Our recent look into termination brings up another issue important to architects and engineers– how to sound the alarm about construction or building code violations. Sometimes, a project owner may be so focused on project completion that they want to overlook the sub-par work that may be occurring in an effort to get project open “on time”. In such cases, only if a life safety violation is reported to the authority having jurisdiction will the owner finally terminate a faulty contractor from a construction project.
Even if the work is not a life/safety issue, it is important that when delivering bad news about the quality of work that your notice be early, loud, and frequent. Basically, everyone involved should be aware, through written communications, that there is an issue that needs to be addressed on site, the contractor is messing up the construction, and what needs to be done to fix the issue(s). If the owner is willing to live with the faulty work (and it is not a life/safety matter), then at least you’ve provided notice and warned them of the issue.
Even then, you could get dragged into litigation later on. That’s right– even if you state, in writing, that something is happening which you do not approve of, and you limit your own further involvement in the project, you can be sued. So if the issue is significant enough– you may have to walk off the job yourself.
Think of the recent Titan tragedy. One OceanGate employee has claimed that he was fired after he raised safety concerns. Despite warnings some several other experts that the submersible was not properly designed and safe for the underwater exploration, the company went ahead with the ill-fated trip.
As a design professional, you cannot always help owners help themselves, but you must try to do so. You must document the issues, multiple times, multiple ways, to multiple individuals. Even if that means losing out on a job. As you watch others (but not your own Firm) get dragged into litigation over construction issues that you previously warned the owner about, your future self will thank you.
Your turn: have you ever had to deliver very bad news about a project to the owner? How did you do it? Did the owner take action? Share below in the comments, or drop me an email.