ConsensusDOCS- are they an improvement over AIA construction contracts?

Have you had occasion to use the (relatively) new ConsensusDOCS? Having just completed my manuscript for the North Carolina Construction Law seminar I’m speaking at in May, I’ve been spending a lot of time comparing the American Institute of Architect’s standard contract general conditions, the AIA A201 (2007) to the ConsensusDOCS 200 (2007) and the Engineering Joint Contracts Document Committee (EJCDC) standard general conditions of the contract, C-700 (2007).

I haven’t yet seen litigation over the ConsensusDOCS, so how courts will interpret its provisions remains to be seen. One major difference: the ConsensusDOCS do diminish some of the architect/design professional’s role on the project.

For example, in the change order process, instead of the architect being involved in the contract price and time adjustment (see AIA A201 Section 7.2.1), the ConsensusDOCS 200 calls for the owner and contractor to negotiate in good faith. No mention is made of the design professional’s role. (See 8.1.2).

If you’ve had occasion to work under the ConsensusDOCS, drop me a line and tell me the advantages and disadvantages over other form contracts.

Spring Cleaning: 6 Contract law tips for limiting risk on construction projects

cleaning suppliesIt’s springtime! That means spring cleaning. Out with the old and in with the new. This is also a good time to think about cleaning up your systems for limiting your risk on construction projects. Here are a few short things to consider as you attempt to improve your construction contracts:

  1. Do you have a standard written contract or proposal for every project, no matter how small or how long the client has been doing business with your company? This should be your number one priority. If it is a standard form, it shouldn’t be a big deal to use even on short projects. And if you think your longtime customers will be offended, blame it on the attorneys! That’s what construction attorneys are here for– we’re tough and can take being the bad guys.
  2. Has your contract or proposal been reviewed by your insurance carrier? This is an important step you can take to limit any risk issues in your contract. Many insurance carriers will review your contracts at no cost to you– they view it as a good loss prevention measure. Check with your insurance agent or broker to see if your carrier offers this service. This is also a good time to see if your insurance coverage is sufficient for the amount of work you are currently performing.
  3. Has your contract been reviewed by your attorney? If your insurance carrier has an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction review your contract, you can skip this step. Otherwise, strongly consider having the contract reviewed by a professional, preferably an insurance defense attorney. Measure twice and cut once applies to the legal world, too.
  4. Does everyone on your staff know to use the contract or form proposal and where on your system to find it? It does you no good to have a great contract template that some of your employees don’t use. Educate them on the importance of all contracts and proposals being produced in a uniform, systematic way.
  5. Is there a follow up procedure in place, in case a construction contract or proposal is not returned executed by the client? Someone should be tasked with making sure a completely executed contract or signed proposal is obtained, and that it is filed in an easily accessible location for future reference. One idea: do not open a new client or matter number to bill against until the contract is in place.
  6. Consider whether it is worth getting current verbal agreements translated into written agreements. If you have an ongoing project that is only based on a verbal agreement, consider the potential for risk on that project. It might be worth it to ask the client to execute a new written agreement. Again, you can blame it on the lawyers. This *may* not be possible, or it may simply be too awkward to ask for this in the middle of a project that is going well. But at least consider all of your current projects to see if this is a possibility.

Happy Spring Cleaning!

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Photo “Kane Cleaning  Supplies”  by Collin Anderson via Flickr via Creative Commons License

NC Construction Law Seminar in Greensboro

Excuse the little self-promotion here, but if you want a quick way to learn more about construction issues in North Carolina, I’m speaking at a seminar on May 7, 2010 in Greensboro, NC.

The seminar topics include:
* Understanding Liens, Bonds, and Payment Issues
* Risk Transfer (including insurance and indemnity issues)
* Making Changes & Resolving Disputes during the Construction Process
* Contracts and Subcontracts on Public Projects
* Recent Bankruptcy Cases Impacting Contractors’ Lien Rights

The seminar qualifies for 6.0 PDHs for NC Engineers, 0.6 CSI CEUs, and NC Attorney CLE credit is pending.

Joining me in speaking are Eric Biesecker, Jennifer Maldonado, and Brian Edlin. For more details or to register, go to Half Moon Seminars.

Female architects- Project focuses on industry pioneers

While architects these days come in either gender, it used to be rare for an architect to be female. As noted in today’s Durham Herald, George Smart, the founder and director of Triangle Modernist Houses, is working to profile female architects who broke new ground.

According to TMH, women now make up about 20% of the architectural field vs. only 1.2% from the 1940s through the 1970s.

More information on the project is found on the Project’s website.

[tweetmeme source= ‘melissabrumback’  single only=false http://constructionlawnc.com/2010/03/15/female-archite…ustry-pioneers/ ‎ ]

What is not in your construction contract can be just as important as what is in the contract

Ever wonder why lawyers like to write contracts that seem to go on, and on, and on? By nature, lawyers are doomsayers. We try to minimize risk, and sometimes that takes the form of a contract that “only a lawyer could love”.

We will cover important contract terms in future blog posts, but for now, did you know that what is not in your construction contract is just as important as what is in there? Many times the heart of a construction dispute stems from confusion or mistaken assumptions about what, exactly, was agreed upon.

In addition to having a very detailed “Scope of Services,” in which you specify exactly what you will be doing on a project, you should also develop a standard “Exclusions from Services” list, and that list should be a part of every contract.

Such an exclusion list should include:
– anything you were specifically asked not to perform
– anything the owner indicated was to be provided by others
– anything which involves specific contractor coordination (unless
you are providing this service)
– a listing of anything above and beyond normal conditions (for
example, “attendance at more than X meetings a month”)
– a general “catch all” statement that anything not specifically
specified in the Scope of Services is not covered

Of course, what specific things should be listed in your Exclusions list depends on what field of construction you are in. Design professionals need to focus on coordination issues, duties with respect to other design professionals on a large project, duties relating to oversight of contractor work, and related issues. Contractors should focus on their responsibility to work with and/or around other trades as well as related work that the owner does not intend to pay for which can result in scope creep.

While it might seem like wearing belts and suspenders at the same time to write out a Scope of Services and also include an Exclusion from Services list, the minimal extra effort in developing such an Exclusion list will pay you back in volumes should a dispute on the project ever arise.

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