Designing and constructing a building is a team activity. The owner, architect and builder come together to do a project, collaborating to produce a unique result. As the project unfolds, there are hundreds of individual design decisions to be made. Conditions change; work is modified. A strong relationship between the owner and the architect is essential.

The Owner’s Responsibilities. What are your responsibilities as the owner for the project? Initially, you need to provide the design objectives, the brief (“shopping list” of inclusions), constraints and site requirements. You must also establish the budget and be clear with your architect how this relates to the brief. Quite often the two do not meet…which one is elastic? If expectations do not meet costs, either the brief must shrink or the budget must grow!

Keeping the project running smoothly. As the owner, what can you do to keep the project running smoothly? Here is a summary of what the owner can do:

  • Team Member. Stay involved in the project planning process. Be clear with your own deadlines.
  • Meetings. Attend regular meetings with your architect and later, your builder. Ask your architect to take minutes of these meetings to record decisions made.
  • Decisions. Make decisions promptly when asked for input. Keeping the project on hold awaiting decisions can upset the fine balance of scheduling that the builder establishes.
  • Questions. When you are not clear about something, ask a question! You need to fully understand everything that is going on and sometimes your builder and/or architect will not know that you don’t understand.
  • Review Drawings Carefully. Ensure that you fully understand and agree with everything on the drawings. Things are much easier to change when they are lines on paper than when they are bricks and mortar.
  • Problems. If problems crop up, address them promptly to ensure that the project proceeds at pace.

One decision that you make can influence the progress of your project immensely, and that is the decision of whether or not your architect’s service should continue after obtaining Council approval. What further services can your architect provide?

  • Administer the Construction Contract. This would include evaluating the work as it proceeds for it’s adherence to the documents, receiving the builders claims for payment and certifying them if appropriate, and attending periodic meetings at the site to review progress.
  • Make Design Decisions during Construction. These may be required due to unexpected conditions discovered, the need for further refinements of the design or your own changes in your requirements.
  • Final Inspection. Inspecting the work on completion and preparing a defects checklist for the builder to complete any incomplete or faulty work prior to the owner moving in.
  • Defects Liability Period. For a period of time after completion, the builder should return following an inspection by the architect to rectify any problems that have cropped up after completion.

Establishing an effective relationship with your architect and builder will give you a head start in ensuring that your project proceeds without problems and finishes successfully!