Re: Re: design team
From: Nadia M. Anderson (
Date: Wed, 11 Jan 2006 16:12:51 -0800 (PST)
Speaking as an architect/contractor as well as someone involved in co-housing from (somewhat) a client's point of view (my parents are moving into a community currently under construction), I want to underscore what Katie is saying about the importance of O&M manuals and As-Built Drawings. These should be part of the contractor's "deliverables" and should be written into their contract as required within a certain time frame or else payments are penalized or forfeited. There should also be a "warranty" period written into the contract to protect against defects, etc. in equipment and workmanship during the first year or so of the project's life.

I would also suggest having a Project Manager who represents the community at all contractor meetings, documents work progress, keeps meeting minutes that include action lists, reviews contracts, monitors payments, communicates individual community member requests to the appropriate parties, etc. Traditionally, this is one of the architect's roles and s/he can in most cases perform this task very well but you must make sure that "construction administration" is included in their contract. This means they are involved through the construction phase of the project, beyond design and production of construction documents. This often involves an additional contract and different kind of fee structure (hourly is quite typical). In any case, this person should be experienced in the construction industry, be a good communicator, and be tough as nails!

In any case, be sure to get references for your developer, architect, and all contractors. Make sure the references are for relevant similar projects and absolutely check up on them! I hate to say it, but construction can be a pretty sleazy business and while the up-front costs of all these professionals may seem high, they are probably much lower than the future costs of problems that often occur without them.

Nadia M. Anderson
Iowa State University
Ames, IA

 > I should have said "engineers and librarians" because all the
 info has to be saved and recorded in a format that everyone
 can access.

Sharon and I tend to speak with one voice on this topic since we're both living in large, complicated multi-family buildings and dealing with issues you don't find in single-family-home communities.

The most important thing you can do in this respect is get Operations & Maintenance manuals and as-built drawings from the construction company once construction is complete, and then verify everything to make sure it's correct while the info is fresh in your mind. Our contractor needed some encouragement -- in fact, a year after move-in and we're still waiting on drawings for our site drainage system and a few other things -- but for the most part they did a fantastic job. We have four fat indexed binders full of manuals or data sheets for every single product used in the building -- everything from elevators to windows to plumbing fixtures to paints and adhesives.

Once you have the O&M manuals, you have to go through them and identify everything that needs regular maintenance or servicing and come up with a plan for doing this work (or outsourcing it). But that's another story.

Back to the as-built plans. This is a set of the original plans with notations about changes made during construction. It's a good idea to verify them. There were issues with our electrical subcontractor, so I've been spot-checking our circuit breaker labels and as-built drawings and finding a bunch of inconsistencies. In the meantime we had another electrician working on the building, so now we are now embroiled in complicated negotiations over what, if anything, is the original electrician's responsibility and whether or not it's warranty work. But at least we're getting it resolved now for free instead of in five years when we'd have to pay an electrician a small fortune to trace the circuits. This is an unusual situation, but it illustrates the importance of getting technical people involved in the design team.

Eastern Village Cohousing
Silver Spring, MD
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