Thank you for your comments Mr. Berchenko and those before you.
Florida Building Departments do NOT review bound Specifications for permit submittal and review. Therefore what it takes to get a building permit is very different from what it takes to prepare a bid tied to scope of work. Pertinent notes and specs must be in the bound set. During the 'boom' construction in South Florida many sets of construction documents were "light", to put it politely. The RFI's, Change Orders and later litigation for construction defects is the responsibility of whom? The contractor? The subs? The building inspectors. Well please guess again.
Sure ......"The individual "master builder" with encyclopedic knowledge may be rare but she has been replaced by a team, the architectural firm, that is more than adequate to the task of creating complex buildings".......
You do not practice in Florida. And throw the notion of encyclopedic knowledge out the window because that will not be part of the profession anytime soon. But liability will in litigation. It's darn difficult to lay responsibility of executed work on paper or in the field on the shoulders of the GC and subs if it was only addressed in a cursory note somewhere on the drawings, with or without a detail. And worse if it conflicts with a note somewhere else in the set.
As the "prescriptive" codes of South Florida evolved into the state wide code of 2002, along with the merging of the performance based SSBCC used elsewhere in Florida, the docs had less detail, particularly in the exterior and building envelope where water intrusion potential was greatest. No one files a lawsuit on a raised panel door that was left out with the wrong swing.
It's cumbersome to shoulder a complex project (your description in posted comment) but if you sign and seal it, it's yours, and not ....."the team, the firm, or any other entity....." if you want to stay in the clear. I also understand that in the state of NY when you sign and seal the cover sheet of a set of construction docs, you are responsible for EVERY sheet and discipline in the set. There's no shirking responsibility in our profession. What am I not understanding in the discussion? Other than the fact that there are greater monetary damages sought in big projects than the small single family residential? Sadly I know of more 'small' lawsuits against architects on single family residential than multi-story condominiums in FL
AR0012527 CGCO58238 CCC1328075
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I read Mr. Richert's comments with interest. I completely agree construction documents should be "everything you really need and no bull"... but let's not throw out the baby with bathwater! Surely Mr. Richert's exaggerates when he says, "I am very anti-architect-specbook. I think that is a liability nightmare that we should all be avoiding." The specifications and drawings are the very essence of what we do. It's a professional obligation, as well as a practical necessity, to communicate appropriately detailed design intentions, product selections, constructability information, and administrative requirements to the builder.
The individual "master builder" with encyclopedic knowledge may be rare but she has been replaced by a team, the architectural firm, that is more than adequate to the task of creating complex buildings. Of course a firm should avoid over-detailing (and under-detailing!) in both drawings and specifications. If an in-house roofing "expert" creates details and specs that negate the Owner's roofing warranty...well, let's at least hope the expert and firm both learned a lesson, albeit an expensive one. In any case, this is a mistake and not a game stopper or cause to throw out the project manual. We can and must use our knowledge, modern management techniques, and sophisticated technology to produce better documents, not give up.
As for the statement, "Our specs should be much more general and performance based": it depends on many factors. Of the various specification methods - basis-of-design, proprietary, reference standard, descriptive, performance - the last can easily become the most wordy and difficult form of specification. Performance-based specs are an important tool in the spec writer's arsenal, not a one-size-fits-all panacea for the construction industry.
One suggestion: National master guide specifications carefully avoid unnecessary verbiage that might inadvertently conflict with industry reference standards, contradict manufacturers' instructions, or interfere with Contractor's means and methods. Many firms find that their best assurance of reduced liability is to always carefully edit the latest edition of a national guide specification.
In summary, I say: meaningful details and specs...just keep doing it!
Joseph Berchenko AIA, CSI, CCS
Senior Architectural Specification Writer ARCOM