Should Contractors simply be treated as hired help or indentured servants? Or do they deserve the same respect as other building professionals?

Join Eric and I as we discuss the best ways to work with a Contractor to ensure a successful relationship (and project).

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Show Notes:

Contractors are oftentimes the last people to become involved in any construction project, and in some cases will end up doing all the heavy lifting.

The architectural and construction industries both play a critical role in a building project. Contractors are responsible for putting together the physical pieces of the puzzle that bring an architect’s vision to life.

Contractors come in to take an Architect’s vision and create the physical structure.

A positive relationship between the architect and contractor is important because it helps the construction project flow smoothly from start to finish. When contractors and architects develop a positive relationship and communicate effectively, disagreements can be minimized (if not avoided altogether) and the project can move efficiently from one phase to the next. It might even make you a better Architect!

A negative or adversarial relationship could mean:
delays, poor communication, increased liability or worst of all, legal disputes.

Top 5:

1. Contractors are building professionals too. Be part of a Team, not adversaries.
View the Contractor as a vital part of the design project team (cause they are!)
Don’t view the Contractor as a hired hand, but as a building professional bringing their expertise to the project like everyone else.

2. Contractors need information. Communicate, and then over-communicate.
The key to any successful architect-contractor relationship is open, honest communication and a mutual respect for one another. Contractors should take strides to keep the design team informed on a regular basis throughout the construction process to avoid confusion and minimize mistakes. Likewise, architects should be open to the reality of the situation in the field.

Drawings aren’t perfect. Sometimes Contractors find conflicts (REMEMBER: drawings and specs are complementary). Sometimes they have questions. Questions are good as they show interest and a desire to make things correctly.

Communication is key to an effective working relationship between an architect and a contractor. It’s important to hire a contractor who has many years of experience working with architects on building projects ranging from home additions to large commercial construction projects. Without good communication, the project can lose focus and desires of the property owner may be lost.

At the beginning of the project, the architect and the contractor should have a conversation to understand and agree upon how changes will be tracked. An efficient and centralized tracking system will result in better quality control and field communication and will also eliminate the potential for missed items. – See more at:

Schedule regular site visits and honor the time of those visits. Don’t schedule contractor meetings at 6pm (they like to start early and end early,.)

3. Contractors have specific responsibilities. Trust your roles.

Architect has a lot of responsibilities during construction:
Change Orders
Application for Payment
Review Shop Drawings
Design complies with building code
Certify date of Substantial Completion
Approve Notice of Final Completion & Final Application for Payment

But so does the Contractor:
means and method of achieving the design in the Contract Documents
paying their subs / release of liens
manage inspections
submit RFIs
Punch Lists
Schedule of Values

The General Contractor is also responsible for selecting Subcontractors (framing company, painting crew, millworkers, plumbers, etc.). The General Contractor ensures that the Subcontractors perform work as described in the Construction Documents the Architect has prepared. The General Contractor also coordinate schedules and deliveries, answer questions onsite, review shop drawings, and alert the Architect when more information is needed.

The AIA documents are specific in describing documentation provided by the contractor, and the architect is wise to capture that documentation in the record files.

4. Contractors care about their portfolio too. Let them be enthusiastic about the project.
Great contractors take pride in their work and want challenges too. If you’re working on a LEED Platinum project, or a project with a tricky facade detail, or something unique, expect and enjoy a contractor that gets excited about working on such cool things.

Share the costs of the photos. Mention them in the marketing and PR of the project after it’s done. (You hate when articles fail to mention the Architect, don’t you?!)

Expect to work with them again. Great contractors are invaluable. In San Francisco, I have the same stable of 5 Contractors I used for most jobs (City, East Bay, South Bay, Marin).

5. Contractors are better business people than you, probably. Remember the cost of running a business.Application for Payment and change orders can often be way off, but sometimes the Contractor is simply trying to get ahead for cash flow to order the next round of materials for the project.

Architect as initial decision maker, but can’t be biased to your client (the Owner.)

While you may be willing to spend hours working overtime for free, the Contractor does not (and should not).

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