Sunday, February 28, 2010

Dealing With Errors In Construction Documents

Arthur O’Leary Responds To Your Email

Dealing With Errors In Construction Documents
An email inquiry of last September in respect to construction insurance was the spark that caused me to write the article called, “Unraveling the Mysteries of Construction Insurance.” I hope it expands the understanding of an architect’s responsibility in the field of insurance.

A followup email asks about what, if any, I have written on architect’s errors and omissions. The subject is covered partially in “Professional Standard of Care for Architects and Engineers” in the May/June 2001 issue and in “Doing our Best to Avoid Claims,” in the Nov/Dec 2000 issue.

The subject is also addressed in my book, A Guide to Successful Construction — Effective Contract Administration, in Chapter 25.

Errors in the construction documents are a great embarrassment to architects and engineers, even if they don’t have great monetary value. But we all know that we are not perfect. It is almost inevitable that some errors will appear no matter how careful we are and regardless of the amount of checking we do.

One of the best ways of taking the sting out of it is to condition the client in advance. Before and during document preparation, tell the client that you and the firm are not perfect. You can say that you are careful and that you and all your personnel are competent. But you are not perfect. Tell the client that you will do your best but you cannot guarantee perfection any more than doctors or lawyers can.

The client might ask about your professional liability insurance. You can tell the client that the insurance only covers professional negligence, i.e., your deviation from the professional standard of care. An error, per se, is not negligence. For example, if an error remains in your documents even after being checked by a competent person, this is not negligence. It could be negligence, however, if the documents were not checked, and the error could have been uncovered if the drawings had been checked.

An error in judgment may not be negligence. Reread the article on professional standard of care, as that is the standard you must meet.

It is important that when an error comes to light, that the architect has an open and frank discussion with the client. Do not try to get the contractor to pay for it, as then you owe the contractor and you might be expected to return the courtesy in kind by overlooking the contractor’s errors, to the detriment of the client.

Maybe one of these days I will write an article on this topic. Don’t be too surprised if such an article borrows these lines from this letter.

Art O’Leary

Arthur O’Leary solicits suggestions from the readers of Design Cost Data for subjects that they would like to see covered in future. O’Leary’s email address is Please write him with any questions, thoughts, or subjects that you would like to see covered related to the practice of architecture or construction law.

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