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Errors and Omissions in Contract Documents: What to Expect

January 24th, 2022 | 3 min. read

Errors and Omissions in Contract Documents: What to Expect

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The words “errors and omissions” can be somewhat taboo in the world of architecture and construction. For many, these words are associated with cost overruns and delayed schedules, making them a source of anxiety. 

Despite the taboo, errors and omissions in contract documents are a normal part of every building project, and with the right preparation, they shouldn’t have a major impact on construction. 

If you are undertaking a building project, you should anticipate some level of inaccuracy. To help you prepare, this article will answer the following questions: 

  1. What are errors or omissions in contract documents? 
  2. How do you prevent them? 
  3. How do you address them when they occur? 

After reading, you will be better prepared to have conversations with an architect about errors and omissions, contingencies, and change orders—helping you protect your budget and enter your building project with confidence. 

What Are Errors and Omissions in Contract Documents? 

Contract documents are written documents that define roles, the project’s scope, and the design intent. They can include any technical specifications, drawings, or any documents related to the procurement of services. Depending on the project delivery method, they may serve as the basis for a contractor’s bid. 

Errors or omissions refer to any missing or incorrect information in the contract documents. For example, the documents could be missing a code requirement or may specify an incorrectly sized material. 

They can include anything that is: 

  1. Not labeled in the documents 
  2. Not located in the documents 
  3. Not coordinated between consultants 
  4. Not fully specified 

Since construction bids are often based on contract documents, the contractor will have to adjust the project’s scope through a change order if they encounter an error or omission.  

Why Do Errors and Omissions Occur?  

Architecture is a professional service. Like medicine, law, accounting, or any other service, architecture is prone to human error. The uniqueness and complexity of each building project increase this level of risk.  

Cars or other manufactured products undergo rigorous testing before they are put on the market. A building (or any designed space, for that matter) is a unique prototype. “Testing” the design occurs in real-time as the building is constructed.  

Before starting a building project, you should know that documents cannot be 100% accurate before construction begins. With many unknowns, your architect cannot anticipate every situation that will arise.  

However, your architect should work to reduce the likelihood of errors and omissions and protect your budget.  

Can You Prevent Errors or Omissions? 

Although every set of contract documents likely contains some errors or omissions, the right preparation can help keep construction on track. Your architect should take steps to improve the accuracy of their documents and reduce the number of change orders you encounter. 

A quality assurance process is the best way to prevent errors and omissions. At Neumann Monson, members of our Quality Assurance team reviews all documents before bidding. We make sure the reviewers are outside the project team, providing a fresh perspective. 

Additionally, your architect should factor a construction contingency into your budget. Typically, construction contingencies are 5% of the construction cost for new buildings and 7-8% for renovations. 

Beyond errors and omissions, the contingency should also cover owner-requested change orders and unexpected situations that arise during construction. A quality architect will aim to make this contingency as accurate as possible. 

How Can You Prepare? 

If your contractor discovers an error or omission in the contract documents, they will request a clarification from the architect.  

Your architect will review the request, validate that the cost is reasonable, and research other potential solutions to make sure you are getting the best value. They will then discuss the change with you and explain how it will impact the budget and schedule. With your approval, they can issue a change order. 

Remember: the contingency should cover the cost of these situations and protect your budget. It’s important to reserve your contingency for these situations.  

Want to Learn More? 

For many, errors and omissions in contact documents are a source of anxiety. But with the right preparation, they shouldn’t disturb the construction process.  

Discuss the possibility of these situations with your architect early in the design process to make sure you are prepared. Your architect should take preventative measures and implement a quality assurance process. At the same time, you should expect some inaccuracy and set aside a construction contingency. 

Honest conversations about this seemingly taboo subject can help you keep your project on track.  

When you hire an architect, ask about their approach to quality assurance and how they will control costs in construction. To learn what else you should look for in an architect, read our overview of architectural project management.