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I've been doing custom residential for 38 years and I can tell you that if the general contractor is brought in early as a collaborative team member, part of his services typically include a preliminary estimate based on a DD set of drawings. As you made reference, it would be a disservice to the client if the GC only priced the project once the full set of CDs were completed, as the price may very well exceed the client's budget and then the client has paid for architectural CD services for a project that may be too expensive.
Most contractors will do the initial estimating as part of their overhead costs. Some will charge for that service and fold it into the overall cost of the project if they end up securing the job. If they don't get the job, then they are paid for their time and effort.
The GC should be assisting in helping with value engineering. Why else would he be on the team at such an early stage? This is not a competitive bid. That's the only time the architect would come to him with a full set of CDs that he then, not estimate, but provide a firm bid. If the client wishes to move to a competitive bid scenario, then find two other GCs to price it and see what your contractor has to say about that.
Since he was brought in before the design process began, you should fully expect him to collaborate. It is not the architect's job to determine how much the project will cost. As you noted, architects do not have detailed knowledge of project costs. Your contractor is wrong.
As most AIA contracts note: "...neither the Architect nor the Owner has control over the cost of labor, materials or equipment, over the Contractor's methods of determining bid prices, or over competitive bidding, market or negotiating conditions. Accordingly, the Architect cannot and does not warrant or represent that bids or negotiated prices will not vary from the Owner's Project budget or from any estimate of Construction Cost or evaluation prepared or agreed to by the Architect".
If your GC is not familiar with Hardie board or metal roofing, I'm not sure he's the right GC and would inform your client accordingly.
One last note: I hope you have a structural engineer on board and that he, or she, has determined the existing house can support a second level, particularly since it was built in the 20's.
Depending on how "aligned" your client is with the contractor, you may be in an untenable situation.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Sent from Mail for Windows 10
Jesse Hager, AIA
C O N T E N T
3221 Milam Street, Suite 1
Houston TX 77006
713 230 8867
I see a couple of troubling things here. First, I see by your signature that you are Associate AIA. You should confirm that you do not need to be a registered architect in Pasadena to do the scale and type of work you are talking about here. If you need to be registered and you are not, your client may have a reason to withhold payment to you and create other difficulties.
Second, the story that an architect must be able to predict costs is the oldest in the book and one of the most frustrating. Here is how I try to debunk it. Even if you complete a set of CD's and bid the project, you will always have a variety of costs from different contractors. Different contractors have different labor costs, material supply chains, profit margins, and overhead costs. They may be incentivized to provide a tight bid when they are not busy, but not so when they are flush with work. The intricacies of the bid process are endless and it is not possible for you to determine these. It is the contractor's job to determine the costs of a project for that particular contractor (assuming it is design/bid/build) at that particular time.
Having a contractor on board early in the process should do exactly as you describe, help estimate costs, provide VE input, and keep the owner's expectations in line as you develop the drawings. If they are not cooperative and helpful, then it is worthless to have them on the team. If the owner is siding with the contractor, this is where the red flags start for me. Before you re-design, I'd try to get estimates from other contractors, using the DD drawings. If the owner is unwilling to do that, I'd suggest treading very lightly and be willing to leave the project if you cannot get assurances that the current contractor will work with you. I'd also ask the current contractor what has changed in your DD drawings that has made the project go over budget now. Usually the real answer is that he did not think through the project fully or ask the right questions. But if he has legitimate points about the scope or finishes, at least you have a starting point for how to attack the problem. I'd also ask for a breakdown by CSI division (or something similar) to see if he is really putting any effort into the pricing exercise, or is just throwing a number at it.
Glenn MacCullough, AIA
President, MacCullough Architects, P. C.