The Three-Legged Stool of Construction

If you’ve been around construction for any length of time, you’ve seen the blame game between contractors, architects, and owners.

The contractor says the architect drew bad plans.

The architect says the contractor didn’t build per the plans.

The owner is caught in the middle.

Some contractors are a joke, and some architects couldn’t design a gingerbread house – but let’s ignore those extremes. Most contractors and architects have some level of competency and professionalism, but all of them make mistakes.

So what do we do about it?

Before we start a project, we typically like to have a quick chat with the owner and architect. The gist of the conversation is that in order for the client to get good service, we must operate as a three-legged stool. The contractor, owner, and architect must do their job. But perhaps more importantly, each of the three must communicate quickly and strive to work as a team.

This is delicate. Trust me, I know. For example, there are plenty of times where an architect really did miss something on the plans. They’re humans. So what is the best way to handle an architect’s mistake? Well, if we obey the Golden Rule we probably won’t just put them on blast to the owner (i.e. “Hey, your architect missed something and it’s going to cost you money.”). No, a personal call or email to the architect is probably the best first step because it may well be that the architect has thought about this. Or maybe we (the contractor) missed some obscure note somewhere that we should have paid attention to.

The overarching theme here is teamwork. If the owner, architect, and contractor operate as a three-legged stool the project will be built better and quicker. If any of the parties try to compromise one of the other legs of the stool, everyone crashes to the ground.

If you’re one of the legs of the three-legged stool of construction, do your part to keep the stool standing straight by operating as a team player.

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