The City doesn’t typically care about these items, so we can use the time the City spends reviewing our drawings to nail down these details.
Coordinating with Contractors: We check in with the General Contractor and subs to make sure they understand the full project scope and make sure our drawings accurately show how each discipline – plumbing, electrical, concrete, etc – will work together in the final building.
Mediating: The final result of these final project phases will be a building that meets all the city requirements, satisfies the engineers’ calculations, seems clear and build-able to the GC and is everything you want. This is often no easy task, but we get it done every time.
When construction begins, we turn into more of an overseer and quality inspector. The role of the architect in construction is to check in regularly with construction progress and ensure that the building is being constructed as intended and also to answer any questions from either owner or contractors during the process.
Representing you: The architect’s official role through CA is as owner’s representative. That means we stay in close communication with both you and the GC in order to make sure that things are proceeding smoothly and according to plan. When the unexpected does happen, we’re right there to reassure everyone … and then fix the problem.
Kick off: Construction typically begins with a pre-construction meeting to introduce everyone to each other – if they haven’t yet met – lay out the chain of communication and confirm schedules, progress payments and schedules. We’ll also talk about where contractors can park, who cleans up the site and even when and how photos of the project might be released.
Site visits: Visiting the construction site at regular intervals is very important as it lets us check in that everything is being built to the agreed on specifications. Having a conversation with the contractors on site may bring up lingering questions. We’ll be sure to whip out our three most important weapons of the final project phases, as set of the drawings, a camera and a ruler. Is everything built just as requested? Great. If there are any deviations from the plans, we’ll need to find out why.
The Seven AM Phone Call: Especially when working with existing buildings (and their hidden history) we are ready throughout the final project phases to make game time decisions on how to handle the unforeseen. We work quickly when we get an early morning contractor phone call saying that they’ve discovered the attic only framed in 2×4’s or that the foundation is unusually shallow. We’ll be ready to resolve all questions ASAP.
Change Orders: And of course the time will come when changes need to be made to the plans – either at the request of the GC or the building owner. In that case, we’ll make sure that the change – and its cost – is well documented with a formal Change Order that we confirm won’t interfere with any other parts of the project. Once we’ve got your approval … work can proceed again, better than ever.
Punch List: When we get to the end of construction the GC will let us all know that they are pretty nearly finished and then we have another team meeting where we along with you and the contractor, go over the whole project in person to make sure it was built just as we designed it. We’ll prepare a punch list to document that and then hold the GC to completing all those last little items to make sure that everything is right when you take back your keys!
Don’t miss our run down of earlier tasks in Early Design and the murky, magical Intermediate Design stages. Each day is made up of time spent on a number of ongoing projects in all stages of design. (Variety is the spice of life!) Now you know a little more about what is going on in our office during the final project phases.