The answer to this question is both yes and no. The reality of the situation is that the architect expends the most energy and most of the fee up front on the design phases. Most architects are artists. That special artistic vision (along with technical expertise) is why owners hire an architect in the first place. The working drawing phase often ends up being rushed in order to make up for that and quality control often suffers. Another reality is that the most highly technical work – construction documents – is often done by the least experienced people – architectural interns not long out of college. The “old timer” senior draftsman that really could put together a set of documents on his own no longer exist, he did not want to make the change to computer drafting (CAD).
With the advent of building information modeling (BIM), computer technicians must be able to think in 3 dimensions (just as the computer program does) in order to correctly interpret what is shown on the screen. It’s not just lines anymore!
Finally, most architectural firms these days utilize outside consultants to design and engineer different parts of the projects (i.e. plumbing, mechanical, electrical, civil, structural, etc). Buildings have become increasingly complex in the last several decades with technological advances and increased energy conservation and “green” conscientiousness. The architect is presently faced with paying over half of the A/E fee to consultants. In the 1970′s, these same consultants cost only 25 percent of the fee. The squeeze is hurting the quality control at the end of the project. Professional liability insurance is expensive and the insurance industry had a big hike in 2002 – 10 to 20% and rates have continued to increase annually at that rate! Forcing the architect to pay for errors and omissions in the construction documents would probably result in bankruptcy for the design professional and the owner ends up paying the bill anyway!
Projects are code plan checked by whatever agency has jurisdiction – but they are only looking at public safety issues and NOT if the plans are buildable. The architect does this as best as he or she can, but usually is too close to the project to really “see” common problem areas — no one should proofread their own work — be it a letter, report or set of drawings! Institutions with their own review staff are typically too overwhelmed with managing their numerous projects. Some lack the technical expertise to troubleshoot all portions of the documents. Construction managers are involved with so many other aspects of the project that they also become too close to see the errors! Coordination errors and omissions typically account for over 50 percent of the change orders — and the owner pays the bill. A recent study by PC Associates for the California State Universities indicated that on average, a project has 7 or 8 errors per sheet. What the data also showed, however, that the larger projects (over 300 sheets of drawings) have a much higher average: 11 to 12 errors per sheet! Data also showed that the longer we use CAD, the sets of drawings get larger for the same construction budget. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see where this trend is going.
PC Associates feels it is important for Owners to take the necessary “litigation avoidance” steps in implementing a constructability and interdisciplinary coordination review before the bidding process. So often change orders could have been prevented if there had been an independent plan review. PC Associates provides a very unique and comprehensive plan review service that we call RemedyCheck®. These reviews reduce and eliminate many of the discrepancies, omissions, and interference problems which are the major cause of costly change orders and construction delays.
Follow up with hundreds of our clients showed that projects RemedyChecked® by our firm have completed construction with only minor change orders due to document errors.
First, by incorporating the use of RemedyCheck® in the quality assurance review process, PC Associates is able to help our clients discover problem areas when they are easy to fix. If the design office does not discover such errors during the preparation of contract documents, the contractor almost assuredly will, and at the most inopportune time. Work stops, change orders are filed, and project costs soar. At PC Associates, we believe the RemedyCheck® system helps as part of the solution — or provides a remedy — to the problem by assisting the designer, contractor and owner.
Secondly, we also review construction documents for appropriate use of materials in a constructability review that can save a client money in future replacement material costs. Specifications, as well as plans, are reviewed by specialists.
Third, at PC Associates this is all we do for a living! We do one thing and we do it very well. We guarantee our Owner clients that they will save, at bare minimum, twice our fee in change orders that can be prevented. Our track record, however, shows an average cost/benefit ratio between 10:1 & 27:1. Our competition doesn’t provide this guarantee and can’t prove it works with hard numbers.
Finally, PC Associates has Professional Liability Insurance specifically for Building Plan Review Services – something else our competition rarely provides.