Many architects provide design services in five phases. One of those phases includes site/construction evaluation to provide quality control helping to ensure that design interpretation is correct. On-site we act as construction advisors to our clients looking out with their interests in mind. Past site visits have uncovered drastic misinterpretations which, if not caught, would have caused severe consequences and cost our clients thousands of dollars.
One such incident involved a footing and foundation evaluation on a set of townhomes in South Nashville. The concrete and masonry sub-contractor misread the foundation drawings and poured the footings and placed foundation block several feet in the wrong direction. Without our team catching the mistake the garages on the project would have been built too shallow and the upper levels would have been structurally unstable.
Another part of the construction administration is for our team to review shop drawings for accuracy. This same project required us to help review pre-fab truss drawings. Not catching misinterpretations upfront could cost the contractor thousands of dollars to fix and placed the project weeks behind schedule. This, like many incidents, has little to do with the lack of contractor experience but rather incorrect assumptions during construction. These kinds of mistakes happen all the time. Construction drawings are extraordinarily complex and full of large amounts of detailed information. No one knows the design better than the design team for we have figured out its constructability on the drawing board.
Success can only be achieved with critique and iteration. It takes the knowledge of the design, the understanding of construction, and the ability to think critically about the work to catch quality issues on site. The value of the architect’s presence on-site during construction is worth much more than the fee associated with the inspections. It’s impossible to catch everything but put the odds in your favor and keep your design team on board until the project is complete.