I’ve traded a few e-mails with Laura M. of Sacramento about the vicious circle. On the one hand, you have a client who requests additional services and then reported to Laura, “I don’t want to pay because it should not cost that much.” On the other hand, you have a contractor who may not like playing nice. The contractor finds faults with your drawings and reports/complains to the owner (not to you) or you have a contractor asking tons of questions when CCA is not in your scope. I’m sure we have our battle scars from these situations.
To preface the discussion, be honest with yourself regarding the quality of your design and document. If you boogered it up and it’s not right or not clear, fix it quickly. Then do a postmortem and try not to make the same mistake again.
One Hand: The best “tip” I can offer regarding additional services I learned from an attendee in a seminar I presented at a atate AIA convention. When one of her clients asks for a service (which is not in the base contract), she will very politely ask then “Ok, we can do that and how would you like for us to bill you for that additional service?” The point here is that she makes it very plain and clear that the work requested by the owner is beyond the basic service bounds. This gives the owner the opportunity to be involved in crafting a solution. From my experience, when this type of open negotiation occurs, there is less chance the Ad-Serve won’t be paid; however, this predisposes that as architects we really know what’s in our contracts and dictates that we speak up for ourselves and not give away the farm. After all, the “Highway to hell is paved with good intentions.” Don’t give away the farm with your kindness and willingness to serve!
The next “tip” I have is when the owner is trying to get something for nothing or a contractor is not playing nicely.
Other Hand: Try to have an open and honest discussion with the owner and his or her contractor before construction begins. The major key here is a proactive approach. If you didn’t include the “time” in your proposal, think of it as “marketing” and spend an hour setting up the project for execution success. I’ve had success with approaching the owner with “Hey, let’s invite your contractor to a quick meeting to see if they have any additional suggestions or modifications to save you money. If we get it written down, you’ll get the full value of changes and you’ll have some documentation so that the inspection folks won’t make you change the project to match the drawings when you’re ready to move in.
I suggest using some of the tactics from One Hand, i.e., “how shall I charge your for that?” during the friendly Other Hand discussion to be clear on professional services that are completed when the drawings are handed over and that you’re available for on-site consultations.
—Lisa Stacholy, AIA