A Guide to Managing Engineering and Architectural Design Services Contracts

What Every Project Manager Needs to Know (John M. Lowe, Jr., P.E.)

Review by Keith M. Bouchard, P.E., Structural Engineer, CBI Consulting, Inc.

This book is intended to provide a primer for young engineers on the important aspects of design services contracts. It also introduces the importance of creating and maintaining a culture of professional liability awareness within a design office to minimize the risk of a claim. The book is concisely written and broken into five sections: An introduction, a brief description of the basic elements of a design services contract, common issues with implementing the contract, requirements during bidding and construction, and a summary and recommendations section.

Young engineers rarely have any formal instruction on the subject of contracts and liability, and this book provides a useful introduction to these topics. Too often these lessons are learned “the hard way” through claims and disputes. Gaining a basic understanding of the principles of design service contracts before one takes on the responsibility of project management can be invaluable, and this book covers all the basic concepts. This reader was hoping to see more real-world case studies and “horror stories”; however, the text is to the point and well worth the couple hour read for a young professional entering the world of project management.

Review by Michael S. Teller, AIA, Principal CBI Consulting, Inc.

This is about our practice first and greatly assists in the area of Contracts.

This could be called a “Pocket” Guide, it is easy enough to carry around – also implying it is important to do so. It could certainly be longer. I would add “and” between “Services and Contracts,” because it is about practice and contracts. The bullet point format makes it very easy to read.

I would suggest giving “pearls of wisdom” after each set of recommendations and a different graphic look to emphasize the importance of the message.

All the suggestions are sound and correct. I wish I had been required to read this book early in my career. However, until you have experienced all the reasons you need to adhere to these guidelines, I can imagine a young professional would not be able to grasp their importance. That’s why I suggest that each of the chapters could benefit from a story to illustrate the cause and effects that would compel the reader to implement each bullet point.

I have learned most of the things in this book over my 36 years of practice. Every professional would benefit from reading this book early in their careers and yearly as a refresher. Face it, this book will make your life easier and keep you out of trouble. I learned several things I’m going to implement in my office – specifically in our contracts.

Review by Russell F. Conn, Esq., Conn, Kavanaugh, Rosenthal, Peisch & Ford, LLP

This is a very readable and straight-forward primer that covers many of the basic contractual and legal issues confronted by a design professional. Above all, it emphasizes the importance of careful, concise, and timely communications as the hallmark of a good professional relationship. It further provides the newly minted architect and engineer with basic liability principles and cautions – “do’s and don’ts,” if you will – in the principal areas of exposure. This includes standards of care, ownership of design documents (or “deliverables), limitations of liability and disclaimers, indemnification obligations and perils, and dispute resolution, and how those principles intersect with professional liability insurance. On a more fundamental level, the guide also alerts the young design professional to the basic importance of getting paid.

The book is noteworthy in several of its omissions that might be addressed in an expanded second edition. This would include a discussion of the role of AIA documents and their standard provisions, the importance of codes, and job safety and liability issues. Nonetheless, it is a good and simple “read” – 76 pages or about a 90 minute commitment – for any new design professional.

Mr. Conn regularly represents design professionals in all aspects of their practice.

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