Architect Quit What Now?

34 Replies

Hello,

I had the unlucky misfortune of getting a very tough building inspector on a project I'm working on. 

The building inspector is asking for specs on what type of bolts should be used to attach the lally column plates to the footing and the architect blew up (said he wasn't an engineer) and called the town and took himself off the job as the architect on record (I kid you not). 

What do I do now?

Find an architect/engineer that can do what is being asked! Call around, tell them what's happening. Is this the ONLY thing? There has to be other items...


Originally posted by @Doug Woodville :

Find an architect/engineer that can do what is being asked! Call around, tell them what's happening. Is this the ONLY thing? There has to be other items...

 I am serious this is the only thing. What is the process for another architect to "take over" a job this late in the game right at final inspections?

@Doug Woodville  I am serious this is the only thing. What is the process for another architect to "take over" a job this late in the game right at final inspections?

Originally posted by @Ben C. :

Hello,

I had the unlucky misfortune of getting a very tough building inspector on a project I'm working on. 

The building inspector is asking for specs on what type of bolts should be used to attach the lally column plates to the footing and the architect blew up (said he wasn't an engineer) and called the town and took himself off the job as the architect on record (I kid you not). 

What do I do now?

It's his job to find out. I have dealt with a few like that before. You could send the bolts you have specs to the inspector. It may be correct and no problem then. 

Wow, that's really unfortunate and silly for the architect to do that. Is it necessary by law that you have to have a licensed architect on a permit for work done in New Jersey?

@Mike Reynolds This was my understanding as well. It is beyond absurd but at this point I have the home under contract and I just need to close this permit out. The problem is this building inspector (new guy trying to show everyone his power) will not give his opinion he just points out if it works or not. He has been doing this to the architect and builder throughout the entire project. 

@Doug Woodville I really don't know I wish someone could chime in on that from New Jersey. Can't believe this as I am even typing it that it has come down to a few anchor bolts. The architect is so wrong he said "I am not certifying it" in regards to the bolts. Unreal...

So the architect designed all of this including the anchor bolts that are called out on the plans? If so, he sounds like an idiot and waste of time. Can you check local building codes for minimum anchor bolt requirements and compare them to what is installed? If they meet the code then I'd submit those specs to the inspector. 

In regards to having to have an architect sign off on plans for a permit in New Jersey- you might want to go to the city and talk to them about it rather than getting advice on a website about local ordinances. Just my $.02

@Doug Woodville basically the city called for a footing inspection (but my contractor had already closed it off). So he had to go back and remove the lally column and open the footing. Then when the fresh concrete dried and sealed up over the footing their was a tiny space between the bottom of the lally column plate and footing (the inspector literally slide a piece of paper under and noted this). Therefore it needs to be "attached". This wasn't part of architects original plan so no anchor bolts are called out for in plan. Hence the problem...

This sounds more like a contractor problem than an architect problem. Contractors know that footings have to be inspected before covering them up. Now that he’s had to go back and break up the concrete flooring to allow the inspection, the column isn’t installed properly. This isn’t an inspector trying to make a name for himself. He’s just doing his job properly and probably trying to teach the contractor a lesson in the process. I would suggest having your contractor try to work this out for you since it seems he was the one who caused the problem in the first place.

@Tom W. my point is why can't the inspector simply say Brand name X bolt in so and so dimensions would be sufficient in this application instead of having to jump through hoops with everyone?

@Ben C.

An inspector will never do that because that would put all liability on him in the event that something goes wrong. It’s an architect’s responsibility to design per code and the contractor’s to build per design and bring any code discrepancies found during construction to the architect for clarification. It’s the inspector’s job to verify that code has been followed per design but it is outside of his scope to give advice.

@Tom W. I don't known what you do for a living but you're right on with your comments about the roles of the architect, inspector and contractor. Sounds like you've been in the field for a while.

@Ben C. I read some of the earlier threads but I was hesitating to comment (and blame the architect as some have) because I didn't have a full picture of what was going on. I still don't, but when you explained that the contractor had to open up concrete to expose the footing for inspection, it made sense. I'm a licensed architect and a contractor myself, and I can assure you the contractor was the one who should have known better than to cover a footing before an inspection. To throw the responsibility to deal with this problem on the architect who didn't have anything to do with it would be frustrating to me too, so I understand why he pulled himself off the project - my guess is that this issue was not the only thing that put him over the edge.

MY SUGGESTION:

I hope you're not done paying the contractor. Take responsibility for finding a solution and deduct whatever it costs you from your final payment to the contractor. If you've already paid him in full then the cost will be out of your own pocket, unfortunately. You should never pay a GC in full until the permit is closed out.

If the original architect would be willing to provide what the inspector is looking for, offer to pay him hourly for the extra work, and hopefully deduct from final payment to GC. If the original architect is no longer an option, find another architect or a structural engineer, offer to pay them hourly, and again, deduct from GC's final payment if possible. If you're going to find someone new, I would suggest a structural engineer instead of an architect, because many architects don't do structural design, they will hire a structural engineer to work under their "umbrella". The footing, lally column and anchor bolt issue is more of a structural design than architectural. In any case, I would not trust the GC to find someone to provide what the inspector is looking for. And by the way, make sure that whoever you hire also inspects the contractor's final installation and approves it before you get it inspected, because the inspector will be looking for the design professional's seal of approval.

I hope this helps, keep us posted!

