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The mission of the AIA Small Firm Exchange (SFx) is to advance the mutual interests of architects practicing in small firms. The objectives of the AIA SFx are three-fold:

1. Advocate for small firms within the AIA and in outside organizations and agencies.
2. Promote leadership in Small Firm professional development and practice; and
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Construction Administration - The new - "No Risk" Contractor electronic portal

  • 1.  Construction Administration - The new - "No Risk" Contractor electronic portal

    Posted 11-05-2019 02:18 PM
    My Firm has three ongoing projects that are using electronic online Construction Administration portals that were initiated by the Contractor(s) - I have  issues with this, and wanted to hear if others are having similar thoughts - First off, Contractors are posting everything to this format - It appears that volume is their way of getting justification for having 3 to 4 staff member's assigned to a project and just posting over and over - We are being buried with RFI(S) and Contractor is seeking anyone else to be responsible for everything from approval on valves to be used in showers assembly to the type of J-box to be used on an ADA door opener. I'm old school, and would have scheduled site meetings; and part of the agenda was to review RFI logs so we could discuss whom should be answering the question and or who is responsible for the answer - My  second question,  is everyone seeing an enormous rise and Contractors seeking so many sketches and details on how to do something - so they have no risk or responsibility - especially to price something new during construction - They are asking the Architect for all the drawings needed and specification so in the end, they can provide a large change order, telling the owner, "Well this is what the Architect wanted...." My third thought, with the electronic CA system everyone thinks things can and should be answered in an hour not the standard turn around time. Lastly, I always try to start any CA phase be sitting down and getting everyone to realize we are all trying to work towards a good project - but this online CA system is one more way to take good communication out of the project and everyone just depends on electronic communication, I exemplify this with a story of my firm rejecting a submittal because the fixture was substituted without our knowledge, only to have Contractor through portal send out 16 different items trying to get our rejection overturned - I called for a site meeting in person and the issue was resolved in 15 min. Thoughts.....

    Gary Lepore AIA
    LDL Studio, Inc.
    Providence RI

  • 2.  RE: Construction Administration - The new - "No Risk" Contractor electronic portal

    Posted 11-06-2019 05:45 PM
    Hi Gary,

    CA can be a B*tc* when contractors play games. I like to call them on the carpet EARLY in the process when they start doing stuff like "RFI for every little thing". One way of doing this is:

    1) Stupid RFI #01 comes in
    2) Call them on the carpet and tell them they are being a big baby and I (the architect) am not going to play your stupid game.

    This can head off a lot of future time wasting RFIs. Their game is to snow you in RFIs, make you look stupid, get between you and the owner, and get change orders. Don't let them do it.

    Honestly, the same thing for your second question. They should provide YOU with THEIR shop drawings, not the other way around.

    I don't have any problem with an electronic portal for CA, but I do have a problem with contractors abusing the CA process.

    David Sisson AIA
    David Sisson
    Providence RI

  • 3.  RE: Construction Administration - The new - "No Risk" Contractor electronic portal

    Posted 11-07-2019 07:26 PM
    Edited by Jonathan Taylor 11-07-2019 07:28 PM

    Hi Gary and David,


    I've been venting in the office today about RFI abuses, so how timely is this – let's enjoy the fact too that we're all in RI!

    From a portal standpoint, I prefer to use our internal SharePoint site or email. They can manage their subs however they want, but as the administrator of the construction contract, I know what I want for both RFIs and submittals, so I specify what I want: "1. Contractor shall identify preferred method of electronic submittal delivery.  Once identified, all electronic submittals shall use the same method.  Post electronic submittals as PDF electronic files directly to a) Architects SharePoint site b) Contractor's project web site specifically established for Project (access to be provided to Architect and Owner), or c) submit electronic submittals via email as PDF electronic files. 2. Design Team will return annotated file through email and/or Architect's SharePoint site." 

    I agree, you need to aggressively manage what is submitted for review. If an RFI is incomplete, I don't hesitate to reject it and indicate it's an incomplete RFI. Sometimes RFIs are really change order requests or incomplete submittals. I do respond to these, but I start with, "this is not an RFI, but is a change request…or a submittal – please provide shop drawing to include the requested items for review."

    I also specify when RFIs/submittals will be logged in and considered received. RFIs after 1pm are received the next business day. Submittals after 5pm M-TH and after 2pm F are next business day. I may look at it sooner, but the clock doesn't start counting Friday night on a 3-day weekend - I'm done with those games. I do try to respond to RFIs within a few days, submittals a week or 2 depending on what they are. If the submittal list gets long, I ask the contractor to prioritize them. I include this language in the specification also, so I can cite it when necessary.





    Jonathan Taylor AIA, NCARB, LEED AP BD+C
    Senior Associate/Director of Design Implementation
    LLB Architects
    Providence RI