Welcome to the On Site channel’s Construction Administration Column. Here David Todd explains how the EJCDC General Conditions were developed as the best way to have fair, objective contractual relations – and to reduce conflict and litigation – among all parties on a construction project.
Columnist David A. Todd, P.E., CPESC, has 37 years of experience in the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry and has performed much construction administration during that time. He will answer questions from our readers or from his own practice and will provide answers based on his understanding of the construction process and administration of the construction contract. The focus will be on the customary duties of the owner, contractor, and design professional as typically described in the contract documents.
It seems that for every question submitted your answer is “Follow the General Conditions.” As a contractor, I get tired of the engineer throwing the EJCDC General Conditions in my face. I ask for weather days; he quotes the General Conditions. I say I’m owed money for changed conditions; he quotes the General Conditions. When he finds the least little thing wrong in the job he pulls out those General Conditions to seek remedies. I’m sick of it.
Well, I guess my knee-jerk response to that is to ask, if not the General Conditions, then what? What will be the basis for resolving any dispute that comes up? What will you use to judge whether changes in contract price or times are needed? If you don’t have some kind of conditions to “rule over” the entire project, you are reduced to treating each item that comes up without any preset rules. Talk about conflicts – you’ll have them with that approach.
I think you’re under the misconception that the EJCDC General Conditions are written to be wholly favorable to the project owner and unfavorable to the contractor. That’s simply not true. The Associated General Contractors of America has participated in the development of these documents and endorse them. These documents can protect the contractor from a dishonest developer or an unscrupulous design professional. I believe, if you check with an attorney, he or she would rather have the preprinted EJCDC documents than none at all, and preprinted General Conditions from a reputable organization are better than conditions written by any of the professionals associated with the project for their own use.
It’s possible that the problem isn’t with the General Conditions, but rather with the overall quality of the construction documents you’re seeing for projects. Maybe the drawings lack detail, or the specs are so boiler-plate that they bear little resemblance to what’s supposed to be constructed. If that’s the case, then I can see how frequently resorting to the General Conditions for changes, disputes, and quality issues can be tedious. However, I still ask what would take the place of the General Conditions?
Most of the projects on which I’m engineer use either the EJCDC documents of the A.I.A. documents. They are more similar than they are different. However, I’ve done some pro bono work for charitable organizations who don’t want to mess with a contract and have barely any construction drawings or specifications. Those projects have almost universally become disasters. I wound up arguing with the contractors over every nit-picking item. I’ve since vowed to never work on a project, for pay or pro bono, without proper contract documents, including General Conditions.
Just as one of Robert Frost’s poems states, “Good fences make good neighbors,” so I believe good contracts, with good General Conditions, make for good projects. When the drawings and specs are good and have the right amount of detailed information, when the front end documents come from a reliable source and are coordinated with each other, the execution of a project can be a thing of beauty, with an excellent facility built and with the owner, contractor, and design professional friends at the end.
A senior engineer and corporate trainer of engineering for CEI Engineering Associates, Inc. David has 36 years of experience as a consulting civil engineer. His experience includes water, wastewater, stormwater, roads, and solid waste infrastructure. For much of the last 20 years he has been involved with stormwater issues. Specifications and construction administration have been a specialty of his within civil consulting engineering . He has BS and MS degrees in Civil Engineering, is a registered engineer in four states, and a Certified Professional in Erosion and Sediment Control.