Blog Viewer

Virtual Site Observations: CSI Members Discuss COVID-19 Questions in Connect Community

By Peter Kray posted 04-24-2020 17:29


From Contract Clauses for Virus Claims questions, to Social Distancing Design discussions, the COVID-19 pandemic is generating a lot real-time interaction on the CSI Connect Community Page right now. Set up an account and log in to get immediate feedback on any of your construction industry concerns. 

Below are are some of the early discussion points of an ongoing conversation about the practicality of “Virtual Site Observations:”

Many designers and architects have projects reaching substantial completion during this COVID-19 lock down that are in need of site observations or punch visits, and in some cases clients are requesting that we perform those observations virtually.

I’d like to hear from as to what various jurisdictions around the country are recommending as well as, perhaps more importantly, what the organizations focused on our practice (AIA / CSI) are saying about the risks and best practices of virtual reporting as we meet our obligation of Standard of Care.
Steve Kellen, AIA, CSI


There’s a significant difference between “observations” and “inspection for substantial completion.” To certify substantial completion, the design professional needs to “inspect,” meaning, “to examine critically, especially for defects.” “Inspect” is the word used by both AIA A201 and EJCDC C-700, among others. I don’t know how you can “inspect” virtually when someone else holds the camera and you cannot use other senses to examine a possible defect in the work.

If it were up to me, on my project, I think I’d probably insist that I either inspect it in person before certifying substantial completion, or, if the owner was insisting on a “virtual inspection” via someone's iPhone, I’d ask the owner for an amendment to my professional services agreement to document that my inspection did not have to be in-person. I believe it’s that important. It may also be appropriate to issue a field order/ASI to the contractor indicating that the “inspection” will be remotely via a camera. The design professional should also so indicate in the actual certificate of substantial completion issued.

If the motive for the virtual inspection is the decision of the design professional, I’d suggest that a facemask, gloves, and other appropriate measures are probably sufficient to preserve health and safety from the virus. After all, if Instacart workers and plumbers making residential calls can do it, so can architects and engineers.

Documenting substantial completion is a very important thing--probably the most-important milestone in a project. The design professional and owner should not take this important responsibility lightly.

Among other things, if the design professional issues a certificate of substantial completion, and it later turns out that some element of the work was defective, and getting the remedy implemented caused the owner cost and inconvenience, it’s easy to imagine the owner taking the position that the design professional should be responsible for the owner’s costs—and perhaps the cost of the remedy itself.
Kevin O'Beirne, PE, FCSI, CCS, CCCA


I agree with Kevin. The architect, or his equally skilled representative(s), must don the hardhat, pick up a copy of Contractor’s uncompleted work list, and physically inspect the work. If wearing special COVID-19 PPE is the order of the day, then do it. There is no such special protection afforded an architect than there is for the trades craftsman.

And document any and all flaws discovered while managing skill trade engineers sub-consultants to do the same. Then confirm AHJ certs of occupancy documents. And this is the Substantial Completion milestone. When the final draft punchlist is done, then and only then sit with the contractor and determine line item costing, with each contractor estimated amount times two. Then draft the AIA Form G704 and release all retainage less the sum value of the final draft Uncompleted Work List.  None of this can be done virtually or by some electronic magic.


Read more.