Eric Balogh of The Beck Group talks about the architect’s role during construction & evaluation at the Peachtree Center project in Georgia. He’ll explain RFI’s, submittals, quality assurance & quality control, site visits, and field reports. Get information on the revision process, payout process, and a better understanding of the Punch List process.

Practical Applications

Peachtree Center is a nearly 60-year-old John Portman building incorporating four towers, a plaza space, and a mall. Our project seeks to modernize and make the plaza space, as well as the mall, more inviting to the nearly 12 million visitors it sees every year.

In the traditional design-bid-build method, the architect actually becomes the agent of the owner and is sort of the person who makes sure that the contract is actually being executed. Because the contract is now between the owner and the actual contractor. The architect is no longer, sort of, contractually attached to the project.

Traditionally, in a design-bid-build situation, you're helping the owner select a general contractor and the general contractor is then going out and actually doing the subcontractor selection. As part of the design build process, the contractor and the architect have a relationship prior to this phase so really when you get to the construction beginning, you're actually more looking at the subcontractors. Everything from have they done similar work, are they qualified financially or do they have the money to be able to this, do they have the manpower, are they too busy?

You have to remember that in the construction phase, the architect is not necessarily loyal to the owner or the contractor, they are loyal to the contract documents, so there are times where you make mistakes, and you need to be able to communicate that to the owner, particularly in this project being a renovation, there are a lot of issues, things that you miss, things that aren't quite the way you expected it or details that don't quite work out and I personally believe that it's important to be open and transparent with the owner and just say hey, this is something that we missed, we have a solution in mind, this is the solution, and make sure that you're kinda being honest. 'Cause I feel like that'll help your relationship during this process. The other side of it is sometimes, you know, the contractor makes mistakes.

And everyone kind of talks about where the project is and everyone kind of goes away. Add to that group, we actually have architects almost full-time in our construction trailers. It's a very important part of the integrated process for us.

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They will tell you what the submittal is, what type it is and then you will, generally, kind of make your response after you've reviewed the submittal, checked it against the contract documents. There's a few things you want to be careful about here. You don't want to say something is correct or complete or anything that implies ownership, taking ownership of what this is.

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This is making sure that the material itself is strong enough, a lot of times durable enough, has appropriate factors say for slip coefficients, has appropriate noise reduction coefficients, there's kind of a myriad of different things depending on the product. The second part of that is product data. This is the data sheet provided by the manufacturer.

This is very important to sort of check these very closely for compliance because this is sort of, this is kinda the last chance, I guess, if you will, to sort of catch errors before the work is actually installed.

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So the OAC is the Owner Architect Contractor meeting, which is essentially where everyone kind of gets together, depending on your contract, generally we meet weekly, sometime biweekly, sometimes it's even monthly depending on the project and how involved the owner is or the architect is in this case. And it's essentially where we all kind of get together, we talk about any issues that are arising with the work, any issues that are arising with the schedule, any kind of delays, change orders, RFIs, metals, it's kind of a catch-all. It sort of keeps everyone up to date on the process, the project, and it's kind of a great place to make sure that everything is being handled appropriately.

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You need to make sure you're providing enough information but you kind of almost don't wanna do too much information 'cause you can actually expose yourself at that point. The last thing you wanna do is kinda direct work in your RFI response. You wanna provide a clarification to the design intent or to the contract.

You are now kind of enforcing the contract which is your construction documents, your specifications, and making sure that they're being built to your documents and to your specifications and the quality of that is actually part of there. There's tons of sections in your specifications about quality, workmanship's very important, making sure that everything looks right, joints are aligned, you know kind of all the nitpicky things that architects love, we love to kind of talk about and a big part is depending on your contract, generally it's a weekly site walk. So every week, you'll come and observe construction, walk the site with kind of the key stakeholders, the superintendent, the construction project manager, just to get a feel for where the project is one, what work is coming up, what work has been completed and then to sort of observe what's happening and document the work that is in place.

So, as I mentioned earlier, I mean a big part of what you're doing is ensuring that the work in place is conforming with the contract. And that can kind of be very challenging. It's sort of a subjective process, but the important thing is to remember that it doesn't have to be subjective.

