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Everything Architects Should Know About Punch Lists

As an architect, when it comes to the punch list and the punch list process, what do you really need to know and pay attention to?

In this article, we address the basics of the punch list process, along with tips from experienced architects, what they wish their “younger self” would have known about punch lists and how modern technology is making punch lists more efficient.

Punch list 101: The basics

“Begin with the end in mind,” is a phrase coined by renowned motivational speaker and author Stephen R. Covey. It means to start with a clear understanding of your destination. In a building project, the design/drawings and specifications get to the core of this phrase. The drawings and specs tell you what the end result should be. Getting to the end of a building project is a big deal and one critical element to winding down a project is completion of the punch list.

Simply put, a punch list helps organize and track the end-of-project to-do items that might otherwise go unnoticed or undone. The objective of the punch list is to prepare and submit a comprehensive list of items to be completed or corrected prior to final payment. The punch lists should show to all parties which defects need fixing, by whom, and by when in order to comply with the contract. For the project architect, the punch list is also a tool to ensure the building project conforms to the project drawings and prescribed specifications. Whether your punch list is digital or paper-based, creating and completing an accurate punch list is vital to delivering a successful project.

The Architect's Guide to Punch Lists

What is the architect’s role in the punch list process?

There are multiple stakeholders involved in the punch list process, including project owners, general contractors, subcontractors, and architects. Each of these stakeholders has a role to play in the punch list process. Ultimately, completion of the punch list is the responsibility of the contractor, but for the architect, the punch list focus is to ensure the project was built in alignment to the design and specifications and identify any areas of non-conformance.

Generally, the architect will conduct walkthroughs of the project multiple times throughout the construction phase, especially at key construction milestones, to ensure the prescribed design and specifications have been executed. Conducting site inspections and walkthroughs throughout the project is important to spot deviations from the drawings early in the process to minimize costly rework and delays.

A tool architects can use to make the final punch list process less painful and prevent unwelcome surprises at the project’s end are field reports. Field reports are a valuable tool used by architects to deliver a clear and consistent project overview to all stakeholders of the project status, planning, agreements made, and actions required. Field reports coupled with the punch list are crucial to executing a smooth-running construction project and helps mitigate misunderstandings, costly mistakes and delays.

As the architect conducts project walkthroughs, they look to confirm the project is being constructed per the construction documents. Any incomplete or non-conforming work is documented to create the punch list. The architect then shares their list with the general contractor, for example, in the format of a field report. The benefit of doing regular inspections and intermediate “mini punch lists” throughout the project, ensures expectations are continuously aligned, helping avoid surprises at the end of the project. The process of conducting regular walkthroughs and punching is also a form of quality management throughout the project and not something addressed only at the end of a project. The process of inspections and regular punching continues between the architect and contractor throughout the project, leading up to construction completion and the final walkthrough. Once construction is complete, the architect will do a final walkthrough with the key project stakeholders and develop a punch list. The punch list notes any remaining items that still need to be completed. After these items are addressed, the project is officially complete.

The architect also plays an important role in reviewing the punch list to approve final payments to the general contractor. The punch list is a good “checks and balances” between all project stakeholders to ensure the project has been built per design and everything has been completed satisfactory.

Architects and Construction Workers On Site

Tips for architects to navigate punch lists efficiently

How many times as a young professional did you said to yourself, “If I’d only known…”? It would have saved you a lot of time, rework and corrections. The same is true for navigating the punch list. The following are tips to help you efficiently work through the punch list process.

  1. Inspect the site regularly and participate in the punch list walkthrough to make sure that everything is as designed and specified in the drawings. That way, you can make fixes as issues arise, instead of waiting until the end to create a massive punch list.
  2. An important step to any punch list process is to have clear contract documents with the exact specifications of what needs to get built. This step alone can save you from a lot of rework down the line and lengthy punch lists.
  3. Get the project’s specifications into the hands of the trades personnel doing the work. Often, people only know one way of executing when installing a building material. If that way isn’t in line with the specification, this will cause rework, add punch list items and lead to potential project setbacks.
  4. Discuss with the general contractor activities that are prone to mistakes or have unique specifications, so the subcontractors are alerted and can pay closer attention to them as they are executed to minimize punch list items.
  5. Architects should not develop a punch list until the contractor says they are ready. Otherwise, there will be extra work documenting things that the contractor most likely already knows are not complete.
  6. Discuss with the general contractor the idea of having a Rolling Punch List. Instead of waiting until the end of the project to start a punch list, add potential tasks as the project progresses and incorporate into your inspection and field reports. Using this running list sets project standards so you can improve accountability across the team.
  7. Use photos to document and communicate what work is considered unsatisfactory. Linking photos to your field reports and punch list helps alleviate miscommunications and expedites corrections. Photos of the problem to be corrected and its exact location allows the subcontractor to have the right tools, equipment and materials on hand to fix the problem, saving time and resources.
  8. When closing out punch lists, have images of the issue before repair so you can easily see if repairs were completed as expected. Before and after pictures are valuable documentation.
  9. Both contractor and architect should walk the project together as the punch list is being developed so all are in agreement with list items and minimize questions after the punch list is issued.
  10. Use digital field reports and punch lists to streamline and reduce time consuming processes of compiling handwritten notes, downloading pictures and writing reports. Using outdated pen and paper leads to many inefficiencies and errors and hinders collaboration among stakeholders. Mobile cloud-based tools enable real-time conversations as well as immediate updates that keeps everyone informed for maximum visibility as the project progresses.

simple app for architects

How technology can help make punch lists more efficient for architects

The digital punch list is a game changer for the AEC industry and eliminates inefficiencies of paper lists. Completing all items on the punch list can be tedious, but with Deltek + ArchiSnapper, an easy-to-use mobile field app, architects and engineers can make tasks like punch lists easier and faster with unparalleled efficiencies.

Benefits of Deltek + ArchiSnapper:

  • Easy-to-use field app that automates manual field processes by simply snapping a photo, recording observations and digitally annotating drawings or photos
  • Produce company-branded reports in seconds saving time with concise information with text and photo documentation perfectly aligned
  • A field app built for architects and engineers that focuses on what matters most to A&E firms, making project collaboration easy and effective

No more pen and paper, Word or Excel. Just one easy-to-use app, to document and manage your punch list and field reports to an on-time completion, helping your team be more effective to get more work done; that’s ArchiSnapper.

Test drive ArchiSnapper with a free 14-day trial and see for yourself the efficiencies the ArchiSnapper app brings to your projects.

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