The general contractor will normally have an inspection process to ensure that the work of all subcontractors is progressing as indicated in the contract documents and that the work meets the standards of quality and workmanship. On smaller projects, this may be done by the project superintendent  . On large projects, a team of quality-assurance inspectors generally assists the contractor’s project superintendent. These inspectors are individuals who, by training and experience, are specialized in their own areas of construction—for example, concrete, steel, or masonry.


Additional quality control is required by the contract through the use of independent testing laboratories. For instance, structural concrete to be used on the site must be verified for strength and other properties by independent concrete testing laboratories.

Leaving quality control of materials and performance entirely in the hands of the contractor is considered inappropriate. It can render the owner vulnerable to omissions and errors in the work, and it places an additional legal burden on the contractor. Therefore, the owner usually retains the services of the project architect to provide a third-party level of scrutiny to administer the construction contract. If not, the owner will retain another independent architect, engineer, or inspector to provide construction contract administration services. The contracting community favors this third-party oversight of its work.

The architect’s role during the construction phase has evolved over the years. There was a time when architects provided regular supervision of their projects during construction, but the liability exposure resulting from the supervisory role became so adverse for the archi-tects that they have been forced to relinquish this responsibility. Instead, the operative term for the architect’s role during construction is   field observation  of the work.

The observational role still allows the architects to verify that their drawings and specifications are transformed into reality just as they had conceived. It also provides a sufficient safeguard against the errors caused by the contractors’ misinterpretation of contract documents in the absence of the architects’ clarification and interpretation. The shift in the architect’s role to observer of construction also recognizes the important and entirely independent role that the contractor must play during construction. This rec-ognition provides full authority to the general contractor to proceed with the work in the manner that the contractor deems appropriate. This reinforces the earlier statements that:

•    The architect determines the   what  and   where . 
•    The contractor determines the   how  (means and methods) and   when  (sequence) of construction.

In other words, daily supervision or superintendence of construction is the function of the contractor—the most competent person to fulfill this role. The architect provides periodic observation and evaluation of the contractor’s work and notifies the owner if the work is not in compliance with the intent of the contract documents. This under-scores the  division between the responsibilities of the architect and the contractor during construction.

Note that by providing observation, the architect does not certify the contractor’s work. Nor does the observation relieve the contractor of its responsibilities under the contract. The contractor remains fully liable for any error that has not been discovered through the architect’s observation. However, the architect may be held liable for all or part of the work observed, should the architect fail to detect or provide timely notification of work not conforming with the contract documents. This omission is known as failure to detect.
Because many components can be covered up by other items over days or hours, the architect should visit the construction site at regular intervals, as appropriate to the progress of construction. For example, earthwork covers foundations and underground plumbing, and gypsum board covers ceiling and wall framing. Observing the work after the components are hidden defeats the purpose of observation.

On some projects, a resident project architect or engineer may be engaged by the architect, at an additional cost to the owner, to observe the work of the contractor. Under the conditions of the contract, the contractor is generally required to provide this person with an on-site office, water, electricity, a telephone, and other necessary facilities.


There are only two times during the construction of a project that the architect makes an exception to being an observer of construction. At these times, the architect inspects the work. These inspections are meant to verify the general contractor’s claim that the work is (a) substantially complete and (b) has been completed and hence is ready for final payment. These inspections, explained in Section 1.10, are referred to as:

•     Substantial  completion   inspection
•    Final  completion  inspection


In addition to construction observation and inspection, there are several other duties the architect must discharge in administering the contract between the owner and the contractor. These are outlined in the box “Summary of Architect’s Functions as Construction Contract Administrator.” Certifying (validating) the contractor’s periodic requests for payment against the work done and the materials stored at the construction site is perhaps the most critical of these functions. An application for payment (typically made once a month unless stated differently in the contract) is followed by the architect’s evaluation of the work and necessary documentation to verify the contractor’s claim. Because the architect is not involved in day-to-day supervision, the issuance of the certificate of payment by the architect does not imply acceptance of the quality or quantity of the contractor’s work. However, the architect has to be judicious and impartial to both the owner and the contractor and perform within the bounds of the contract. 


There is hardly a construction project that does not require changes after construction has begun. The contract between the owner and the contractor recognizes this fact and includes provisions for the owner’s right to order a change and the contractor’s obligation to accept the   change order  in return for an equitable price adjustment. Here again, the architect performs a quasi-judicial role to arrive at a suitable agreement and price between the owner and the contractor.    

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