Forensic architects can serve multiple purposes throughout and after a construction job is complete. Most commonly, forensic architects are brought in to investigate the root cause of construction defects or building issues after a project is complete. However, forensic architects are also often hired onto a job during the design and construction phase to help identify any unforeseen issues that could be avoided. In these cases forensic architects are often hired as an unbiased 3rd party and act as an additional set of eyes based on the specialized experience they can bring to a job.
A high school in Alaska, a National Football League stadium, a Baltimore high-rise hotel and a Dallas airport terminal are among thousands of structures world-wide covered in combustible-core panels similar to those that burned in June's deadly London fire.
Whose fault was it? This is a frequently asked question when an exterior wall leaks, rots, or falls down. During a construction failure investigation, contractors often highlight the defects of other trades that affected their work. Defects include those that were documented during construction but not corrected. This may be due to timing and scheduling constraints.
Often the findings from building failures are then used going forward as best practices for new construction. However, those learned best practices should not be the only guideline. Critical areas that need to be addressed include the points of intersection, as many times there are multiple layers of building materials which are put in place by various subcontractors. This step is known as a pre-covering inspection. A pre-covering inspection of each layer at each wall area would be ideal, so problems at each layer do not accumulate, influence other layers, or get concealed.
The following article looks at examples of pre-covering inspection criteria to illustrate the influence each layer may have. Continue reading….
Many projects often bring to mind the famous line from Cool Hand Luke – “What we've got here is a failure to communicate.”
One of the definitions of communication from Merriam Webster Dictionary is “a technique for expressing ideas effectively.” On today’s projects, everyone on the project seems to be communicating, whether that be talking, emailing and/or sending correspondence, but the reality is that no effective communication is occurring. Many times, project participants are overwhelmed with the amount of correspondence and get extremely defensive of their positions, especially if they miss something. We may not have a failure to communicate but it appears many times that we have a failure to communicate EFFECTIVELY.
So how do we address this failure to communicate effectively??? I still remember one of my first classes on public speaking where the professor laid out a simple yet effective outline for a speech. He said in the Opening you tell them what you plan on speaking about; then in the Body you tell them what you are speaking about; and, finally, in the Conclusion you tell them what you told them! This has been shown to be an extremely effective means of communicating in speech to inform someone of a topic.
Quality on a project, many times, is one of the last considerations for an Owner whom usually focuses first on cost and then schedule.
At the end of the day, the Quality of a built project is extremely critical for a lot longer than the time it took to design and build it. In the Project Management Plan, there should be a Quality Management Plan portion. In that segment the Project Manager should outline who will be responsible for delivering quality on a project. This starts first with a good design. One of the first steps the Owner’s Representative can do is to develop a Differentiation Document that clearly outlines who will be responsible for what in a Project, similar to the following example of a site and pool area development.
As an Owner’s Representative one of the MOST CRITICAL tasks you must do is to ensure that the Owner’s Objectives are clear. Having testified in court on construction management issues, I have learned one of the most difficult things to overcome is an Owner who believes they bought “X” and received “Y” due to the documents not being clear.
When the Owner’s Objectives do not have adequate detail to allow the Contractor to build the project as the Owner desired, conflicts are sure to follow. Furthermore, some of the most difficult obstacles to overcome on a project are Owner directed changes that impact the schedule after a contract is let. Contractors tend to price Impact Charges on these changes which causes the price of the desired changes to increase to an amount that far exceeds the cost if it had been included in the original contract.
In parallel with the development of the budget is the development of the Master Project Schedule. This schedule will outline the goals of the Owner for the project with respect to time.
The Owner’s representative should develop various alternative approaches for phasing, sequencing, management and implementation of the project from due diligence through commissioning. This schedule is an outline of the key activities necessary to complete the project. Then based upon review with the Owner, the Owners’ Representative will prepare a final Master Schedule that will detail the overall time related goals for the project. This schedule should be presented in a format that the Owner can comprehend even if it is developed in a sophisticated scheduling program like Primavera P6. It is critical that the Owner’s Representative get acceptance of the time line from the Owner prior to finalizing the Master Schedule.
This is the sixth post in our year-long series about the best ways to work with your Owner's Representative. You can view all of the series posts here.
The most critical segment of the pre-design phase of your project is the development of a sound budget through good preliminary cost investigations.
A project can be made or lost in those crucial first few days or weeks if careful thought is not put into the budget. Once the budget is set and the Owner gets its funding it becomes an uphill battle to get more funding so all budgets need to be reviewed by everyone who has a stake in the project from the Owner’s side. The budget should be broken out in adequate detail to allow everyone to understand what is included in the budget and what is not included in the budget.
Most of the time budgets are developed with little, if any, design documentation. This initial budget estimate may be required prior to any plans or sketches and be based solely on a “concept” or “program,” hence the need for a well thought out and written Scope or Project Requirements, which should be developed in parallel with the budget and will provide the detail of what is included in the budget.
Actual estimating will typically be limited at this stage to broad budget type numbers based upon areas. Those areas should be included in a written Scope or Project Requirements (Program). In any budget breakdown, notes should be added to line items to ensure that others understand what was considered and be able to follow the budget logic.
This is the fifth post in our year-long series about the best ways to work with your Owner's Representative. You can view all of the series posts here.
In the Pre-Design phase of the project there may be a need for additional due diligence studies to ensure that the project is feasible. One of the first due diligence studies could be a Property Condition Assessment (PCA).
The standard format of PCA is detailed in ASTM E2018. As an Owner’s Representative when asked to assess a property we use this format when performing a due diligence study. The most critical process for the firm who is contracted to perform a PCA is systematically reviewing the property and completing the information required on the standard which will ensure that a property is completely reviewed.