Thursday, August 5, 2010

Helpful hints for good CA

As I have started getting deeper into my own project's CA, I'm realizing how much I've forgotten by not doing CA for three years, and I realize how much I've never forgotten. In a way, the things that make you a good architect and designer also make you good at CA. Here are a few habits and tips I've picked up over the past ten-plus years of watching my projects get built through countless CA hours.

  1. Organize like you've never organized before--and stay on top of it. Architects have to be organized in every phase of their projects (as in life), but nowhere is this more important than during CA. Have a process for recording every shop drawing/submittal and RFI that comes in and out, who it has gone to or come back from, and when it is due. The due dates for these items is especially important--you don't want things to get piled up or be late because you've forgotten about answering or checking them...or let your consultants forget about them.
  2. Stay on top of your consultants, too. Remember that one project can keep you and one other person busy and profitable, but for your engineers and other consultants, they may need four to ten projects at any time to keep their business in the black. Therefore, it's easy for them to forget about you and your project's deadlines. If you have any kind of tracking software that can send an email to you and your engineers before something's due (or overdue), that can really help take the pressure off of you both to get things done. A couple of examples are Prolog and Newforma.
  3. Make sure everything goes through you in both directions. Generally, the contractor should send RFIs and shop drawings to you to disperse to your engineers and other consultants, and then the consultants send the answered/checked RFIs or submittals back to you to return to the contractor. This is so that you know what's going on with the project, plus you can review the response to see if it's going to affect another consultant (or you). On a design-build project, the contractor may decide s/he wants to send MEP RFIs and shops straight to the consultant, since those consultants work for them and not you. However, it's a good idea to get a copy of the RFI or submittal sent to you for your simultaneous review--you never know what you'll find that could affect the project down the road.
  4. Look at everything. I mean, everything. Because of #3, you really do need to look at and read and take a little time to think about everything you get from the consultants. A moment's pause can give you the chance to realize that something may be very amiss with the short, casual response a consultant gave an RFI.
  5. Think twice when reviewing and responding. Everything has a ripple effect and ramifications in a project, from moving a countertop (against a wall that is supposed to have equipment mounted on it) to changing the brand and model (and therefore size and depth) of a sink. Give yourself a chance to pause and flip through the drawings a bit, even when confronted with the simplest of requests. When I've done this, at least 50% of the time I uncover a huge problem that could occur if I say "yes, go ahead" to the RFI.
  6. Be clear with your responses. Understand what the RFI or note on the shop drawings is asking you, and reply in a clear and unequivocal manner: Instead of "Accepted," instead use "It is acceptable to move the countertop in Room A1-405 from the west wall to the north wall. Please see attached sketch AX-108 for the new configuration." Or perhaps instead of "Line these mullions up", use "Storefront window system mullion layouts are intended to line up from interior to exterior. Align intermediate horizontal mullions on interior systems with corresponding mullions on exterior." I realize that this is more writing that you may feel you have time for, but if a sub messes up something in the field and you catch it, you'll be glad you had something so crystal clear written on your shops--it will be on the sub to fix it at their expense. At the very least, they won't be calling and bugging you with questions when you took the time to be clear the first time.
  7. Relax--failure is inevitable. No one gets out of CA with a 100% success rate. Everyone botches something that costs money, but that's the nature of humanity. Being diligent and making as few mistakes as possible simply makes your mistakes look human, not careless. Besides, there's always the next project.


  1. I can't resist chipping in here... if you have a bad contractor, it might be wise to treat every RFI as an attempt to lay foundations for a claim.

    Lulu, your advice about record keeping gets a loud AMEN! Preach on sister!!

  2. The first time I did CA throughout the course of a complicated, multi-prime project, I learned alot. It appears that no one can teach you how to properly organize to be efficient during CA. You crash and burn, then learn. Every project I am now involved in benefits from that project. Everything from SD to DD to CD is structured with an eye on making the potential upcoming phase of CA easier and clearer.