1) Say “I’ve never had to do that before…” Well, maybe you haven’t. But maybe you should have been doing that and you just didn’t realize it. Or just maybe this project is just different and has its own requirements. Never bagged the ends of your ductwork after a wipe down in the factory? This is your first cleanroom, I expect? Never put down crack suppression material under a ceramic tile floor? Never submitted Shop Drawings? Let’s read the contract documents and talk about it. As an architect I’ve learned a lot from some pretty savvy tradesmen who quietly pointed out better ways of doing things. And I’ve also had to hold firm on project requirements, despite what you did on your last job. If you wanted to do this job different than the way the documents called for it to be done, you should have said so before you accepted the contract.
2) Ignore the Submittal Process The submittal process exists for a reason: usually to make sure that the contractor has contracted with appropriate suppliers and trades to do the work at the quality level and in the manner shown in the design documents. Architects can become irritated when they suspect contractors are ignoring submittal requirements. Intentionally delaying submittals in the hope that an unauthorized substitution can be made, or that extra time can be added to the project schedule, will destroy Contractor credibility. Submittals are meant to assist the Architect to generally follow the course of the work. But it is still the Contractor’s obligation to meet the requirements of the contract documents regardless of what the shop drawings say or don’t say. Additionally, the general contractor should make sure that the shop drawings from your suppliers and subcontractors have been reviewed and stamped before passing them on. Architects typically struggle to stretch their fees to cover the whole construction period and reviewing deficient shop drawings multiple times costs them real money. Don’t make them look at your submittals multiple times. Finally, remember that shop drawings are not change orders. An architect’s review of your submittals does not mean that you are okay to deviate from the contract. If the review comments seem to indicate a change from the contract documents is necessary, follow up with a Change Order Request to make the paperwork trail complete.
3) Expect the architect to create your Punch List. Zero item punch lists are the goal but for a variety of reasons may not be achievable. However, if you expect the architect to tell you what still needs to be finished or corrected in the job you are building, what message does that convey? Are you hoping that the architect won’t list every deficient item on his list, and that somehow you won’t actually have to fully complete your contract obligations? You already know (or should know) the status of every trade and supplier on the project. You know (or should know) the quality of work expected. If you are having a Substantial Completion inspection, a punch list is a likely result. Take control of the project closeout and prepare a comprehensive punch list of your own that can be reviewed during the inspection walk. Everyone will appreciate it.
4) Refer to Spec Sections as though they define Subcontract Limit lines. The function of specifications is to define the quality of products, materials, and workmanship. If you want to irritate the architect, complain that the plumbing section didn’t say anything about painting the fire sprinkler lines, or that the electrical section didn’t include controls. Some contractors attempt to use spec section divisions as definitions of contract limits, but architects usually disapprove that approach. Division of the work varies among different contractors. The scope in each subcontract depends on many factors specific to the bid process and the nature of the work. Architects are not in the best position to make such determinations, nor are they in a legally appropriate position relative to various subcontractors and trades. In addition, Division 1 specifications typically apply to all phases of the work, regardless of trade or specialty and should be included as a part of all subcontract language. Determination of which subcontractor performs what scope of work is almost always the job of the general contracting entity, not the architect.
5) Point out flaws in the documents in front of the Client. Okay, it’s true: there are no perfect sets of plans or specs. Anywhere. Can we get past that and try to figure out how to solve the problem of getting the project built right without the posturing in front of the Client? As an architect I hate the feeling of always having to watch out for a contractor trying to discredit my capabilities or my relationship with a Client. The Contractor often spends far more time on the work-site with my Client than I do, going over the details constantly. Why not show them the stuff that works, not just the stuff that doesn’t? To be fair, this doesn’t happen often and certainly not always on purpose. But keep your observations and criticisms for a time when just you and the architect are present, or risk having him become defensively critical of the quality of your work too.