THE FORMAL CONTRACT After the completion of the drawings and specifications, it is customary to award a contract—i.e., to enter into an agreement for carrying out the work; and an instrument is drawn for the signature of both the Owner and the Contractor, setting forth their legal rela tions. Inasmuch as a contract between two parties is an agree ment to do a certain specific thing, it is evident that the principal part of the contract, or the basis therefor, consists of the drawings and specification, in which is the full and complete description of the specific thing to be done. Hence, in the preceding text, the point that every requirement and condition should be clearly set forth, has been emphasized; for, however strongly the formal contract is drawn, if it has no specific basis, it is of no value. Therefore, from a legal standpoint, emphasis is again placed on the necessity for a clear and unambiguous statement in the specification, of just what is to be done.
The formal contract is not drawn till after the award of the work; but separation in time does not change the fact that it is only a continuation of the specification; it is its completion, and it should in short, clear terms set forth the final arrangement.
As the province of the specification is to set forth and explain what is not included in the province of the drawings, the formal con tract is to set forth such final conditions as the specification was not able to cover.
There are certain conditions likely to prevail in carrying out the work, which may in a very material way affect the operation of the contract, and possibly destroy its force notwithstanding the fact that its basis is sound. As the contract is an agreement to do a cer tain specific thing, it follows that, if any change is made in any of the matter which goes to make up that specific thing so that some other specific thing is substituted, the terms of the contract are not filled, and such changes, unless properly guarded, can be made the basis of refusal on the part of either the Owner or the Builder to abide by all the conditions covered by the contract. Questions of this de scription are among the most serious which arise in general archi tectural practice.
As buildings progress, the Owner and often the Architect see items which, if changed, would improve the restilt; and as the depar ture from the specific thing contracted for appears slight, the Builder is in a general way either requested or directed to make the change. Also, in the progress of the work, the Builder often finds it possible for him to make better arrangements for materials, etc., by making
substitution, and, considering the change of little moment, proceeds to make it.
In the first of the above cases, the Owner or the Architect is surprised when he finds that modifications made by either are the basis for an extra charge of some magnitude, and that it is also used as an excuse (and it is generally valid) for several days' delay in the completion of the work.
In the second case, the Builder is surprised to find his substi tution the basis of a demand that he make a material deduction from the contract price.
In either case, the Architect is blamed by both parties—and often justly so—for allowing matters to drift into the existing con ditions; and it is not unusual for the Owner and Builder to get together and settle their differences, without changing their opinion of the Architect.
Therefore, after the signing of the contract, it should be the special province of the Architect to see that as few changes as pos sible are made; and, when it is advisable to make changes, to see also that all the conditions affected thereby are fully understood, and that such understanding is expressed in writing signed by both parties.
It is not the intention of the above to intimate that desirable changes should be abandoned in order to avoid complicating the contract situation, because there is no work in which improvements cannot be made as it progresses; but emphasis is laid on the sug gestion that such changes should be as few as possible, and should never be allowed at all unless there is a distinct advantage gained to the Owner, and that, in consenting to any changes, the case should be put in such formal shape that there can be no later misunder standing.
As the question of time is generally important to the Owner, the Architect should see that all details are furnished within the specified time, as it is unreasonable to expect the Builder to com plete the work on time if he is delayed in the receipt of his drawings. Such delay is generally a sufficient excuse for extension of the con tract time for completing the work. Special care should be taken that the modification on the details be not of such a 'character as can be used as a basis for demands for extra compensation beyond con tract prices Under ordinary conditions such as prevail in private practice in work of not large magnitude, a simple document is all that is necessary to set forth the final relations of Owner and Builder, in form somewhat as follows: