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Nathan Woods, CCCA, LEED AP
Senior Member
Username: nwoods

Post Number: 321
Registered: 08-2005
Posted on Monday, January 04, 2010 - 12:08 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

In the institutional/educational marketplace here in Southern California, we are seeing a significant growth of a new project delivery method. It is Multiple-Prime, without a General Contractor.

I've been looking for information on this method, trying to grasp what possible benefit there might be. Appearantly, I am not looking in the right places. If any of you have information about this delivery method, I would appreciate learning from your sources.

One of the things I need to learn, is how the Architect's contract should change. Currently, we are based on the B141/A201 model, and that really doesn't work anymore.
Robert W. Johnson
Senior Member
Username: robert_w_johnson

Post Number: 50
Registered: 03-2009
Posted on Monday, January 04, 2010 - 12:50 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

I would question muiltipe prime contracts as being a new project delivery method - sophisticated owners capable of coordinating the construction have used it for some time. Probably most used on simplier construction projects with fewer coordination issues. Also is a required method for public work in several states.

Who is coordinating the multipe prime contracts in your cases?

The prime benefit would seem to be saving money by not paying for construction coordination - that is dependent of course on the owner being capable of doing that coordination rather than paying someone else to do it.

The major change for the architect is preparing separate contract packages for each prime contract that will prevent disputes among the prime contractors about scope of work which is a major potential problem with this method. Then there are the issues of scheduling the work of the separate contracts in coordination with each other. Also defining who is responsible for the various temporary facilities and utilities. The architect is definitely taking on some of the coordination responsibilities of a general contractor by incrased document requirements.

Then there is the actual construction process. When does Contractor A start work in coordination with Contractor B, and when will Contractor A's work be complete for Contractor C to start his work? What if Contractor C does not accept the preparatory work of Contractor A? Who delayed who? Definition of who is responsbible for various types of temporary factilities and utilities. Etc, etc.

The PRM has some material on this method at
Richard Howard, AIA CSI CCS LEED-AP
Senior Member
Username: rick_howard

Post Number: 228
Registered: 07-2003

Posted on Monday, January 04, 2010 - 03:02 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

The State of Ohio, where I am located, has a requirement for separate prime contracts for state projects if the dollar amount of the work is over a certain minimum. They designate a "Lead" contract with responsibility to coordinate the work of all of the separate primes. This is usually the general, but if the project was predominately HVAC in scope, that prime could be designated the Lead Contractor.

I don't think anyone benefits from this kind of arrangement other than the contractors who have contracts directly with the state instead of being subs to the general contractor. Total cost of the project is higher to the state and the design team has to take additional time to indicate individual scopes of work and responsibilities for shared resources, such as utilities. And don't forget the added paperwork for everyone.

You can look at the State of Ohio standard requirements at the following URL:
John Bunzick, CCS, CCCA, LEED AP
Senior Member
Username: bunzick

Post Number: 1158
Registered: 03-2002
Posted on Monday, January 04, 2010 - 04:48 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

I did a state-funded project in Pennsylvania with the same system Rick describes being used in Ohio. Same issues there.
George A. Everding, AIA, CSI, CCS, CCCA
Senior Member
Username: geverding

Post Number: 502
Registered: 11-2004

Posted on Monday, January 04, 2010 - 05:10 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Illinois Capital Development Board, ditto. State of New York, ditto.

MasterSpec in Division 01 has a Multiple Contracts Summary section that includes a "Project Coordinator" article for instances where the Owner coordinates. But in my experience, most of the state projects will assign coordination to one of the primes.
George A. Everding AIA CSI CCS CCCA
Cannon Design - St. Louis, MO
Nathan Woods, CCCA, LEED AP
Senior Member
Username: nwoods

Post Number: 322
Registered: 08-2005
Posted on Monday, January 04, 2010 - 06:02 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Robert, you are correct in what Multiple Prime ought to be, but that is not the scenario we are encountering these days. Instead of breaking a job up into clearly defined increments (such as general construction for whole buildings), the projects are being broken up into much smaller peices. For example, the caulking, flashing, plaster, and window assemblies are 4 seperate prime contracts.

When one contractor, such as the window guy, makes a substitution that impacts the other trades, there is no check and balance process occuring to prevent it.

There is a CM, but they do not review shop drawings. They mandate that each trade coordiate its work with the other trades. But as near as I can tell, there is no process that would enforce, or even allow, this coordination to occur.

