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Improving the relationship between general contractors & architects/engineers (Tues Tip guest post)

November 29, 2011

The following is a Tuesday Tip guest post authored by the folks at Tools & Parts Direct, out of the United Kingdom.  The basic take away?  Good communication can save your project!

Disagreements between general contractors and architects are not only detrimental to the productivity of the project but can be costly as well.  As in any relationship, communication is the most important aspect and making sure that everyone is on the same page will go a long way towards the smooth flow of operations. Mutual respect is equally important for getting the job done without costly interruptions and blame shifting. By knowing the roles and responsibilities of each other, the relationship can be strengthened by complementing each other`s strengths and working together on any weaknesses. [Editor’s note: One way of ensuring good communication on the construction project is having a thorough, written scope of services for the designer, and thorough construction documents for the contractor.]

Since both the contractor and architect have their own distinct roles to fulfill in the building process it is important that they work together right from the start. This will prevent any confusion and avoid costly changes to the plans later on in the project. The contractor will also have enough time to point out to the architect what aspects of the plan might turn out to be impractical or impossible to implement.

When both the owner & the general contractor agree to keep the design team involved in the process during construction, this can help get the project built on time and under budget.  For example, instead stopping work to contact the architect over an unexpected site condition, it is often more efficient to simply keep the design team involved so that any field conditions can quickly be tackled together. This will eliminate, or at least minimize, tension where one party blames the other for mistakes; this type of tension often leads to a breakdown in communication, further costs, and even litigation between the parties.

It’s better if the architect & contractor avoid a boxing match!


Any changes suggested by contractor or the architect/engineer should be discussed first, and only after both the pros and cons have been weighted should a final decision be made. This will avoid situations where contractors feel like the architect is running the show or vice versa. Too much ego from either side will quickly sour the relationship and must be avoided at all costs.

Scheduling regular meetings on the site ensures that the owner can be sure that both parties are working in harmony. By having an open discussion with both the contractor and architect present, neither party will feel like anyone has gone behind their back and mutual solutions to problems can be discussed. Whether the argument is about unforeseen conditions, or site access, (almost) everything can be resolved with efficient communication.

Do you have a good story about a positive or negative relationship with a contractor?  Share your lessons learned in the comments section below.

Photo (c) The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas via Creative Commons.


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