A question in Practice Exam #3 Case Study described an interesting situation I’d like to delve into a little further to better understand the nuances of responsibility and communication, or at least have a conversation about it!
In this scenario the owner has contracted directly with a structural engineer, with a seemingly otherwise unedited B101 contract with the architect, meaning the architect must coordinate with structural but is not liable or responsible for their work. In the question, the structural engineer called for an exposed beam to be mounted at 78" AFF, but the architectural drawings called for it to be at 84" AFF to comply with the required ADA clearance of 80" AFF. The contractor submits an RFI to the design team for clarification, which I typically understand to mean the architect and their consultants, whose response is to mount it at 84" AFF. While on site, the owner tells the contractor to mount it at 77" AFF, which the contractor does.
The contractor is liable, for many reasons pointed out in the solution answer. This is against a commonly known code requirement which they were probably aware of, they neglected the documented RFI response, etc.
However, the question also brings up notable nuances along the contract lines for the project, which is what I’m interested in. If an architect is responsible for coordinating with an owner’s consultant, are they therefore responsible for forwarding an RFI to an owner’s consultant which wasn’t included in the distribution list, stamping “See Consultant Comments”, before returning to a contractor? This could be the proper route of communication/coordination, but I could also see that the contractor might be responsible for issuing the RFI to both parties, traveling between professional courts, as this architect contractually assumes no liability for the mounting height of a structural beam. Is there a devil’s advocate case that the owner’s response in field, while not properly documented, better represents the structural engineer’s direction as they can speak for the engineer and the architect cannot?
I think the question itself assumes the structural engineer is included in “the design team,” in which the RFI response came from both the architect and the engineer, making the answer cut and dry. But, for the sake of discussion, I’m interested in the situation if the RFI was only sent to the architect, and maybe not concerning a well known code requirement. Is everyone a little bit liable? Or is it still just the contractor? How would the B101, A101, and A201 help us interpret this?
Thanks for making it this far into the post! Whether the contracts point to a “correct” answer or an “it depends,” I find this an interesting situation… which I hope to never be in.