The implication then is that the Architect's review of the submittal is the sole mechanism in place to coordinate all the trades. Of course, this is completely at odds with our contract, and quite possibly, with the licensing distinctions between general contractors and architects.
Nathan Woods, CCCA, LEED AP
Senior Member
Username: nwoods

Post Number: 323
Registered: 08-2005
Posted on Monday, January 04, 2010 - 06:03 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

BTW, I am talking about small school projects, under $10 million, sometimes considerably smaller.
Robert W. Johnson
Senior Member
Username: robert_w_johnson

Post Number: 51
Registered: 03-2009
Posted on Monday, January 04, 2010 - 07:56 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post


What you are talking about is what I am talking about - the number of contracts can vary from 3-4 to many more.

When a private owner does it, is likely to be more separate contracts and the owner does the coordination.

When the states require it, is usually only a small number of separate contracts (result of MEP contractors campaigning for separate contracts) and the coordination is assigned to one of the contractors - usually the one doing the general construction in contrast to the MEP.

You haven't been very clear about the delivery method you are talking about - you now mention that there is a CM involved. That would normally mean a Construction Management delivery method rather than just multiple prime contracts. What does the CM's contract say his responsibilities are? Are they being fulfilled?

It sounds like this is more of a problem of the participants not having clearly defined responsibilities or not fulfilling their contractual responsibilities under a CM arrangement. There is always problems when all the participants don't have a clear understanding of the project delivery method being used and/or don't fulfill their responsibilties under that method as defined in their contracts, or their contracts don't clearly define their responsibilities for the delivery method being used.

From a historical point of view I can recall how the CM method was going to be our salvation in the early 70's just as we see all the current promotion of Integrated Project Delivery (IPD). I was the public owner's representative on the first public CM project constructed in the State of Colorado - project went quite well. Of course, after awhile with some experience some of the problems with CM came to light in addition to the advantages and CM became another delivery method to choose from among the others. Each delivery method has its advantages and disadvantages; the secret is to pick the best one for circumstances of each project. The A/E often does not have much input into that decision and have to take what comes with the project.
Phil Kabza
Senior Member
Username: phil_kabza

Post Number: 416
Registered: 12-2002

Posted on Monday, January 04, 2010 - 10:07 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

We actually held a celebration dance in the studio the day the governor signed the law enabling school districts to bypass the multiple prime requirement in North Carolina. The issue was bitterly fought by the subcontractors who pocketed much of the GC markup while enjoying the unlimited potential for change orders. Multiple prime experience was exactly as described in seveal postings above, with considerable responsibility downloaded to the architect.

The idea of letting numerous trade packages (I've seen 25+ let) without either a GC or an active CM as coordinator is sheer madness. It brings increased responsibility to the architect to clearly define the scope of each package - a task that very few architects are equipped to do.

If capable, multiple prime (with 4 or 5 major contracts) can be an opportunity for increased services and fees for architects, but the firm that tries to do this work without adjusting their fee structure and retaining capable CA staff will lose their shirts.
Anon (Unregistered Guest)
Unregistered guest
Posted on Tuesday, January 05, 2010 - 11:55 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

The delivery method you describe sounds to me like a CMa where the CM is acting as an Advisor (the 'a' in the CMa) to the Owner. AIA has a CMa General Conditions that you may be aware of, that may help you figure out the way this needs to be coordinated. If the CM also is acting to some degree as one of the primes, then the AIA term for this is CMc - where 'c' means Constructor. Again, there is an AIA document for this delivery method.

It makes no difference what the scope of the individual packages are for this delivery method. It could be as narrow as 'sealant' or as broad as 'foundation.'
J. Peter Jordan
Senior Member
Username: jpjordan

Post Number: 381
Registered: 05-2004
Posted on Tuesday, January 05, 2010 - 12:19 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

This was the situation in New Jersey when I was doing school work up there. The governnment agency had the option to bundle it together after receiving bids, but it kinda wierded me out. Because it was the norm, no one seemed to care very much about it. It seemed to me that some language needed changing, and one needed to be a little more careful about what information went where. One could rely a little less on the idea that if it is shown in one place it's included in the contract, but it seemed to work OK (admittedly, I was not very involved in CA).

I have seen this on some private work where the owner simply could not see the value in what a general contractor did, but then again, don't see too many of these since these types of owners don't see the value in what an architect does either.

In developing my fee proposals, I always try to ascertain the project procurement method, stating it in my proposals, and I advise my clients to do the same. If this changes, I can estimate how much extra work it might cause me and what I should charge. Without stating this up front, I have no basis to request additional services.

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