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Vol. 2006-08-b August, 2006

Construction Documents

The process for any building construction or other improvement project, including demolition, requires careful communication between the designer and building craftsmen in the form of detailed, descriptive, graphic portrayals, in the form of drawings, of the work to be accomplished. These drawings, together with the detailed word descriptions of the methods to be used, in the form of written specifications ("spec's"), all of which, together, comprise the construction documents for the project.

The Ohio Administrative Code defines "CONSTRUCTION DOCUMENTS: Written, graphic and pictorial documents prepared or assembled for describing the design, location and physical characteristics of the elements of a project necessary for obtaining plan approval in accordance with section 106."

Construction documents affect and govern the various phases of any construction project. The traditional phases in the creation and generation of documents by the design architect or engineer, and thereafter by the selected contractor and subcontractors, are:
  1. Design Phase

  2. Construction Documents Phase

  3. Bidding Phase

  4. Construction Phase

  5. Project Completion and Closeout
Whenever construction claims arise, the construction documents will become extremely important in determining what was required to be done, as opposed to what was actually done by the designer the project contractors, and when and how it was performed, changed, or omitted. In this regard, the "As-Built" drawings and specifications which reflect all approved deviations and changes from the original construction documents, should show the project details as actually constructed, and is invaluable in determining and proving factual issues.
Claims against the architect or engineer may be asserted under applicable law: " 'Generally, one who contracted in a specialized professional capacity to provide the design for a particular structure may be held to respond in damages for the foreseeable consequences of a failure to exercise reasonable care in the preparation of the design.' " Campbell v. The Daimler Group, Inc. (1996), 115 Ohio App.3d 783, 789, quoting Cincinnati Riverfront Coliseum, Inc. v. McNulty Co. (1986), 28 Ohio St.3d 333, 337.

Tackett v. Gas Energy, Inc., 2004-Ohio-6979, 15.
Claims against the government, contractor or subcontractor may also be asserted: ".if the contractor is bound to build according to the plans and specifications prepared by the owner, the contractor will not be responsible for the consequences of defects in the plans and specifications. * * * This responsibility of the owner is not overcome by the usual clauses requiring builders to visit the site, to check the plans, and to inform themselves of the requirements of the work." United States v. Spearin (1918), 248 U.S. 132, 39 S.Ct. 59, 63 L.Ed. 166, at 136.

Construction documents can provide invaluable business information to owners, their insurers and counsel, in maintaining an important description and memorialization of any construction or demolition project.

Artificial intelligence is no match for natural ignorance.


AUTHOR / EDITOR: J. NORMAN STARK is an Attorney-at-Law, a Registered Architect, (AIA, NCARB) Registered Landscape Architect, Interior Designer, Planner and Senior Appraiser (ASA), admitted to practice law before the Bar of Ohio, the US District Courts, Ohio and Illinois (Central Dist.), the US Court of Appeals, and the United States Supreme Court. He is a Mediator, Arbitrator and Litigator with experience in Business, Construction Law, and Public Works, and with additional experience in Real Estate, Construction Attorney (Legal Project and Crisis Management), and as an Expert Witness (Forensic Architect). His office is in Cleveland, Ohio.

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