To Observe or To Inspect, That is the Question.

Being the son of a brick mason, I was always fascinated with construction sites. Some may disagree, but as an Architect, one of best parts of the job was visiting the site to observe the Work and interact with the Contractors. This month, as part of a look into the "Construction Alliance" and the "Construction Guidelines", we travel to the construction site with the Design Professional to see just what they do. "Project Visits and Observations", done properly give the Owner confidence that the design is being properly executed.

Why observation?

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As part of the basic services, the Design Professional is required to visit the jobsite and become generally familiar with the progress of the Work. The site observation allows them to be confident that the Contractor is following the Contract Documents and reassures the Owner that the Work in place conforms to the intent of the documents. Inspection on the other hand implies a higher level of observation and can be provided to the Owner as an additional service.



How often do project visits occur?

Well that depends! If it is a large or complex project, the Design Professionals may have a daily presence on the site. Medium to large projects may require weekly or bi-weekly visits, whereas smaller projects can get by with a visit once a month. At a minimum, the site should be visited monthly in coordination with the pay application. With regular communication with the Contractor, the Design Professional can better coordinate and make timely visits.

What is the purpose?

The purpose, first and foremost, is to verify general conformance or compliance to the Contract Documents. If there is a deficiency, or some work that is deficient, the Design Professional should issue a notification of non-conformance or non-compliance and the Contractor will correct the deficiency. At the same time, the site visit is a perfect opportunity to assist the Contractor in interpreting or resolving conflicts with the Documents while being able to see the issue.

Finally, the Design Professional should make an estimate of the amount of completed work which goes hand in glove with the payment application. Refer to the "Progress Payments" guideline for additional information.

Document, document, document! After the site visit, a field report should be made and distributed to the Owner and the Contractor. The report should contain the observations which were made, including weather conditions, estimates of completed work, any non-conforming work, and general observations which would assist the Owner, Contractor, and Design Professionals. Sometimes photographs taken are included, depending on the professionals office policy, some encourage them, some don't.

What about safety?

Let's make one thing perfectly clear, I'm a big advocate for job site safety and personal protective equipment. I have firsthand experience with family members being injured on jobsites and have seen many news stories about accidents at project sites. It is clear that the Contractor is responsible for site safety, so as a visitor to the job site, the Design Professional MUST comply with the Contractor's safety protocols. Some Contractor's safety protocols are more stringent than others. It is often said that Design Professionals should not comment on safety, this is true. However, while on the job site you notice something that provides an imminent threat to life or safety, you should bring it to the attention of the Superintendent.

Final thoughts!

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Speaking as an Architect, when I visit a jobsite, I check my ego at the door. Yes, I may have been involved in the production of the Contract Documents and I may know a thing or two about construction and how we (Design Professionals) think it should go together. BUT, I don't build it, others do. They have the experience I don’t have. They may know a better more economical way to put something together which improves the quality of the Work and provides the Owner with a better overall project. I learn a lot when I go to a jobsite and ask the Superintendent to explain something, or if they ask me a question, I would often ask them for their opinion, then go back to the office before making a decision.

Please make certain to read the guideline "Project Visits and Observations", and if you have any comments, please let me know. I'd love to hear your thoughts. Next month join me as we discuss the "Punch List".


Till next month…


Senior Specifier - Conspectus, Inc.

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