Declining standards in the level of comprehensive and coordinated design and documentation have been occurring since the 1980’s, after the banning of minimum scales of professional fees.

Comprehensive drawings and specifications have the potential to reduce the number of variations and contractual claims on projects but more importantly reduce the amount of disruption / delay and non-productive work for Contractors and subcontractors.

Disruption and related delays to construction works, because of uncoordinated design and poor and unco-ordinated documentation, is the “Grim Reaper” for Contractors, subcontractors as well as Clients, because significant additional costs (these days typically more than 10% of the project value) are incurred without providing any tangible result, (for example no additional product is produced).

“Common sense says there should be more time and money spent in the pre-tender phase on providing comprehensive and coordinated drawings and specifications (fully documenting what the client actually wants constructed) than amending Standard forms of contract”.

Industry self-regulation on the standards of project documentation has been an absolute failure and it is going to require Government and Industry Association leadership along with some legislation reversals to get some fundamental change on this issue.

Over time, many Clients have worked out how to sidestep the issue. The method generally adopted by Clients has been to move to design and construct contracts (with preliminary design novated to the contractor).  In addition, Clients continue to amend terms of Standard Contracts to place all the risk of design and documentation on the Contractor.

“It is well past time for Contractors to take a good hard look in the mirror and compare their current plight with that of Contractors 40 years ago when industry was fortunate to have comprehensive and well co-ordinated design and documentation.”

It is imperative the construction industry does what is best for itself and ultimately the consumers / public that purchase or use the facilities constructed by industry.

It is always a big picture play to see the net cost outcome of delivering projects. The extra cost of paying a fair and reasonable amount for comprehensive and fully co-ordinated project design and documentation is more than repaid through the savings achieved through significant reductions in disruption to Main Contractors and Subcontractors.

The cost of sorting out missing details and co-ordination issues on a computer screen is far less than when a project is under construction with labour standing around waiting for details on what to build along with main contractor and subcontractor onsite overheads being incurred daily.

The case for comprehensive and well co-ordinated design and documentation is certainly very compelling, however sadly in this space over the past thirty years there has been virtual silence, except for the odd cricket (like me) chirping.


Bob Wildermuth OAM FAIQS CQS FAIB is an Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Southern Queensland and a certified professional quantity surveyor with over 45 years experience in the construction of buildings and infrastructure for Clients and Contractors both in Australia and internationally. Bob is a director at Wildermuth Consulting with a specialisation in the commercial stream of construction encompassing both pre-contract (tendering and forms of contract) and post-contract (project management, contract administration, claims & risk management, and dispute resolution).