The eye's of a project

Imagine this scenario:  you’ve worked long and hard with a bright, talented Architect to produce a beautiful set of plans and specifications for your new home.  You have gone thru the process of figuring out your likes and dislikes, the organization and arrangement of programmatic elements, the refinement of proportions and details, etc.  You have successfully made your way thru the town municipal departments and have undertaken the careful selection process of contractor selection.  Your ready for all of this hard work to become manifest in something physical, that you can see and touch and move thru.  So what is the next logical step?  Can you conceive of handing a blank check to your contractor and saying, “See you when it’s finished!”

Intuitively, every construction project, regardless of the size, requires a set of eyes to observe its progress.  This precaution does not necessarily denote a lack of trust in the contractor.  However, it is a way to stay ahead of misunderstandings, misread information, overlooked design considerations and a variety of other unforeseen situations that are guaranteed to come up during the course of construction.  Since every successful project is a result of a team effort, here is a list of “the eyes” on a typical high-end residential project.


Supervision is the day-to-day direction of the means and methods used on the construction site to build the project.  This is the sole responsibility of the contractor.  The site supervisor directs and coordinates the subcontractors and tradesmen and answers their day-to-day questions.  They are responsible for site safety measures and procedures and they ensure that everyone follows them on the job site.  The site supervisor is the key point of contact with the Architect and the Owner as they are in the unique position of knowing everything that is happening on the project.


The management of the project involves all of the back office work of the contractor.  Developing and maintaining the project schedule, ordering materials, paying subcontractors, and generating the proper project paperwork (payment requisitions, change orders, etc).  In a mid to large company, a dedicated office staff manages the project in order to allow the project supervisor to focus all of their attention on supervision.  In a small company, it is common that the project supervisor also does the project management duties.  Regardless, both the project supervision and the project management are equally critical to the success of the project.


Before building your project, you will have to obtain a building permit.  At the end of construction you will have to get a “Certificate of Occupation” allowing you to occupy the house and effectively closing out your building permit.  In order to obtain this “CofO” you will need a series of inspections by the town-building inspector.  These periodic inspections are scheduled by the contractor and are performed by the building inspector for conformance to code conditions.  Generally, building inspectors are conscientious and knowledgeable and perform a real service to Owners, protecting them from the most severe construction deficiencies.  But, keep in mind, that the building inspector is only concerned with minimum code compliance and are only looking at specific things for each inspection.  Building inspectors are not there to review quality or workmanship and do not ensure that the contractor is building per the drawings and specifications, except as it relates to code issues.


This is what your Architect can do for you during the course of construction.  Observation involves the periodic checking in at the jobsite to ensure that the project is following the design intent and quality standards that are defined by the drawings and specifications of the project.  The Architect also answers the many questions from the contractor to help them interpret the drawings correctly.  Construction Observation is a critical component of the Architect’s services in that it helps avoid missteps and inevitable unknown field conditions that crop up on every project.  The Architect also reviews the paperwork from the Contractor such as payment requisitions and change orders.  But, the Architect’s Observation differs from “inspection” or “supervision” because those terms carry legal definitions that significantly exceed the Architect’s actual role and responsibility.  Because there is a requirement for an inspector to know all of what is going on at the jobsite (that every nail being driven is the correct size and type, that they are driven exactly according to the specifications, etc.) it is not possible for the Architect to certify that the work is in complete accordance with the plans and specifications.


This is the role of the Owner.  After all, it’s your money and your home.  The Owner needs to make sure that all of the people who are critical to the success of the project are carrying out their responsibilities and working to protect your interests and investment.  Timely decisions that need to be made and prompt payment to the various project team members are critical to staying on schedule.

It takes a team effort to keep eyes on the job and ensure the success of a project.  The lack of any of the team members listed above is a detriment to the project and frequently results in scheduling problems, workmanship and quality issues, budget overruns, etc.  Successful projects are the result of all of the eyes working together to identify problems and work thru solutions before they become big problems.  This collaboration is the key ingredient to a projects success.