A No-Drama Approach to Changes and Change Orders

By Victor O. Schinnerer & Company Inc.

Change orders may cause unease with some clients, but calmness and a thorough explanation of each change may lessen the potential of conflict. This article offers advice on how to deal with changes and change orders and details a checklist of mitigating factors.

Changes on construction projects are the rule, not the exception. Construction documents are not intended to be exhaustive or to anticipate every possible circumstance; many factors outside the architect’s control can affect the cost or schedule of a project once construction has begun. Everyone expects changes on a construction project, but somehow changes still become a common source of claims against architects, alleging errors and omissions in the preparation of the construction documents. The inevitability of changes can be exacerbated by the tendency of some contractors to bid low on a project, eliminating profit in the bid in hopes of winning the job and recouping the profit through change orders.

The client and contractor sign the construction contract; the architect does not. The architect has no authority to authorize changes to that contract. Only the parties to the agreement—the client and the contractor— may approve changes, including changes to the contract sum or contract time.

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