Completion Statements

When developer-driven housing projects cut out the architect for observation during the construction phase, it often turns out that they later require a completion statement in order to meet the terms of sale for the units.  This task is fraught with problems:  if you have not been involved in the construction as it happened, how can you possibly offer a sensible opinion on how that work was carried out? 

No matter how carefully you seek to limit your completion statement to “what you can see, when you saw it” the pressure to expand that statement to meet the requirements of individual purchasers will be immense, and the interpretation of it several years later when things have gone wrong is beyond your control.  Even if you were only required to certify in relation to fitness for occupation, inevitably the question will arise about why you did not – at the same time – see something else which (several years later) caused costly problems.

This is an issue that should be dealt with at the time you are engaged for the project, when the proper scope and risk management arrangements can be put in place.  Hopefully the extent and purpose of your attendances during construction is clearly described.  If it is limited in extent, that will be a very important matter to set down.

We have dealt with this many times before!  See, for example under posts for Practical Completion and Fitness for Purpose Statements.

On a similar issue, different clients (and/or their funders) have different ideas about what a statement of practical completion should say.  Again, this is an issue that should be discussed at the beginning (so you can prepare for and charge accordingly) rather than near the end of the project, when you can be leveraged to your disadvantage.  Clients have been known to demand a statement of practical completion – using their text – in return for a prompt payment of long outstanding fee invoices.

You will recognise what comes next:  The short point is:  the NZIA or CCCS terms are “neutral” and built up from many years of experience in projects of all types and sizes, so you should be VERY AFRAID of attempts by others to reinvent the wheel, with the prospect of unexpected and potentially unwelcome outcomes.

You can only “certify” on the basis of the work you have undertaken;  so it would be useful to qualify any statements so as to make it clear that you are only commenting on the basis of (and to the limited extent of) the scope of work for which you were engaged.  And if others have altered what you did in any way (with or without your knowledge), you cannot be responsible for that unless you have specifically accepted the change.

In the absence of a statement limiting your involvement, the chances are that you will be held to have been part of or party to something that may have not been within your control.  For example, if a client changes an item unilaterally or contrary to your advice, you do not want to be later confronted with the assertion that (by default) you agreed to it.

Be aware that if it comes to a claim against you, there is every prospect that any and all of your documents might be available to the claimant, whether you agree or not.  That means that correspondence, site notes and office memos must all be consistent:  in the event of discrepancy or contradictions or ambiguities, the claimant will exploit those against you.

If your statements are reliant on information provided to you, then make that clear.  To some extent you will have a duty to review and accept that information, in other cases you would be wise to accept it without review, but in all cases, you will need to be satisfied that it meets your expectations as a prudent architect.

You should not be making a statement which might suggest your taking responsibility for the actions of others.  By way of example, let’s take the issue of a CCC by the BCA.  It would be a simple statement of fact if you confirmed that a CCC had been issued;  but you would most assuredly be putting the noose around your neck to state that a CCC had been issued “and all compliance requirements have been met”.  If it is later found that the CCC was wrongly issued, your statement will join you into that problem.  It is easy to apply the same principle to all sorts of warranties and producer statements by others, where the issue will be whether the contract requirements (or consultant requirements) have been met.

Similarly, if you have adequately observed the work, you could reasonably state that the contract requirements set out in the documentation provided by you under the terms of your engagement have, to the best of your knowledge and belief, (and if relevant, in reliance on listed documentation by others) been satisfied.  But there is no reason why you should put yourself at risk by saying that the work complies with this or that law or regulation, or that it is fit for purpose and/or meets the expectations of anyone else.