100% Construction Documents

How many times have you labeled construction document issues by percent completion? It's a fairly common occurrence. The documents are ready to be issued at the end of Design Development, so they are labeled 100% Design Development. Then during the construction documents phase each progress issue is named by the percent completion, 50%, 90%, and finally 100% Construction Documents (CDs).

Psychologically, it is a great feeling to be 100% complete. The relief when the final printing starts can be euphoric when realizing there is nothing more to do.

Are 100% CDs truly 100% complete? 100% complete for what purpose? For bidding? For permitting? For construction? For billing? For all of these? I suppose it all depends on your point of view.

From the Design Team
I believe the perspective of the design team is simple. It's a schedule milestone, not an indication of the completeness of the documents. The construction documents phase required by the Owner-Design Team agreement is complete. The documents are developed to the degree needed for bidding, permitting, and construction.

The design team typically expects revisions, additions, and sometimes deletions from the construction documents during bidding and construction. Sometimes the first addendum is planned before the 100% CDs are actually issued - recently completed projects are cases-in-point.

Building officials will comment. Bidders will have questions. The design team will respond with addenda to resolve the comments and questions. Obviously the documents are not 100% complete, they were simply deemed suitable for a particular purpose.

From the Construction Team
The design team labeled the documents 100% CDs. They must be complete. We should be able to follow these documents, essentially without question. No RFIs needed.

Perhaps, but don't start the party yet. Beware that dreaded phrase "The contractor shall perform all work to complete the project, as required to meet the design intent, whether or not the work is shown on the drawings or specified."

Weasel words! Design teams label the documents 100% complete and then put the burden on the contractor to complete all that is not documented by inferring the intent from the documents. Aside from being totally unfair, phrases such as this attempt to shift responsibility, globally, for what is missing and require the contractor to assume a risk that is not rightfully his.

From the Owner
The design team issued the documents required by their agreement and issued their final design phase billing. Obviously, the design team considers the construction documents phase complete. If the documents are 100%, the design contingency line item in the project budget can be reduced to zero. Now the contingency will be for construction only.

But wait! There is no permit yet, and the contract is not signed. So, the design contingency should not be zero, at least not without a construction contract. There may be contractor proposed alternatives to consider that affect the design. There may be building official comments that require design modifications.

Though labeled 100% CDs, revisions will likely be needed, and some contingency must be maintained.

From the Attorney
100% complete. Every detail was drawn. Every material was specified. Each nuance was described so the contractor could comprehend the design, completely. 100% complete implies nothing is missing and no additional clarification will be needed - a highly unlikely scenario, indeed.

"Mr. Architect, can you explain to the jury why this detail was missing when the documents were labeled 100% CDs?" I hope I am never in that position.

From a Wise Professor
"Architecture is never done. You just run out of time, patience, or money."

- Hal Barcus, my architectural professor at Miami University

Accept it! Forget the idea of labeling design and construction documents as 100%, anything. Design may continue until the keys are turned over to the owner, and beyond.

What to Advise
When issued for bidding, that 100% CDs label is technically incorrect. The documents become "Bidding Documents" rather than construction documents. Later when the contract is signed, they become "Contract Documents." So these 100% CDs are properly labeled for only a very brief moment - from the time the design team agrees to "pencils down" until the documents are issued for bidding or construction.

So what should the documents be labeled if not 100% CDs? I encourage our clients to simply date the documents or identify them with an issue number. As long as the documents can be identified, easily, as a complete set, there is no need to include a percent completion.

How will you label your next set of construction documents?

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