Are Peer Reviews Effective?

The project was a new single family residence. The architect wrote the specifications as notes to be placed on the drawings. The architect asked for help. Before issuing the documents for bidding, he wanted the specifications reviewed.

The specifications were little more than 7 pages long. They were organized by CSI Division numbers. The division topics were arranged in order by MasterFormat. So, all was good. Right?

Well by the time I finished, there were total of 54 comments on the specifications, nearly 8 comments per page.

  • Some comments were simply to explain suggested text revisions for using preferred specifications language.
  • Some were detailed discussions about inappropriate product applications with recommendations for what should be done.
  • Some addressed code compliance issues.
  • Some were to help limit potentially open ended substantial and final completion reviews by the architect.
  • Some were simple coordination issues for consistency between the drawings and specifications.

The review found all this on only seven pages of specifications and five drawing sheets. What do you think the result might be if this were a commercial project with hundreds of drawings and hundreds of specifications pages? The number of comments could be staggering.

Our experience providing detailed peer reviews of drawings and specifications tells us typical construction document sets generate at least 10 comments for each drawing sheet. Some projects have had over 20 comments per sheet. Do the math. Without review, how many RFIs might need to be answered? How many change orders may result? How much time must the design team spend?

The effort required during construction administration to deal with the contractor's questions could be much more than anticipated. Is there any mystery why A/Es may be losing money during a project's CA phase? The potential cost to the owner could mount from unexpected change orders. The owner will not be happy. A disgruntled owner will not willingly recommend or endorse the architect to his friends, depriving the architect of potential future work.

So how long could a review such as this take? Several hours' time for the initial review. I expect to have a telephone discussion with the architect to resolve all the comments and offer suggestions for final corrections. I will spend less than one day's total time to complete the review for this architect's project.

Was the small fee for this review worth the expense? Would avoiding a $10,000 change make it worthwhile? Absolutely! Plus the life-time value of maintaining the architect's reputation and making the owner happy can be immeasurable.

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