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Professional Practice Hack: Don’t Start Construction Unless Your Drawings Are 100% Complete



Make sure your Conceptual Design and the corresponding Construction Documents are 100% complete before you begin construction. And push back against clients and contractors that want to push you to “whip up some basic drawings just to get started.” All fixtures, finishes, lighting, furniture, equipment, and every single material and effect needs to be sorted prior to construction. All of your building envelope details need to be sorted. All of your code related items need to be vetted and incorporated and be perfect. During the past 12 years, we too often got into projects with clients and builders pushing to use incomplete drawings because they wanted to move into construction quickly. But when this does happen, who assumes the risk here?

In various scenarios, EA has been too accommodating at times because we wanted the work and we wanted to make a hasty client happy. In some cases, we started projects with Schematic Design drawings and spent the entire project only one step ahead of the contractor. And in most cases we ran construction meetings, coordinated work-flow in the field, and went well beyond what any Architect would do for a client. While the standard of care was exceptional given the circumstances, we were challenged at every turn.

During this period, some projects were resounding successes, but others suffered as a result. Not a single project was “the best we can do.” That is, that next level potential was not quite met. So to all you Architects out there buildings out your design timeline; be generous. Design can be fickle and you need adequate time to let it grow and evolve. Be sure to give yourself enough time for design so that those drawings, when completed, are an excellent representation of a complete design. So do renderings. Order those samples instead of looking at your computer screen. Take the time to get it right, and then reflect that thought process in well developed detailed drawings to capture everything.

When complete drawings are in the field, it sets the tone. You can speak confidently about their content. You aren’t sorting things on the fly. No matter how good a designer you are, you cannot achieve next level design on the fly during construction. Don’t do it. The same can be said about construction details. Adhere to the RFI process. If a conversation is had in the field to change something, the contractor is required to be sending over an RFI (Request for Information) and a Change Order (Cost Impact and Schedule Impact). Don’t accept anything less or you could find yourself in situations later where you have differences of opinion on what was discussed if the drawings are a “work in progress.”

This is part of our Stewardship Series where we give insight into our industry for aspiring professionals and business owners alike.

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