14 March 2016

Key clauses of the general conditions; more means and methods

In the last post, we looked at the means and methods clause in Article 3 of the A201. At the end, I concluded that the architect's responsibilities in construction documents are to show what the building should look like, identify the materials, and establish the standards for those materials. I also stated that virtually everything else - including supervising, scheduling, coordination, and deciding how materials are to be installed - is the contractor's responsibility.

When I make seemingly heretical statements like that, I often am asked how I came to such a conclusion. Many architects have a hard time believing they no longer control much of what goes on during construction, contractors sometimes don't like having that much responsibility, and subcontractors often tell me they don't like it when designers use reference standards because they expect the architect to tell them how to do their jobs.

As I explained, my conclusion is based on the requirements of the AIA general conditions (and general conditions from other sources, which typically have similar provisions). Not only does the A201 say the contractor is responsible for means and methods, it also says the architect is not responsible for means and methods, in Article 4 (my italics):


§ 4.2.2 …the Architect will not be required to make exhaustive or continuous on-site inspections to check the quality or quantity of the Work. The Architect will not have control over, charge of, or responsibility for, the construction means, methods, techniques, sequences or procedures, or for the safety precautions and programs in connection with the Work, since these are solely the Contractor’s rights and responsibilities
Another source of information about complementarity and means and methods is the AIA Document Commentary for the A201-2007. Following are a few excerpts.
§ 1.2.1

The contractor is expected to make reasonable inferences from the contract documents. When the documents show wall partitions covered by drywall… it may be inferred that some reasonable method will be used to attach the drywall to the underlying framework.

§ 3.2.2

The contractor is responsible for performing all work shown and specified, unless it is specifically stated to be the work of others.

§ 4.2.1 (under 4.1 Administration of the Contract)

The word administration is not intended to imply that the architect either supervises or directs the construction effort.

§ 4.2.2 (see quotation of 4.2.2 above)

The last sentence underscores the statement of the contractor's responsibilities in 3.3.1 and reinforces the dividing line between the contractor's responsibilities and those of the architect.
Does any of this prohibit the architect from specifying means and methods, such as telling the contractor to schedule meetings and when to schedule them, or from specifying installation methods, or from dictating when things should be done? No, but - in so doing, the architect assumes responsibility for them, at the same time relieving the contractor of responsibility.

Each architect is responsible for deciding what and how much information must be included in the contract documents. Previously, we have discussed redundancies, which can be confusing and contradictory, and needlessly increase the time required to understand what is to be done. Even so, some architects - and many owners - are convinced that repetition is necessary to make sure that some requirements are read and understood. In much the same way, many architects do not trust contractors, manufacturers, or installers to know what they are doing, and try to tell them how to do their jobs.

The intent is good, but in practice, it's an impossible task. If installers don't understand their own jobs, which are of limited scope in the context of the entire project, how can an architect be expected to be an expert in installation not only of that product, but of all the other hundreds of products? Remember, too, that typical owner-contractor and contractor-subcontractor agreements require the contractor and subcontractor to have read and understood the contract documents, and they sign agreements attesting to that knowledge.

All of these things are tied together by agreements. Rather than ignore those agreements, they should be respected and enforced, and each entity should understand and honor the terms of their contracts.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Provocative to say the least. Can we just dispense with Part-3 Execution?

    I think that it's a stretch to say Architect has no business specifying how to fasten drywall, and since many contractors are better at hiring subcontractors than doing the work themselves, some detail seems to be warranted.

    Meetings do serve a purpose in focusing all present on the project"s needs and occasionally help things get done sooner and better. Having a schedule (updated) helps Owner & design team with planning. They're good to have, ahead of time, when reviewing delay claims.

    I do agree that the administration "burdens" placed on the contractor only add value if the owner or design team need certain information, need to plan their time basedo on fixed meeting times etc.

    1. I've argued for a long time that Part 3 could be eliminated, except when used to state exceptions to manufacturers' instructions.

      I don't think the architect should specify how to fasten basic drywall, except by use of reference standards. GA-216 - Application and Finishing of Gypsum Panels addresses the subject quite well. At twenty-five pages and nearly 14,000 words, it seems there isn't much more to say. (There can be more to say, but not for basic drywall work.)

      Meetings do serve a purpose, but because the contractor is responsible for coordination, it's the contractor who should decide what meetings are required and when to have them. Including a meeting schedule as a submittal is a good idea, though!

      Even though the contractor is responsible for construction, the architect should specify submittals needed to help monitor the project, which may require specifying additional requirements for meetings and other contractor activities. As noted, the architect must decide what is in the construction documents. The warning is to think about each item, avoid mindless repetition of unneeded requirements, and delve into contractor responsibilities with eyes wide open!

      Thanks for the comments, Joel!

  3. I question, “when was the last time the architect actually read A-201” as it relates to his “Administration of the Contract” to understand his responsibility during the construction process. How many of them know, per A-201, the contractor’s responsibility as well. I submit very few. Does the architect have an idea of what the CCA’s tasks are and what his background should be? Who should be the CCA; certainly not the designer, the architect’s project manager and certainly not the drafter. While this group can “blue sky”, schedule and produce the CDs, most have no idea of the construction process or any of the multitude of tasks the CCA performs during the construction phase of a project. In virtually every instance, when a RFI is issued regarding a detail or the design intent or a lack of information, the responsibility for the response falls to the CCA. The CD production team’s response typically, in many cases is, “that’s a field problem” and “just don’t time to get into that” because they’ve moved to another project. The CCA ends up interpreting the intent of the documents and communicates with the contractor to solve the construction issue in an effort to get the Work executed, keep the construction progress moving to alleviate delay and negotiating with the contractor so as not to require a change order as a result of the response WITHOUT getting into means and methods. I could go on but that’s enough for now. Tom Montero, FCSI, CDT, AIA

  4. Thanks, Tom; I agree there is a common lack of understanding of what's in the general conditions.

    My experience, most of which has been in midsize to large firms, is that few architects have even looked at the general conditions, and fewer still have any idea what's in them. I assume that architects in small firms have of necessity learned more about them. I believe it's also true that many contract administrators handle most field problems to keep the project going. Gotta have good field guys!