Friday, September 3, 2010

The magical world of contracts

I recently asked the interns at my office how many of them had actually ever seen a contract for a project on which they were working, and only one of the ten I asked had in fact done so. This is unfortunate (and as usual, inexcusable, I think), because contracts help everyone on the team more deeply understand a project and understand roles, rights, responsibilities, and deliverables. When even interns are able to read the contract for their project and understand how it affects their day-to-day work and tasks, that knowledge actually can improve how they get things done.

The AIA writes standard form contracts that everyone can buy the rights/license to use, not just AIA members. Even a developer or building manager can buy the rights to the contracts. The best reason to use the AIA's form contracts is because they've been well-researched and well-vetted by a ton of lawyers, and they're generally fair to everyone involved in the contract. The contracts clearly delineate what each party's responsibilities are as well as what rights they have. For example, in the standard contract between architects and owners, the architect must regularly survey the project as it's being built and is required to inform the owner of any variations in the work. However, the architect does not have to make an unreasonable amount of visits to the site, and s/he is allowed to make minor changes in the project without telling the owner, as long as the changes are consistent with the intent of the drawings. Also very cool--and important to know--is that the typical contracts include the stipulation that the architect is the final word on matters of aesthetics, as long as the decision is consistent with the intent of the drawings.

These are just a few of the many things in a contract that affect how an intern operates every day on a project. If an owner starts pushing an intern doing CA on a fairly simple project to visit a site 45 minutes away three times a week when the project is still three months away from completion, the intern doesn't have to immediately say "yes sir!" to such a request. They can know that the request is possibly/probably excessive before they even get back to the office to ask their boss how to respond to the request. They can also know that if they're in the field and have to make a judgement call on "what looks nicer" on a soffit or a kneewall or something, they do indeed have the authority (within reason) to do that.

I'll talk more about contracts in the coming weeks. In the meantime, if you have a question or a topic you'd like to see discussed here, let me know if the comments or via email in the sidebar. Thanks!

1 comment:

  1. very sage advice. I'd also say its worthwhile to review the owner-contractor agreement and all exhibits, so when the contractor tries to blame you for his mistake ... you are better prepared