Re: Contruction, Architects and Building Commissioning
From: James Kacki (
Date: Fri, 27 Jul 2007 12:36:22 -0700 (PDT)
To add even more detail to Kristen's discussion, inspections and certification are typically part of an architects standard work and fee because: The municipal authorities who grant the building permit typically require that the professional who stamped/sealed the drawings submitted for Building Permit approval also inspect the construction and submit a stamped/sealed letter stating that they have inspected the construction and that it was constructed according to the approved plans and all relevant building codes. It's the municipal authority's means of ensuring that the buildings they approve are safe and 'meet code' once constructed. This process (including an architects stamp) is not usually required for single family houses, but for larger developments, it is common in most municipalities that I know (in Canada). Can other US architects comment on whether this process is required in US municipalities?

Kristen Simmons wrote:
 Some additional information about construction, Architects and Building
Commissioning to follow up on James' response below -

Architects do review construction and approve applications for payment, but
only if that is included in their scope of work (and they are paid for it).
In doing this, they are representing the interest of the owner/client, who
usually does not have construction experience, in reviewing the work on
site, work slips, etc., Basically, the Architect is reviewing the work of
the contractor for the owner.

Regarding the third party review that Sharon described in her email, I
believe that she is referring to Building Commissioning. After the building
in completed, a Building Commissioner, and independent third party,  will
review the mechanical systems to verify through tests that the may the
requirements in the construction documents. Discrepancies would then need to
be resolved by the contractor.

Building Commissioning is becoming more and more common, in part because of
growing energy consciousness (leaky buildings are expensive to both owner
and environment. It is required for LEED certification through the U.S.
Green Building Council.

I believe that the coho where Sharon lives is certified silver. Of course,
this costs money to do. Owners are the ones who hire the Building
Commissioner and pay for testing, and the construction costs may go up
slightly if the Contractor knows that he/she will be held to a higher
standard of care. But in my experience, when a building is commissioned,
issues that need correction are ALWAYS discovered. I work with some of the
best contractors in the business, but buildings and systems are very
complex; things happen when multiple trades are working (or not working)
together. This is the reality.

Keep in mind that mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems will account
for about 30% of the cost of your home, and that the biggest expense after a
home owner's mortgage is utility bills.

Sorry if long winded, but architecture and cohousing are two of my favorite

Kristen Simmons, RA, LEED
Member at Stony Brook Cohousing at the Ecovillage at JP
(now forming in Boston, MA)

Date: Thu, 26 Jul 2007 18:37:46 -0600

From: James Kacki <jimkacki [at]>
Subject: Re: [C-L]_ Professional Development vs. Self-Development
To: Cohousing-L <cohousing-l [at]>
Message-ID: <46A93E5A.2090209 [at]>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii; format=flowed

If you have an architect who produced the plans, part of his/her job
(and fee) is to review the completed construction and identify
Usually the architect is also the payment certifier (i.e. at the end of
each month the architect reviews the work based on the plans and
assesses the contractors request for payment, then certifies the amount
due to the contractor based on the review of work completed).  This is
pretty standard, part of the architects work; so there is usually no
need to hire an engineer to separately identify deficiencies. If there
are deficiencies at the end, the architect certifies that the contractor
will not receive his last payment until the deficiencies are corrected.
If there is site work to be done (grading, water &sewer, etc.), an
engineer would design it, review the work each month and be the payment
certifier for that engineering work.
Its a standard system that works well.
James (an architect)

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