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The Challenge Value of Getting Things Built

By Ken Lambert, CSI posted 09-05-2023 02:25 PM

Those of us who have been in the construction industry for more than 10 or 15 years know that getting a building to Certificate Occupancy status is now a lot harder than it used to be. 

With commercial construction (and I’ll include multifamily buildings within this), there is always a delicate balance, and it seems like that balance is more complicated and tedious now more than ever. 

Construction projects are always faced with the same potential conflicts and stresses related to schedule, budget, safety, and functions as intended by the contract documents. 

Add to these some considerations that have become especially important over the past four to five years: 
  • Complying with more stringent energy codes and bylaws (2021 IECC, net zero carbon provisions)
  • Complying with various other “green,” Red List, EPD, and embodied carbon provisions
  • Increasing/volatile supply chain logistics 

Here's one more that I’ll add. If you ask any contractor, they will tell you that the project schedules have become tighter and shorter over the past 10 to 15 years. Where it was once acceptable to complete a building in 15 months, it must now be finished in 12 months. That requirement comes directly from the owner, developer, or lenders. In other words, perform the same work in less time. 

Complying with all these considerations, much less making a sustainable company profit, is far from easy. Viable and growing construction managers and general contractors have a lot to juggle, more so now in recent history. These companies and their employees need to try to work more efficiently and to be constantly learning and improving. That’s easy to say, but hard to do. 

While architects, specifiers, and product representatives may not be faced with all these challenges directly on a daily basis, they should ideally do what they can to help facilitate the efforts of the contractor (within reason). This takes a bit more of a partnership mentality perhaps. I believe this is already happening in the marketplace in many cases. 

For construction volumes to continue to increase, the entire AECO community will need to raise their game now and over the forthcoming years. 



"Trust but verify" will never go out of relevance in construction. 

10-18-2023 01:53 PM

Thanks David.  Good points.  If the owner does not want to pay the X dollars required for more CA by the architect- then things don't get done as ideally as we would prefer.  And I hear your note on the lender side.  I can see lenders getting even more strict will disbursements.  It does no good to take someone else's word for it- normally.

While I have experienced many of the issues described by the writer, I have also seen a large-scale exit of the architectural profession from the construction phase in small-to-medium size (up to $10M) projects. Review of submittals, RFI's, and Substantial Completion inspections may be their only tasks. 

I am both a registered architect and experienced spec writer. I have recently worked with lenders for over 6 years in the review of construction contracts, schedules, and pay applications for commercial projects. I can say very positively that lenders do not appreciate casual treatment of large sums of money. Some architects may approve pay applications based on phone calls and a few selected photos from the contractor. Then, after observing the work, I may have to disapprove it or require modifications. 

Another issue that I periodically find are mandatory completion dates or time durations written into the contract that get no review or oversight during the project. To a lender, extra time usually mean extra money as well as disputes that delay a project even further. They want to be alerted when a mandatory completion schedule may be in jeopardy.

I would like to see design professionals take back much of what they have given up in the construction phase in order to benefit their clients, but I am not optimistic.