Construction meetings serve many important purposes on a job site. Not only do these meetings allow parties to discuss and coordinate upcoming project activities, but they provide a forum in which the parties can discuss project changes and claims. Parties to a construction contract should be encouraged to hold regular construct meetings.
And just as with a contractor’s safety meetings, everything that happens during construction meetings should be written down in a manner that allows the parties to track the progress of a discussion that continues over the course of several meetings. The party taking minutes should make a practice of distributing these meeting minutes to the Owner, Architect, Project Administrator, and any subcontractors in attendance.
Construction meetings facilitate discussions of issues that may affect project costs or schedule. From the thousand-foot perspective, a contractor can use construction meetings to confirm that other parties are aware it is mobilizing or demobilizing from the project or moving to a different area, especially if its reasons include that there is not sufficient work or work-space available for it to maintain its crew. Or, a contractor can use the meetings to raise value engineering issues and determine before spending a lot of time on the issue whether other parties will consider VE proposals at all. An Owner, on the other hand, can use construction meetings to announce design or parameter changes even before project plans are updated, allowing the parties additional time to appreciate how changes will affect the balance of the project. But the highest value of construction meetings often addresses specific issues or obstacles on a specific portion of the project – a conflict, an omission in the plans, etc. These issues may need to be further documented in, say, a Request for Information or even a claim, but each issue should be addressed during construction meetings if for no other reason than to track its progress and resolution.
Project specifications often require the Prime Contractor to submit claims within a short time of an event that could affect project cost or schedule. And even though the meetings (and meeting minutes) may not satisfy contract requirements to file written claims notices, Arizona courts nonetheless may allow the notice provided during a meeting’s discussions to satisfy the underlying intent of these types of contract clauses – that the Owner had actual notice of a Prime Contractor’s claims.
Thus, an Owner who receives notice that project cost or schedule may be affected has a duty to respond regardless of whether the notice is raised through a formal claim or a discussion during a meeting.
The information exchanged at construction meetings may also reveal the existence of an issue before a Prime Contractor actually raises it, allowing the Owner to be prepared for the issue even if it does not rise to the level of a claim. For example, many owners require the Prime Contractor to provide short-term, look-ahead schedules at construction meetings. By comparing these look-aheads to the overall project schedules, an Owner not only can determine whether the Prime Contractor is on track to complete within project time, but it can also determine whether the Prime Contractor is completing tasks in the as-planned sequence. For example, Owners should inquire to determine the cause when an activity originally planned to take two days is now listed in a look-ahead as taking five days. And a contractor starts employing a different sequence from the as-planned schedule, the Owner may inquire whether the Prime Contractor is having difficulty with a portion of the work, with a supplier, or with a subcontractor; of course, the sequence shift could also simply mean that the Contractor has found an opportunity to construct the project more efficiently, perhaps by accelerating the work of a subcontractor who is experiencing a down time from its other projects, but only a conversation such as what should happen at a construction meeting can quickly expose the reasons for the shift.
Construction meeting minutes and other documents exchanged at construction meetings will also be important if any issue is escalated to a claim or to litigation. The minutes and documents like daily field or observation reports will help show what work the contractor was performing when it ran into an issue and how the parties responded to the issue. In extreme cases where one party or the other changes its position about the effect a particular event had on project time or cost, these types of documents can be powerful evidence of how the party originally viewed the event.
Our lawyers are here to help if you have any questions about how to document a typical construction meeting or how to document a particular event.