People are actually walking on work that is in place, but has not quite been punched, and is not quite complete, so it's sort of a punch as we go, making sure that we can turn over the space to the owner and making sure that their able to continue operation while we continue our renovation.

There's sort of the personal relationship, and sort of the business side, the contractual relationship. As I said earlier in a traditional Design-Bid-Build. You are no longer working for the owner nor do you work for the contractor.

So that's sort of the half labor is the installed portion and three-quarters is the material and what this how this works is the contractor prepares a pay application, they say how much material we used, how much labor we've used. The architect then receives the pay application, they actually go to site; if they aren't already out there and evaluate what what was applied for and they either certify and say yes this is the correct amount. This is the material I see on-site, this is the amount of work that's been complete.

So you're actually advising the owner that this work does not conform with the contract documents, or the contract intent, or just the level of workmanship that's been expected. They have a chance to say, it's fine, don't worry about it. And in that case, I strongly encourage you to write a letter and say we don't think that this conforms with the contract documents.

Or say for instance, we have to change tile types, or something like that, and the pattern has changed we need to issue documents, sort of, backing that up, to make sure that; one, the contractor knows what the heck is going on, and two, that we're actually modifying our contract accordingly. The final way, once you sort of, something that rarely happens at the Beck Group just because of the relationship we have with the contractor is the construction change directive. And that is, sort of a, it's kind of a nasty gram, that's a, you need to change this, from the owner and the architect.

In our case, because we're integrated, I was able to sort of work with the subcontractor and our superintendent, and we came up with a solution that didn't require any additional time, didn't require any additional material, we actually just changed the pattern sort of in the overall plan of the plaza space, and we were able to sort of have kind of a net zero effect. The last kind of big thing that changes come out of is constructability. As architects, we draw a lot of details, we take a lot of manufacturer's details and sort of, not mold them, but make them more project-specific.

Or it can be every month we're gonna do a pay application and however much we've worked on, however much is in place is however much we're billing for. The work in place method is a little more uncommon. Just because there's a lot of upfront costs that have to be sort of absorbed as a portion of that.

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Say for instance, if I miss something in my design, if I forgot bollards in a parking lot, or say at the same time, say our estimation department did not put enough money in for that, you work with them to come up with a solution that still meets the design intent, but also can still meet the budget and it's essentially a zero change, zero worry in a lot of ways. It's less of a formality and more of a pat on the back, in a way. It's like they're making sure that you're getting, as an architect, the product, the design that you want but at the same time, they're making sure that they have the money and the labor to be able to install it.

That's kind of a very big part, sort of the earlier design process, but also sort of right before you go into construction, you are supposed to provide a cost estimate of the work to the owner, and there have been cases where, me personally, have gone into a bid situation not with the Beck Group, with a previous company, and unfortunately, we were wrong. A bid day nightmare happened to me. You open the envelopes, and we were unfortunately over budget, and that's kind of a tough situation to be in 'cause the owner can either, A, accept the over-budget price, they can throw it away and rebid it, or they can actually make you change it and get it in-budget for free.

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This was actually sort of a horse trading situation, where I work very closely with our construction superintendent, project manager as well as sort of the owner, and our landscape architect to sort of come up with a solution that didn't take any more time, didn't cost any more money, and we were able to actually keep moving. This did not hold up the work in any way. We were able to actually work on some of this white tile as we sort of corrected the pattern in this darker tile.

Kind of going back to the idea of sort of evaluating the work in place, you know when you're working on a project that has a lot of area say 50,000 square feet of plaza, it's a lot of times broken up in different areas. So this is what we called area two. And as you can look out here you can see waterproofing is pretty much 100% installed.

So you're actually advising the owner that this work does not conform with the contract documents, or the contract intent, or just the level of workmanship that's been expected. They have a chance to say, it's fine, don't worry about it. And in that case, I strongly encourage you to write a letter and say we don't think that this conforms with the contract documents.

It was a little easier to sort of work the elevations from that point, and that's sort of an example of a change that we were not expecting, sort of an unforeseen condition, and actually the cost difference actually went back to the owner in this situation because we kind of were ignorant to it. It was not in part of the design.

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