HVAC PROJECTS CHANGE ORDERS BASIC INFORMATION AND TUTORIALS


In the process of construction, nearly always a condition will arise that is inadequately or incorrectly defined by the contract documents. Often this will be the result of conflicts with other trades, due to lack of coordination among designers.

A classic case of this occurred when the HVAC inspector caught a deep concrete beam, ready to pour, without the slot required to allow a large duct to pass through. (Fortunately the forms were adjusted to provide the slot.) Hopefully, the condition will be encountered before the constraints are cast in concrete or fabricated in steel.

Upon identifying the problem, the construction team—designers and constructors—will seek a solution. Often an adjustment can be made which incurs no additional cost to the contractor, and the work proceeds.

Sometimes correction of the problem creates additional cost and effort for the contractor, who then seeks added compensation. Such is granted by change order to the contract.

A change order involves a documented scope of work, a price, and a time, and it becomes part of the contract when it has been agreed to by all parties. The pricing mechanism is sometimes awkward since the element of competitive bidding is gone.

Even as some owners will try to obtain more service than the documents truly define, some contractors will seek compensation beyond the value or cost of the added work. In a field review, the designer must work hard to see that equity is maintained.

When a design error is involved, the contractor is not interested in covering the cost, and some owners become an immediate designer’s adversary. Design fees are typically inadequate to provide contingency funds, even for small items.

Errors-and-omissions insurance protects against major lawsuits, but there is a cost range where designers must fend for themselves. Fortunate is the designer who works with an owner who realizes that no set of construction documents is perfect, that 2 to 3 percent of basic cost for added clarification is reasonable, and that openly working through problems is better than trying to hide or barter them away. Construction budgets should contain a percentage, typically 10 percent, to allow for changes.

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