Author’s Supervision in Questions and Answers

Author’s Supervision can be provided during the construction, the initial operation of the facility, and as well during the development of project documentation.

It is especially important for historical heritage sites, unique objects, during comprehensive development or if the client has not had previous experience in implementing such objects (for example, if a company has economy-class residential objects in its portfolio and decides to build a Class “A” business centre).

There are 5 ways of conducting Author’s Supervision:

  1. by a general contractor;
  2. by a design company;
  3. by a third-party designer;
  4. by a technical client;
  5. and ... no Author’s Supervision

In the first case, deterioration in the quality of construction is possible due to changes and simplification of design decisions.

Problems arise even in cases when contractors without strict internal control standards get solicited for the construction process: builders may ignore the project completely, and do everything their own way, “because they have already had experience doing it this way”. Or, in the process of preparing the Construction Documentation, the general contractor can implement more economical solutions compared to those previously agreed with the client. As a result, the client pays for a high-class product, but receives only a middle or a low-class product.

If the client follows this path, he needs an additional level of control - this is done either by soliciting third party company for Author’s Supervision, or by organizing it’s own Author’s Supervision team.

The second option suggests, that it is more effective when an engineering and structure designe company leads a project from a concept stage to commissioning, performing Author’s Supervision at all stages of design and construction.

The third option - a third-party Author’s Supervision team, is good for the second level of control if the supervision is carried out by the general contractor. But overall, this is a more costly solution: engineers will have to delve into the project in order to understand and make decisions that had been put into it. This is a rather time-consuming process that will be carried out at the expense of the client.

A technical client can also carry out Author’s Supervision, if he has the sufficient resources.

The absence of design supervision is permissible when concerning typical objects that the client has been specializing in for several years.

1. In what cases, in your experience, Author’s Supervision is required, and who initiates it?

The initiator of design supervision is the Client or the Designer of the working documentation.

Supervision is mandatory if it is expressly required by the legislation, for example, cultural heritage objects, facilities of hazardous industries, etc.

It is also highly desirable, to avoid decision “optimization” by the general contractor at the construction site in favour of lower quality and more budget-oriented solutions if the Client expects to receive a high-quality building that meets the requirements set in the design and working documentations.

On the one hand, it is also in the designer’s best interests to ensure that his solutions are implemented, and, on the other hand, that solutions the implementation of which would entail violations are not applied.
The supervision is also important for the contractor; it may protect the contractor as well as help him shift the responsibility. The design supervision team acts as an expert body that undertakes all responsibility for the completed project.

If violations are commited, the designer may come to a compromise and approve the violations if they do not significantly affect the safety of the building.

2. In what sections of the project you deem supervision necessary?

Solutions that are responsible for the fire safety of the building are the first priority: Architectural solutions in the aspect of fire regulations, Design solutions, Fire safety systems.

Solutions that are connected with the client’s comfort.

All sections are important. In our experience there was no such case when design supervision was provided only for certain sections.

3. What is the optimal interaction model for the parties?

Regular visits of the designer are agreed with the client, additional visits are possible if necessary. A Author’s Supervision log is kept, weekly meetings are held with the client and other project participants.

When realizing unique or especially large-scale projects an on-site office can be deployed at the construction site for daily and ad hoc implementation of the design supervision function. If the construction process is ongoing in a remote region, there is a widely used practice for the design supervision team - to work on a rotational basis for an extended period of time.

What is the model/schedule, the specifics of the site visits by experts;
- the composition and size of an expert group;
- managing their access to the facility;
- list of works executed during design supervision; management of records (DS log, minutes of the meetings, etc.).

Structural Solutions Team: the Chief Project Engineer, the Leading Engineer.

MEP-Systems Team: Chief Project Engineer, Mechanical Systems Engineer, Electrical Systems Engineer.

Architectural solutions Team: Chief Project Architect and a Leading Architect.

Design supervision log - is maintained by the engineering designer, it is reviewed by both the contractor and the client’s technical team.

In terms of intensity and frequency of meetings, it makes sense to adapt to the construction schedule. At some stage there will be more visits to the site regarding structural solutions, at other - regarding MEP-Systems. It is necessary to focus on the construction schedule and optimize the design supervision schedule in accordance with it.

In terms of concealed works, for example tests of MEP Systems, hydraulic tests, etc., it is mandatory to have a design supervision team present in order to undergo a survey and then sign the acts. Otherwise, if the engineers do not see these tests, they will have to take responsibility for what they could not have had observed or verified.

4. How often do experts have to agree on using cheaper materials/engineering equipment, simplification of technological solutions, designs?

Constantly. This issue is usually brought up by the contractor and agreed with the client in order to lower the project’s costs. One needs to be extremely careful and considerate when addressing this issue, as it can affect the quality of the project under construction. It is a very important subject. It is necessary to check alternative replacements and immediately inform the client about the deterioration of indicators. There was one case back in Soviet times, when waterproofing with the replacement of material has been agreed for a maternity hospital. The roof was flat and had a parapet, the replacement waterproofing melted under high temperature, the material filled the drainage pits and water could not drain. As a result, a large amount of water was accumulated in one location, formed the giant pool and spilled directly into the maternity ward. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but a criminal penalty followed for the architect, who, during the design supervision, agreed on a replacement material without giving the matter proper consideration. This is the result of an inconsiderate concession to the contractor, who said that “there is no material left that is listed in the project, however, there is an almost identical one.” Chief Project Architects and Chief Project Engineers have criminal liability, they must not forget about that.

5. In your experience, have there been suspensions of construction at the request of the Author’s Supervision team? Major alterations to correct defects?

In our experience, yes, there have been such a case. During the construction of a shopping mall a contractor used a class of concrete that does not match that listed in the project. This kind of discrepancy is difficult to identify, but it can lead to fatal consequences. Unfortunately, such cases occur because of a desire to save money where it is fraught with risk. At the same time, it is not at all easy to determine the class of concrete at a construction site; one has to conduct tests to do that.

6. How is the scope and the cost of services of a Author’s Supervision company estimated?

By agreement with the Client, an Author’s Supervision team is created, a schedule is prepared depending on the schedule of the works at the construction site, a list of the main types of concealed works is determined, in the examination of which the designer takes part. Based on the number of visits, the number of experts in the team and their schedule, a commercial proposal is prepared.

In conclusion we can also add that in order to have a building, that corresponds to the initial architectural concept, that is constructed with respect to the elaborated permit and construction documentation, with the high quality materials and equipment, it is highly recommended to spend a relevantly tiny amount of resources for Author’s Supervision procedure. This will pay back times in future and saves you from potential risks.