How to avoid unnecessarily costly construction

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Why investing in your architect during the construction process could save you thousands

You’ve spent countless hours coordinating with your architect and designer to achieve carefully articulated drawings, and you’ve finally gotten the permit to begin construction. Ideally, you’ve had a discussion with your architect about who is going to make sure these plans come to life accurately, seamlessly and on-time before the project began. However, if you haven’t, it’s not too late. Here’s why you should have the conversation that puts construction administration in the architect’s hands and the architect’s eyes on your new development from the ground up.

They pay attention and can adapt the project

A design drawing is the intended building layout, but life happens. There are many factors or impediments that cause changes during construction, such as unexpected existing conditions and conflicts. This means that the fundamental makeup of your completed building may differ from the original design documents. However, the finished building’s skeleton can still be accurately reflected in an as-built drawing. These are drawings that the architect creates during construction to document and track any changes during the process. The design is updated “as the building is built” to reflect the most accurate depiction of the building’s construction versus its intended construction. These drawing updates also allow the project to be thoroughly re-coordinated as changes occur, rather than just addressing the singular change outside of its overall context.

When you’re ready to renovate seven to ten years down the road, having as-built documents will make that process easier and cheaper. You won’t have to pay an architect to come survey the entire space again. Even if you do, many of the changes tracked in as-builts are beneath the surface, making them very costly surprises once construction commences. Re-designing to accommodate for these surprises can take a considerable amount of time, and time is money during construction. The architects may have to redraw the changes (or simply note them), the revision may have to go through permitting again, and the sub-contractors could find other jobs if demobilized.

"time is money during construction."

This delay may sometimes take you from potentially beating your lease’s start date and earning revenue before you start paying rent to not starting on time and losing money once you start paying rent. Such losses, however, are avoidable by knowing what you’re going in to and planning accordingly based on your as-builts. Having an as-built can also financially benefit you by increasing the value of the facility if you go to sell it in the future. These documents can help take some of the guesswork out of the buyer’s due diligence process and thus increase the property’s potential value.

They keep you in check.

The architect may ask, “will you need a Certified Substantial Completion document signed?” Many landlords and lenders require tenants to have a signed Certified Substantial Completion and may not distribute their tenant improvement allowance without it. It’s important for an Owner or restauranteur to check their lease and/or loan documents to see if this requirement applies before construction begins, because it must be written and signed by the architect. The architect is verifying that the general contractor has does its job, which the architect can not claim unless they regularly visited the site. If the architect is responsible for the construction administration, they will already be visiting the site and can confirm that the job was done properly for no additional fee, as well as make sure that you know to check for this requirement.

Having an architect involved in construction administration can also save you from surprising, expensive change orders. Restauranteurs often visit emerging concept job sites to “check up on things.” This gives Contractors easy access to the Owner to ask in-the-moment questions. While it may sound convenient, it can often lead to costly change orders that the Owner didn’t realize were piling up. Then once construction is complete, the Contractors can come back and say “remember when you were on-site and agreed to this? Well, that change costs $100,000.” However, if the architect manages the change order and payment process, any change request is not valid unless it goes through the architect and gets signed off by the Owner.

They keep construction in check.

Another facet that often falls through the cracks when the architect is not kept involved is scheduling special inspections. Significant construction projects often require that a third-party vendor has a structural engineer sign off on proper installations. General contractors may say they can handle calling the inspectors in to scrutinize their work. This may not be your first rodeo with construction, and you may be confident in your ability to manage the process. Regardless, you both have other jobs to do and scheduling special inspections is often forgotten. This means you end up having to tear down completed construction to have certain parts inspected, which can cost several thousand dollars.

They keep your best interest in mind.

As a middleman between your vision and the execution of that vision, the architect is responsible for protecting your investment. Since they are the only ones that know the intricacies of how you want your space defined and the practical technicalities that are necessary to make it happen, they are equipped to ensure that what you think the space is going to look like is what is being built. Additionally, if the contractor says doing something differently will save money, but doesn’t know it will interfere with another design aspect that you expressed is important to you, the architect can step in and inform you of the decision you’ll need to consider. Being an intermediary also includes making sure you see the benefit from any savings promised.

At a bare minimum, you should be paying your architect to pay attention: creating as-builts, reminding you to check your lease, keeping an eye on the site, scheduling special inspections and making sure you know exactly what is being built.

You entrusted the architect with the details of your design. Entrust them with paying attention to the execution of those details as well.

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