Contract Change #8: Direct Communications between Owners and Contractors (law note)

talking headsContinuing our 10 part series on Changes to the General Conditions of the Contract (AIA 201) [for the previous post, click here], Change #8 has to do with direct communications between the Owner and the Contractor.

As the Engineer or Architect of Record, you probably have frequently experienced Owners and Contractors communicating directly, in direct contravention of the language of the contract that requires them to endeavor to route all communications through the design team.  With the latest version of the 201, direct communication is now authorized, to recognize both the reality of what was happening on the ground and to recognize that sometimes Owners and Contractors may need to communicate without waiting for the design team.

In the new Section 4.2.4, Owners & Contractors are only required to include the Architect in communications that relate to the professional services of the design team.  HOWEVER, the Owner is required to promptly notify the Architect of the substance of any such direct communication.  The Owner-Architect agreement has been changed as well, to make it consistent with this new AIA 201 procedure.

Is this a good change?  Honestly, the verdict is out on that one (pun intended).  It may prove very helpful in keeping a project on track when the Architect is not regularly on-site.  However, the parties run the risk that they may make decisions that do effect the design team, without design team input.  Be cautious, and make sure the Owner *does* keep you informed.

Up tomorrow, Change #7– Contractor’s Means & Methods.

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