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Design Issues

Design Issues

Design Error, Modifications, Revisions, Approvals, Shop-drawings

Clients, when appointing a designer, whether Architect, Engineering Consultant, or a Contractor ( Design and Built Contract), expect the building to operate when complete in the manner envisaged when appointment was made. 

If the building fails to meet the client’s expectations, there are often questions asked of the designer and/or contractor as to whether the problem resulted from a failure on their part to meet their contractual obligations. these obligations will normally take the form of implied or express terms in the conditions of appointment or the terms of the contract under which the work was carried out.

Architect / Engineer Drawings Approval

Design Issues

Design Issues

In general terms when an employer appoints an Architect or engineer to design a building or work of a civil engineering nature, he is entitled to expect the Architect or engineer to be responsible for all design works. 

The approval of a contractor’s or subcontractor’s drawings by the Architect or engineer, will not usually relieve the contractor or subcontractor from liability. Employers who incur costs due to this type of error will normally commence an action against both the contractor/ subcontractor who prepared the drawings and the Architect/ Engineer who gave his approval. 

Design Coordination.

Design coordination is a crucial aspect of construction projects, typically overseen by the Architect/Engineer. However, in cases where the contractor is appointed on a design and build basis, the responsibility for design coordination may shift. The Architect has the option to disclaim the responsibility for design coordination in their contractual agreement with the employer and transfer this burden onto the contractor. If the main contractor is to assume the responsibility for design coordination, it necessitates the inclusion of a comprehensive clause in the main contract conditions.

Design coordination involves managing and harmonizing various design elements and ensuring their integration into the overall project. It encompasses the coordination of architectural, structural, mechanical, electrical, and other design disciplines to achieve a coherent and functional end result. The goal is to ensure that all design components work together seamlessly and meet the project’s requirements and objectives.

The Architect/Engineer, as the traditional design professional, typically plays a central role in design coordination. They facilitate communication and collaboration among the design team, including architects, engineers, and other consultants, to ensure consistency and compatibility between their respective design inputs. This involves reviewing and resolving design clashes, conflicts, and inconsistencies, both within and between different disciplines.

By assuming design coordination responsibilities, the Architect/Engineer takes on the role of a facilitator and coordinator. They act as a point of contact for the design team, liaising with contractors, subcontractors, and suppliers to address design-related queries, clarifications, and modifications. Their aim is to maintain the integrity of the design intent throughout the construction process.

However, in design and build contracts, where the contractor is responsible for both the design and construction aspects, the Architect/Engineer may disclaim their usual role in design coordination. This means that the contractor assumes the responsibility for coordinating the design activities internally or by engaging a separate design team. The contractor must then ensure that all design elements align with the project requirements and adhere to relevant regulations and standards.

For the main contractor to take on design coordination, it is essential to have a clear and explicit clause in the main contract conditions. This clause outlines the scope of the contractor’s design coordination responsibilities, expectations, and any specific deliverables related to design coordination. It serves as a contractual agreement between the employer and the contractor, defining the parameters within which the design coordination activities will take place.

Design Error .

Design errors can arise in construction projects, and the allocation of responsibility for such errors depends on the terms of the contract between the employer, the architect, and the contractor. In some cases, the contract may impose a full design responsibility on the contractor. However, there are situations where only certain parts of the work are designated for the contractor’s design input.

When a contract appoints an architect and explicitly assigns them the duty of preparing all the drawings without referencing the contractor’s design responsibility, it is unlikely for the contractor to be held liable for a design fault. In such circumstances, the contractor’s role is typically limited to executing the construction work based on the drawings and specifications provided by the architect.

The contractor’s responsibility primarily lies in the proper implementation and construction of the project according to the design documents and instructions received from the architect. They are expected to follow the plans and specifications diligently, ensuring that the workmanship and materials used meet the required standards.

However, it is important to note that the specific circumstances and details of the contract can impact the contractor’s liability. While the general understanding is that the contractor is not responsible for design errors in situations where their design input is not required, exceptions can occur.

For example, there might be cases where the contract includes provisions that impose a level of design responsibility on the contractor, even if the architect is primarily responsible for the drawings. These provisions could involve aspects such as design development, coordination, or adaptation to site conditions. In such instances, the contractor may be held accountable for design faults related to the designated areas of their responsibility.

Additionally, if the contractor notices any design errors or discrepancies during the construction phase, they are typically obligated to bring them to the attention of the architect or project team. This allows for necessary clarifications or revisions to rectify the issues before proceeding further. However, it is ultimately the architect’s responsibility to address and resolve any design errors or omissions identified during the construction process.

In summary, if the contract clearly assigns full design responsibility to the architect and makes no reference to the contractor’s design obligations, it is unlikely for the contractor to be held liable for design faults. Nevertheless, the specific terms of the contract, including any provisions outlining the contractor’s design responsibilities, should be carefully examined to determine the extent of liability in the event of a design error. Effective communication and collaboration between the contractor and the architect throughout the project can help mitigate potential issues and ensure a successful outcome.

Design Defects

Design defects are a common occurrence in construction projects due to the possibility of human errors, including mistakes made by architects and engineers. Contractors, who are responsible for executing the construction work based on the design specifications, may occasionally suspect the presence of a design error. In such cases, contractors have a duty to draw the attention of the architect or engineer to the potential design defect.

To notify the architect or engineer about a suspected design error, contractors can submit a formal document called a Request for Clarification (RFC). This request serves as a means for the contractor to seek additional information or clarification regarding specific design aspects that they believe may be erroneous or unclear. By submitting an RFC, the contractor initiates a communication process to address the perceived design error.

The contractor’s duty to warn the architect or engineer about defects they believe exist in the design is an important aspect of ensuring the overall quality and integrity of the construction project. By bringing these potential design errors to the attention of the design professionals, the contractor helps facilitate timely corrections and improvements, preventing further complications or costly rework during the construction process.

The RFC process allows the contractor to outline the specific concerns or areas of the design that are causing doubts or raising questions. This could include issues related to constructability, coordination with other trades, adherence to regulations or standards, or any other factors that may affect the successful execution of the project. Contractors may request additional design information or propose alternative solutions to address the suspected design defects.

Upon receiving the RFC, it is the responsibility of the architect or engineer to carefully review the contractor’s concerns and evaluate the design in question. They should assess the validity of the contractor’s observations and determine whether a design error exists. If a design defect is identified, the design professional should take appropriate corrective measures, which may involve revising the design documents, issuing clarifications, or providing supplementary information as requested by the contractor.

Effective collaboration and communication between the contractor and the architect/engineer are essential during this process. Both parties should work together to resolve any design-related issues promptly and in a manner that ensures the project’s successful completion. Clear and open channels of communication allow for the exchange of information, clarification of design intent, and alignment of expectations.

It is worth noting that the contractor’s duty to warn of design defects does not absolve the architect or engineer of their primary responsibility for producing accurate and coordinated design documents. However, the contractor’s active participation in identifying and addressing potential design errors can significantly contribute to the overall quality and success of the construction project.

In conclusion, contractors play a vital role in identifying and highlighting potential design defects in construction projects. Through the submission of a Request for Clarification, contractors can bring their concerns to the attention of the architect or engineer, initiating a collaborative process to address the suspected design errors. This duty to warn helps foster effective communication, minimize potential risks, and ultimately ensure the delivery of a high-quality and functional built environment.

Where a contractor drawings are ” Approved” by the Architect or Engineer, and an error is discovered?

Who is responsible for coordination Design? 

Can a contractor be held responsible for a Design Error? 

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