Re: Contruction, Architects and Building Commissioning
From: James Kacki (
Date: Sun, 29 Jul 2007 19:58:32 -0700 (PDT)
Hi Katie,
Thanks for your excellent and concise summary of the process during and after EVC construction. As an architect, one thing confuses me. Where was your architect and what role did he/she play during construction? Other than commissioning the mechanical systems, everything you describe (client advocate during construction, watching out for construction errors, etc.) is supposed to be the architects role and is usually part of the architects fee. Roughly speaking 25% of the fee is for design, 50% for working drawings(blueprints) & specifications, and 25% for construction phase services. As this indicates, approx. 25% of the architects (and engineers) work is reviewing construction, making sure it's built according to the drawings & specs and thus protecting your interests during construction. So my question is what did your architect do during construction? If you paid the architect full fees, it seems that you may have paid the 'construction advocate' for the same thing that the architects and engineers are supposed to do. (Other than commissioning after construction, granted, this is a new growing new field of consulting -& expense for the client- spurred on by LEED) But I may be missing something. I'd appreciate your response, based on your experience at EVC. Thanks!!
All the best,

-----Original Message-----
From: katie-henry [at]
To: cohousing-L [at]
Sent: Sat, 28 Jul 2007 3:23 am
Subject: Re: [C-L]_ Contruction, Architects and Building Commissioning

Allow me to clarify a few things about the two DC-area cohousing communities developed by Don Tucker and how our construction and post-occupancy processes differed. I detected some misunderstandings in earlier messages.

Takoma Village (TVC) is in DC. This is where Sharon lives. They moved in about seven years ago.

Eastern Village (EVC) is in Silver Spring, MD, about two miles from TVC. This is where I live. We moved in almost three years ago.

Both were developer-driven projects. Both buildings are very green, but EVC is the project that is LEED Silver certified.

Takoma Village was Don's first cohousing project. Sharon has described how they hired a consultant to do an engineering study after construction was complete, and how several problems were found that required extensive remediation.

As a result of this experience, Don required EVC to hire a construction advocate, at our own expense, to represent our interests during construction and catch problems early when they would be easier to fix. This shouldn't indicate any lack of confidence in our general contractor, who was fantastic, but EVC was a challenging project that involved completely rehabbing an old abandoned office building, implementing new construction techniques (such as extensive recycling, air quality controls, etc), and installing a green roof and lots of new-fangled green technology. The more eyes on the project, the better.

We hired Stan Sersen, of the Architectural Support Group, for this position. It was an interesting situation because Stan was also employed by Don as a green building consultant and as the commissioning agent. There was concern about conflict of interest, since Stan would be working for both parties, but in the end it has worked out extremely well. Since Stan was involved during construction, we did not feel it was necessary to have a post-construction engineering study done. Stan did a final inspection of the building exterior and the common areas, but it was mostly cosmetic stuff. There was no need for him to pull apart walls and take off chunks of the roof because he'd been there when they were built.

As I mentioned, Stan was also the commissioning agent. He got our equipment up and running (extensive testing required), reviewed our O&M manuals, got us trained on the equipment, made sure we understood our warranties, made sure we got the necessary maintenance and inspection contracts in place, etc. Stan also did our reserve study. Stan is a man of many talents. We are now approaching the end of our three-year building structural warranty. Stan will be back soon to do another inspection and identify any issues that might be covered by this warranty.

In summary, I can't recommend highly enough that communities should have someone representing them on building issues, especially for a multi-family building. It ain't cheap, but it's money well spent.

Eastern Village Cohousing
Silver Spring, MD
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