Contrary to many contractors’ opinions, deferred design is appropriate professional conduct and a normal course for provision of design solutions using integrated production of construction documentation and delivery of constructible solutions.
Essentially, a design professional can delegate through (as an RPR) or accept delegation from (as a supporting registered professional) a constructor for the design of ancillary building components, systems, or elements. Items being delegated that involve the design services of a registered or licensed professional—be it an engineer, architect, or interior designer—must be clearly stated with respect to the design solutions required and the fact those solutions require involvement of a registered professional.
The RPR is required to review and determine whether the deferred design component is in general conformance with the overall project design requirements and can be integrated into the project as an informational submittal. Other members of the design team managed by the co-ordinating registered professional (CPR) can provide comments on the design solution as an action submittal (submittals [along with specifications, shop drawings, and other documentation] will be discussed in more detail in the third part of this article series.). The RPR must provide written notification of any decisions or modifications required to match performance with project design requirements. Modifications to any submittal cannot alter the inherent design provided by the supporting registered professional, particularly where that direction adds requirements not clearly supported by the drawings or specifications. The RPR can reject the design solution provided by the supporting registered professional if clear explanation is provided to justify the rejection (such as insufficient detail or solutions changing the fundamental design of the project).
Deferred design is applicable to all forms of contract delivery, including traditional design-bid-build, construction management, and design-build. It is a key component of the integrated project delivery process and building information modeling (BIM). It also cannot happen without substantial participation of the RPR. The fact this entity does not have the requisite skills or knowledge to perform the design in-house does not lead to a blank statement of deferred design. RPRs must retain their roles for key decision-making responsibility as defined within their individual areas of discipline practice. Deferred design must only happen at their direction. It cannot be instigated by others that may be working on document presentation without the knowledge and acceptance of the component affected by deferred design by the RPR.
The RPR is responsible for describing deferred design requirements using clear, concise, and correct language that creates an explicit instruction to the constructor for the responsibilities and limitations associated with providing design solutions. The RPR can neither assign professional responsibility for completeness of design through the deferred design process nor reassign responsibility for design to the constructor.
Content of deferred design must comprise outcomes that do not form a part of the normal practice or reasonable knowledge of the CPR that could have been completed by obtaining specialist design input from other RPRs during the production of construction documents and constructability reviews. It must also consist of design solutions that enhance construction co-ordination and project outcomes as a result of responsible deferral to the constructor, particularly where final configuration, connections to adjacent construction, and scheduling are highly influenced by the contractor’s contractual requirements and project deliverables.
Deferred design and any loads or engineering guidance must be clearly described within the drawings and specifications prepared for the project. The RPR cannot simply rely on general notes on drawings or blanket statements within the specifications to satisfy the requirements for appropriate communication to the constructor.
Further, deferred design communication and documentation must be achieved by using a performance-based specification approach instead of prescriptive or proprietary specification. The difference between these two approaches is critical to the explicit communication required by the constructor.