Design-Assist, an Ambiguous Term Causing Conflict in the Construction Industry[1]

3D Models of town

The term “design-assist” is notably absent from court opinions and most state licensing laws.

December 2, 2019
John P. Ahlers - Ahlers Cressman & Sleight PLLC

“Design-Assist” is one of the recent cost-saving trends being touted for construction projects and, in particular, construction projects utilizing alternative procurement methods. If an internet search for the term, “design-assist” is made, the result will be numerous construction industry articles and white papers lauding “design-assist” as a recent cost-saving trend in construction procurement. From a legal perspective, however, the term “design-assist” is notably absent from court opinions and most state licensing laws. With the exception of the ConsensusDocs, few standard form contracts even include the term “design-assist” in their text.

The ConsensusDocs agreement provides examples of the Constructor’s obligations to perform “assisting activities” (the term “design-assist” is not used) and states that, notwithstanding the performance of such “assisting activities” by the Constructor, the responsibility of the design remains with the Designer unless otherwise stated in the Contract:

  • Article 4.5 DESIGN PROFESSIONAL’S RESPONSIBIITIES The Designer shall furnish or provide all design and engineering services necessary to design the Project in accordance with the Owner’s objectives … the Designer shall draw upon the assistance of Constructor and others in developing the design, but the Designer shall retain overall responsibility for all design decisions….
  • Article 4.6 CONSTRUCTOR’S RESPONSIBILITIES [T]he Constructor shall assist the Designer in the development of the Project Plan and Project Design but shall not provide professional services which constitute the practice of architecture or engineering unless the Constructor needs to provide such services in order to carry out its responsibilities … or unless specifically called for by the Contract Documents.

Mr. Ahlers may be contacted at john.ahlers@acslawyers.com



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