@Vahe Ohannessian Thank you for the awesome detailed response. My only goal is getting this project done at this point. 

The main thing is getting someone to calculate what is the appropriate anchor bolt to use for this application along with method of installation etc.  

I have spoken to a structural engineer this afternoon and he said "that makes no sense" that an architect would not provide that. Do you agree/disagree?

Lastly, is an architect allowed to recuse himself right before final inspection? I have paid him all of the money and final inspection hasn't been passed as this issue is pending. 

@Ben C. how many columns are affected? It sounds like there was never a need or spec for bolts, until this footer had to be opened back up, and now, due to it "floating" the town is requiring it be bolted. This actually sounds pretty straight forward.

Personally I would speak to a local Engineer and get a feel for what specifying anchor bolts for a column to a footing might cost. He then specifies a certain size bolt, epoxy if needed, etc. you have your contractor install it, and the town inspect it. Shouldn't be very time consuming or difficult (assuming it is one or a couple, with easy accessibility and your contractor is capable of it). You could push back on your contractor if his not calling for an inspection and having to open the area somehow caused this issue. If not, consider it cost of doing business.

@Ben C. This is a unique situation where something is being asked for "out of sequence". I'm a bit surprised to hear that your structural engineer is saying it doesn't make sense that the architect doesn't provide the anchor bolt sizing. Many (or even most) architects, including myself, would not feel comfortable specifying anchor bolts for this particular situation. I would push to just get a structural engineer to do the required calcs, and have the contractor install as @Brian Pulaski suggests.

As to the architect recusing himself, I don't have enough information on your contracts and the events surrounding the issue to share an opinion. I can say that if you're pressuring him to provide services that he's not being paid for (due to an error on the part of the contractor) then he can say no.

@Ben C. every architect I have ever dealt with did not specify structural items, they had an engineer do it. Granted this was all commercial large scale work, however the engineer did this.

Did the structural engineer say he could come look and specify something for you? On face value it sounds like a fairly easy solution (drill, possibly epoxy, lag bolts and crank them down).

Originally posted by @Ben C. :

@Doug Woodville basically the city called for a footing inspection (but my contractor had already closed it off). So he had to go back and remove the lally column and open the footing. Then when the fresh concrete dried and sealed up over the footing their was a tiny space between the bottom of the lally column plate and footing (the inspector literally slide a piece of paper under and noted this). Therefore it needs to be "attached". This wasn't part of architects original plan so no anchor bolts are called out for in plan. Hence the problem...

That's on the contractor then. He needs to eat the cost. 

Can you get an adjustable base plate for the column? That way you can cut the column a bit and use the adjustable base plate to make up the difference. The original Lally columns have those but you still need to ask an engineer about the load and application. 

Another thing that will help in the future is when you have a difficult inspector ask questions. Two things happen. One, he thinks you are trying to do the right thing. Two, you will learn so much by listening. It really does help. Try and treat him as your ally instead of adversary. 

@Vahe Ohannessian at this point I am not interested in cutting off my nose to spite my face. Therefore I am willing to eat the cost to have a structural engineer come and provide and signed and sealed letter specifying the type of bolts and their application (so the architect doesn't have liability here). 

However, if I am willing to concede that point, I don't see any way he can simply walk off the job at this point (at the time of final inspection). I will send him a lawyers letter if need be but hate to go that route. Thoughts? Is the job not your responsibility how can you walk off when you have been all paid and are at final inspections. Nobody I have spoken to have ever seen this type of behavior from an architect. 

@Ben C. As I mentioned before, my hunch is that there's more to this than just the anchor bolt issue that led to the architect quitting. The bottom line is, if you want/need him to deal with what's beyond his scope of services as originally agreed upon, pay him for it. Also, talk to him and ask him just what it is that caused him to walk off, and, if need be, remind him that there's a code of ethics that he needs to serve by. I wouldn't threaten him unless you're convinced he has been unprofessional, or dishonest, or incompetent, or something else. I'm sure NJ has an avenue for consumers to file complaints against state-licensed architects like they do for many types of professionals and service providers.

@Vahe Ohannessian I would say walking off the job at time of final inspection is the definition of unprofessional. Thank you for all your input. Greatly appreciated! Have a nice day. 

@Vahe Ohannessian great advice. I also should say I learned from you to not "jump the gun" and call people idiots without the entire story. Thanks for the input. 

Originally posted by @Ben C. :

@Vahe Ohannessian at this point I am not interested in cutting off my nose to spite my face. Therefore I am willing to eat the cost to have a structural engineer come and provide and signed and sealed letter specifying the type of bolts and their application (so the architect doesn't have liability here). 

However, if I am willing to concede that point, I don't see any way he can simply walk off the job at this point (at the time of final inspection). I will send him a lawyers letter if need be but hate to go that route. Thoughts? Is the job not your responsibility how can you walk off when you have been all paid and are at final inspections. Nobody I have spoken to have ever seen this type of behavior from an architect. 

 Ben, I'm a licensed architect and investor from NJ as well and what I don't understand is how architects takes on themselves structural engineering responsibilities. I always use a structural engineer for these type of calculations and specifications. At the same time, what the architect did to you is totally unethical and unprofessional. to move forward I would contact a structural engineer that would specify all loose items that the inspector asked for. your goal is to wrap this project. when you have the CO you can get in touch with the NJ board of architects and open a claim against this architect. his license can be in danger. I would never ever leave a client in this position, unless something really bad happen along the way to him... Good luck!

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