What Architects Want

It's hard enough managing a large commercial roofing project without having to deal with a pesky, egocentric architect or specifier. Generally, the worst of these come in two flavors: The AIA who knows itall and is "protective" of his property-owner client; and the specifier who is clueless. In both cases, roofing contractors must often deal with construction details that are impossible to replicate in the field.

In fairness to the specifying community, the architect has long thought of himself as the "master builder," and of necessity, he must be just that. He is responsible for not only the roof--despite almost no professional education in that area--but also the rest of the building.

Which part of the building gets the most attention? It usually depends on where the architect feels he is most needed, most qualified or most interested. Unfortunately, that is usually not the roof.

What do most architects really expect from the roofer? Is the contractor a partner, employee, friend of adversary? The veteran specifier knows that he cannot be an expert on everything.

The first thing the architect expects from the roofer is information. The contractor has the advantage of on-the-roof experience with many different products. Most importantly, the contractor can provide feedback on discrepancies or conflicts in the drawings, and possible solutions. Working together, they can sort out the requirements and match them to the available roofing systems.

It is important that the architect know about possible problems before the bids are opened. This is particularly important on public work, where changes would require re-bidding the entire project.

Assuming all has gone well and the project is underway, the relationship between the architect and contractor changes. Specifically, the architect must now monitor the contractor's work, unless there is aroof consultant involved--and that is another story.

Unless the property owner has agreed to full-time inspection, the architect can only make periodic visits to the job. While this soundslike a good scenario for the roofer, the architect will rely and expect cooperation from the contractor. Again, information is the key word.

Few jobs are designed without some need for on-site adjustment. Asour readers well know, some detail problems can only be solved in the field.

"Extras" are an integral part of roofing work and are often the difference between a profit or loss. So, woe to the contractor at this stage if he has a less-than-positive working relationship with the architect. Things will get ugly quickly, and the architect will have noqualms about discussing his roofing "problems" with the owner. If this happens, and the roof leaks down the road, who do you think will be dragged into court first?

While the architect cannot expect the contractor to handle non-specified, extra work at no cost, he does expect the roofer to make adjustments where needed without resorting to change orders and big cost increases. He also expects the contractor to be his best source of unbiased, reliable and accurate roofing information before the bids areread during the design phase and in the final application. This means having your review team survey the entire project prior to the final inspection by the supplier and the architect. This practice eliminates the vast majority of minor errors of omissions that are typicallyeasy to correct but will cause consternation if not addressed beforethe final review.

Throughout the roofing project, the architect is going to be called upon to interpret, analyze and rule on the application of the system. The black-and-white problem situations should be corrected up-front.

Fortunately, the architect will continue to be dependent on roofing contractors, whether he wants to admit it of not. In today's complicated construction environment, he cannot be the master-builder without them. And a good relationship with the architect may very well spell the difference between profit and loss for the roofing contractor.

Mike Russo has been reporting on the roofing, siding and insulation industry for 26 years. He can be reached at .

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