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For larger building projects, more complex arrangements are necessary. A large number of people and organizations are needed: not just the owner and local building inspector but also an architect; various engineers and specialist design consultants in such fields as structure, foundations, heating, plumbing, electrical work, acoustics; a general contractor; subcontractors and materials suppliers; and a small army of financiers, lawyers, and insurers (ill. 1-20 below). With so many entities involved, with so much money changing hands, and with the ever-present hazards of accident, fire, vandalism, inclement weather, labor disputes, inflation, and materials shortages and delays, arm, written understandings must be established among the various entities regarding who is responsible for what, especially if something should go wrong. As a basis for these understandings, all must agree precisely on what is to be built and how. The “what” and “how” are the purposes of the architect’s specifications and working drawings.
ill. 1-20: Simplified organization for larger construction projects. Sub-contractors.
The specifications are a written document that enumerates in detail the type and quality of all the materials to be used in a building, the standards of workmanship to be expected, and which trades will be responsible for which portions of the work ( ill. 2-20). The working drawings (sometimes called the blueprints because long ago they were printed in white on a blue background) show the size, location, and configuration of all parts of the building. These are presented in terms of what each tradesperson needs to know in order to get the building built in its intended form (ill. 3-20).
Above: ill. 2-20: A simple specification.
The specifications and working drawings are, for practical purposes, the sole means of translating the design ideas of the owner and the architect into an actual building. They serve as the basis for just about everything that is involved in getting a building built: construction financing, various insurances, estimating and bidding construction costs, the general construction contract and all subcontracts, material supply contracts, and the legal permit to build the building. As such, they must be complete, clear, unambiguous, and understandable ( ill. 4-20). They must be written and drawn in a language that is understood by the people who will provide and place the materials. Beauty is of no importance in these drawings, but clarity and precision are essential. Specifications are usually organized according to a standard format developed by the Construction Specifications Institute and Construction Specifications Canada ( see ill. 5-20 below).
Above: ill. 5-20: Typical specification sections for a medium-sized building.
The actual contract for construction is made between the owner of the building and the general contractor. Most contracts are based on standard contracts that take into account all the things that can go wrong with a project. What if the contractor is losing money on a construction project and withdraws from it? (The contract provides that the contractor must post a performance bond before commencing work. This is a form of insurance that provides cash for the owner to finish the project with another contractor if the original con tractor withdraws.) ‘What if the owner does not pay the contractor for work completed, in accordance with a schedule of payments spelled out in the contract? (The contract allows the contractor to stop work if payments are not made in a timely manner.) Who is responsible for insuring the building during construction? (The owner.) Who is responsible for insuring the workers? (The contractor.)