Construction Administration / Collaboration

The Importance of Collaboration in a Successful Construction Project

What is it?

Most clients do not understand the purpose of Construction Administration services provided by an architect.  Essentially, the Architect, or Construction Administrator (CA), is responsible to the owner for assuring the intent of the design embodied in construction drawings and specifications is realized in the completed project.

As such, it is not the responsibility of the CA to supervise the work of the contractor, but to represent the interests of the owner as work progresses and to aid the contractor in responding to those interests.



What is the Key Role of the CA?

There are many detailed functions directed by the CA to provide for such assurance. But it is the role of the CA as facilitator to maintain common understanding between the three key collaborators in the construction process that is vital to the success of that process.



Who are the Collaborators?

“Collaboration” defines very accurately the necessary relationship between the Owner of a project, his or her Architect and the Contractor selected to build the facility.  Much like the legs of a three legged stool, each collaborator must understand, respect and respond to the role of the others if balanced progress and meaningful outcomes are to be achieved:

Leg 1 / The Owner as Visionary

The Owner establishes the vision and needs for the project and in doing so, determines the criteria against which all design and construction decisions are to be made.

Leg 2 / The Architect as Interpreter and Facilitator

The architect is the key link between vision and reality.  He or she must understand and interpret the owner’s ideas into a facility design; understand viable and responsive methods for construction, and know how to work with the contractor to affect an exceptional outcome.

Leg 3 / The Contractor as Builder

The Contractor brings vision and design ideas into tangible reality.

As the architect brings the interpretation of the vision to the project, the contractor brings the knowledge and skills necessary to achieve the desired result.


Ground Rules

There are three key actions for establishing effective ground rules governing the truly collaborative effort:

1 / Understand Collaborator Roles

It may sound ridiculous for an Architect and Contractor to sit together and review their roles.  After all, design and construction are what they do day in and day out. But for an Owner, it is crucial that all three collaborators discuss and establish a clear understanding of the vision for the project, and the roles and responsibilities of each collaborator in achieving that vision.

2 / Determine Key Criteria for Decision/Making

Project content, quality, budget and schedule are often noted as the criteria against which decisions are made as work progresses.  It certainly makes sense in a perfect world that all decisions regarding these four elements would be made by the end of the design phase.  But the truth is that the process of making decisions does not stop in design.  Changes during the design phase are not necessarily expensive.  But changes made while in the midst of construction can be. In such an environment,  the ground rules for getting along with one another become crucial; not simply to avoid conflict,  but because decisions made under duress without a common sense of purpose may impede progress and result in a less than desirable outcome.

3 / Establish a Communications Protocol

Most want to be good communicators when working together. But intent is not a substitute for a defined process and agreement as to who will communicate, in what format, and how.  Again, as with the discussions establishing roles and responsibilities, and decision criteria, the collaborators need to define a protocol for communicating with one another.

Achieving a successful outcome is challenging given the involvement of so many including owner, designer, contractor, sub-contractors and suppliers,  and the hundreds of decisions that must be made along the way.  Sharing a common understanding of roles, responsibilities, criteria for decision-making and the means and methods for communicating with one another, the “Collaborators” can work together to achieve an outcome truly responsive to the vision for the project.