Monday, February 07, 2011

Field Reports - Part I

Now that you have visited the site, what's next? It's time to document your visit. While an email or other written correspondence would suffice, the industry standard is the Field Observation Report (FOR). While that is the name I prefer to use, you will also see it called:
·         Architect's Field Report
·         Site Observation Report
·         Observation Report
·         Field Report

No matter what you call it, it is intended to convey to the project team what you observed during your site visit. 

A Brief Note…
Before, I get into what I consider to be important, I want to reference Arthur F. O'Leary and his thoughts in his article Introduction to Field Administration - How Can Intern Architects Learn How to Do It?. According to Mr. O'Leary, the Field Observation Report should discuss:
1.    Report number, for filing and administration. 
2.    Identification of the project, owner, contractor, and architect. 
3.    Date, time, and duration of site visit. 
4.    Weather conditions and condition of the site. 
5.    Names and identities of persons present. 
6.    Percentage of work completed by trade. 
7.    Work progress compared to schedule. 
8.    Work now being accomplished. 
9.    Work scheduled to be commenced, continued, or completed before next visit. 
10.  Questions raised by contractor or owner. 
11.  Determinations made by the architect. 
12.  Any questions or actions which remain pending for appropriate later attention. 
13.  Distribution list for report. 

You'll see a lot of overlap with my content. I used Arthur's article as a resource when creating my template. As I go along, feel free to download a Field Observation Report Template that I provide here.

Body of the Report
First, it needs to convey the basics. What project is this? Where is the project? When did you visit? What time? When did you arrive? How long were you on site? This is all basic stuff that can be included on the top of your FOR. It also needs a specific FOR #. For instance, at the top, it can say "FIELD OBSERVATION REPORT #001".
Your report should also, report on who was also at the site. I like to create a directory-like matrix and put X marks next to the trades/professionals I observed.
Next, I also note the weather. While it is not important to have the temperature accurate to the degree or to note the exact Relative Humidity, it is good to note if it is rainy, muddy, really cold, etc… You will see that I have a few categories that span the spectrum of weather.
Lastly, I have a space to note the progress of construction. Be warned, based on the Architect's limited knowledge of the GC's scheduling, I generally leave these field blank unless it is glaringly obvious that the GC is behind schedule.
That covers the 'basics' of Field Observation Reports. Now onto the meat of the report... Field Observation Reports are your opportunity to show that you are visiting the site and actively looking at the work for adherence to the Construction Documents. Let's remember a few things about Architects:
  1. They have the authority to reject work that is non-conforming.
  2. They do not have the authority to unilaterally accept non-conforming work. That is the owner's job and based on cost concessions.
  3. The Architect does not have the authority to unilaterally stop work. Again, it is the owner's job to do that if necessary.
  4. The architect is not responsible to catch all of the non-conforming work. This is a tight line because if things go wrong, the owner may blame the architect for not doing his job.

Notes on Your Report
The Field Observation Reports are your opportunity to show that you are on the lookout for nonconforming work. If you observe non-conforming work, take a photo and make a note on what is wrong. When you get back to your computer, you can insert the photo into your FOR template (in Microsoft Word), and draw an arrow or shape outline to note the issue. You should also include a text description above, next to, or below the photo.
After a few issues noted, your report may be getting a bit long. It's OK. A long report is better than a lawsuit. You need to make the GC aware of these issues so that he/she can make the appropriate corrections.
Do not use definitive language such as 'The Concrete pour is complete'. How do you know it’s complete? What are the cure strength specifications? Has the Special Inspector done his slump test? Is the finish appropriate? Are there any admixtures that may affect the cure time? Instead, note that 'the concrete pour at the north elevator pit appears to be complete."

Concluding Language
In order to protect yourself from assuming too much liability it is wise to include some boilerplate language at the end of your Field Observation Report. I like to use the following text:
Disclaimer:  Inspections performed by the Architect/CM under this contract have been conducted under the limited conditions as described by site observations in the AIA Documents A201, General Conditions of the Contract for Construction, as referenced in the Owner-Architect Agreement.

Information contained in this Field Observation Report by firm name has been prepared to the best of our knowledge according to observable conditions at the site. This information will be approved record unless written notice to the contrary is received within seven (7) calendar days of the issue date of this document. Written corrections shall be reported to observer at firm name. Oral rebuttals will not be accepted.

Ending Your Report
Include a box for any attachments being included with your report and also include a box on noting to whom you will distribute your report. Sign it and distribute to Owner, GC, Architect, and any other applicable party.