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Architects now entering construction management.

Competition in the construction management (CM) arena is suddenly heating up from a new source, as architects incorporate CM functions into their scope of services, reports attorney Michael S. Zetlin, an expert in design and construction law.

"This rapidly developing trend will have broad implications for architects, property owners and the construction industry as a whole," said Zetlin, a partner in the law firm of Zeflin & De Chiara. "All parties should proceed very cautiously until the industry can comfortably absorb the changes taking place."

Zetlin notes that within the past month, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) published its first standardized document covering agreements in which an architect provides construction management services as an advisor to the owner.

"The AIA told us the CM document is a response to a 'very vocal demand' from many of its members," Zetlin explained. "It said the Institute wasn't going out of its way to encourage CM services, but that a growing number of architects apparently view it as a potentially significant new practice area."

According to Zetlin, the AIA spokesman also observed that the movement into the CM field was most noticeable among small and mid-sized architectural firms, and most prevalent at the moment in the Midwest, although all parts of the nation are affected.

Zetlin observes that the influx of design professionals into construction management moves the profession as a whole closer to the design-build concept, which some larger firms are embracing. In design-build, one firm takes direct responsibility for the construction as well as the design.

But even in the advisory functions of construction management, substantial risks accompany the benefits, the attorney cautions.

"Architects who intend to enter this new terrain must be prepared to meet the challenges imposed on CMs," he said, adding:

"The responsibilities spelled out in the AIA's standardized agreement are formidable, to say the least. And even the most competent firm of design professionals may not necessarily be properly suited to take on those duties. Every firm must give this careful consideration before making a commitment to CM."
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Title Annotation:report from Michael S. Zetlin of Zetlin and DeChiara law firm
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:May 19, 1993
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