Subconsultants and subcontractors can of course have an enormous impact on your ability to stay on schedule and on budget in any given construction project. And their work reflects on your company, which typically bears the responsibility of everything that transpires on site.
Successfully working with subconsultants and subcontractors requires due diligence on your part through the initial selection process and the job. Follow these eight steps to keep things streamlined and efficient, and to minimize the risk that something goes wrong.
Strategies for Working with Subconsultants and Subcontractors
- Have a thorough selection process. Research the company history, work history, litigation history, financial viability, experience, technical qualifications, quality control and risk management procedures, staffing and availability, and references of any subconsultant or subcontractor you’re considering.
- Bring them on board from the beginning. The job is much more likely to run smoothly and efficiently if subcontractors and subconsultants are there from the start.
- Pay close attention to contracts. Contracts with subs are as critical as contracts with your clients. Make sure all sub contracts are coordinated with your prime agreement. Whenever possible, use standard contracts issued by groups like the American Institute of Architects or the Engineers Joint Contract Documents Committee. Otherwise, have your lawyers ensure that key aspects like the scope of services, coordination of responsibilities, schedule, right to rely, insurance requirements, billing and payment, limitation of liability, indemnities, dispute resolution, time limit for litigation, and confidentiality requirements are addressed.
- Require appropriate insurance. Your subconsultants and subcontractors must have the right insurance policies and adequate coverage for the job. Insist on it, and ask to see current proof of coverage. Subs should have any coverage you must have per your prime contract.
- Hold a comprehensive project initiation meeting. This is an opportunity to get all parties on the same page as far as time lines, requirements, expectations, and goals are concerned. Lay out a complete project plan.
- Establish communication and documentation protocols. Your subconsultant and subcontractors should have guidelines for how to communicate with you and how to document progress and problems along the way. Specific people should have specific instructions and be assigned specific responsibilities at specific times.
- Monitor closely for developing issues. Be proactive about keeping everything running safely and efficiently. Watch for signs that communication is breaking down, that documentation is falling short, or that things are going off schedule. Don’t delay in addressing anything.
- Asses subconsultants and subcontractors after project completion. Keep notes during the project to assist with this. When everything’s finished, review the overall performance of subs, including their communication, timeliness, work quality, accountability, and other aspects of what they delivered. This helps determine whether you should work with them again, and can provide valuable insights into what to look for in the future when selecting other subs.