How Can Owners Protect Their Interests?

Building owners contract with architects, contractors, design-builders, or integrated project delivery (IPD) teams to create the owners' facilities. These players are responsible for design and construction. There is an underutilized member of the design team waiting to help.

The specifier, operating as one of the Architect's staff or an independent consultant - essentially out of sight and out of mind, is working to protect the owner. It is the specifier's intimate technical knowledge of all contract documents - agreements, conditions of contract, drawings, and specifications - and materials that will help ensure well coordinated documents, optimum material selections, and appropriate material applications.

It is the specifiers' knowledge and skills that will help ensure owners' expectations are met.

Design & Construction Team Responsibilities
Architects design and produce construction documents to meet the owners' project requirements (OPR). Contractors, design-builders, and IPD teams build the architects' designed facilities.

Architects create the aesthetic to achieve a positive visual and spatial perception. They site the building and arrange the spaces to create a sense of place with efficient functional relationships. They select the finishes, all those products and materials contributing to the aesthetic appeal.

Contractors are hired to manage the construction process, schedule, and costs based on the architects' designs. They select the means and methods required to build the intended result described by the contract documents.

Budgets and Costs
Owners set project budgets. Architects make material and system selections affecting project costs. Under AIA owner-architect agreements, Architects' must provide conceptual level estimates of the cost of the work at completion of Schematic, Design Development, and Construction Documents design phases. Architects make a good-faith effort to design to the owners' budgets. To help meet the budget, Architects are permitted to make adjustments to the owners' program and scope of the work and include bid alternates in the construction documents. Detailed estimates to ensure compliance with the owners' budgets are an additional service - a service often relegated to contractors.

Contractors price the architects' designs with detailed estimates. Then the Value Engineering (cost reduction) exercises begin to trim the costs through scope and quality reductions to meet the Owners' budgets. At this point in the process, it is mostly about cost, not about meeting the owners' expectations or maintaining compliance with the OPR.

How Can Specifiers Help?
Working directly with owners, the specifier could be the first line of defense.

The specifier can document the OPR for individual projects and as corporate standards before design begins. The specifier is trained to collect and analyze data and then present the data in a form understandable by both the design and construction teams. This training applied to OPRs will establish the basis for the mutual understanding of the owners' objectives and serve as a benchmark for the design teams' response.

The specifier is always the first construction drawing interpreter. The specifier reviews and analyzes the architects' drawings to determine the aesthetic intent and to identify materials that will be required to complete the construction. During the process, it is the specifier that conducts the design team inquisitions to gather the remaining data needed to advise the design team and help select particular materials and application methods consistent with the OPR.

As the OPR creators, specifiers record design decisions to document compliance with the OPR as the project moves through the design and construction process. While monitoring the design to develop project specifications, specifiers can alert owners when potential disparities potentially impacting the life cycle performance of the constructed facility are discovered.

Specifiers understand the relationships between materials. Specifiers understand how materials are joined to form building assemblies. And Specifiers understand those interfaces between materials where they join to complete building assemblies. Specifiers also understand that substituting one material for another has implications, serious implications potentially affecting OPR compliance.

Bring Specifiers Out of the Closet
So, building owners, how can you best protect your interests? Have you considered tapping specifiers' wealth of experience and technical knowledge to help ensure your facilities meet your expectations?

Try it! You may like the result.

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