This feature is a part of “The Dotted Line” series, which takes an in-depth look at the complex legal landscape of the construction industry. To view the entire series, click here.
Come on people, can’t we all just get along?
That’s the question that a recent report asks of architects and construction contractors.
The American Institute of Architects and the Associated General Contractors of America’s report looked at the supposed conflict between good design versus effective cost management, and why it causes friction between these cohorts.
“The ‘hard bid’ relationship is structured to be confrontational,” one architect said in the report. “The architect does not have the time or [get paid the] fee to show scope completely or to fully coordinate the project. The GC is required to bid low to get the project, then exploit information gaps in bid documents to improve profitability.”
One particular area of contention since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic with the resulting supply chain snarls has been material substitutions.
Less than a fifth of architects believe contractors propose material substitutions or other changes to serve the client’s best interests. Contractors indicate they best serve clients by ensuring projects stay within their schedule and budget, the report found.
About half of architects who responded said the architect has the majority of the responsibility to make decisions in the best interest of the client. By contrast, 88% of contractors said they share the responsibility equally.
Despite the difference in outlook, construction attorneys say that contract provisions can help bridge this collaboration gap.
For construction attorney Randy Heller, a partner at New York City-based Gallet Dreyer & Berkey, the problem of architects and general contractors not seeing eye to eye extends across the building lifecycle.