Should an architect be on-site during a build?

There are many misconceptions about this topic…particularly by owners. The way that most clients (owners) see it, paying an architect to be on the site during construction is money wasted. After all, there is a contractor at the site everyday right? Why should they need to pay an architect to walk around once a month (or at particular intervals) when there is already someone there? Well, once again, it comes down to understanding the difference between builders and architects. Builders build, and architects design. There is no overlap as they are different professions. For further reading on which should be selected first click here.

Once we understand the difference between the two positions, we can start to understand the importance of having architects on the site during construction for site observation, or CA (construction administration). The builders walk the site looking through the eyes of a builder, while the architects are intimately involved with the design…after all architect on sitethey designed the project! Nobody knows the design like the architect. The architect walks the site as if he was walking through his own drawings. Every corner, every step, every detail was designed and thought out after many painstaking hours/weeks/months to the point of perfection. Having an architect on the site is a failsafe for the owner to ensure that what the owner paid the architect to design is indeed being built. Now don’t get me wrong, the builder has every intent on doing just that with or without the architect on site…but 100% of the time it is easier for the builder to move more effortlessly through the build with the architect telling him he is understanding the intent of the drawings.

The last thing the builder wants is to build something just to later find out he didn’t get something right by the owner. Remember, the owner’s greatest advocate is the architect. The architect doesn’t get paid more money if the job is built one way or another – his primary standard of care is to simply look out for the well-being of the owner in every way including but not limited to: codes, life-safety, value engineering, design, etc.

Just as a quick anecdote on how much builders appreciate having me on site: I have had jobs where the owner pays me to show up at a site a few times during a build and then I have the builder asking me if I can show up once a week…to which I give my standard retort, “Absolutely…I plan on setting up a trailer out front so I can actually live on the site until it’s complete! This is the only job I have going on right now and I feel eating, sleeping, and relaxing are all overated!” J I bring this up just to drive home the fact that builders love when I come to the build – not just because I’m such a cool guy (ahem) but because they like having another set of eyes on what they’re doing. And who wouldn’t? Constructing a building is a collaborative process. Builders can’t build without architects and architects can’t have their designs built without builders. I think in today’s age both parties are understanding this more…which is a good thing. I always make it a point with new builders to tell them how much I respect what they do…sincerely I do. And with this I feel a mutual respect from them. This is a huge departure of the days of old where architects and builders would constantly butt heads…I think we’ve finally determined that we need one another for a project to be successful.

In conclusion, there are two people that should be on the site during a build: the contractor and the architect. Obviously the contractor (or his rep) should be there everyday, but the architect should still be at the site several times during construction. It should also be noted this is an extra service called CA (construction administration).