Construction contract documents, which include specifications,
drawings with notes, general and supplementary conditions, as well
as the contract itself, sometimes contain conflicting terms. A
conflict may be between plans and specifications, within the
specifications or elsewhere. Such discrepancies may be identified
when preparing a bid or not discovered until construction is under
way and you learn the building owner or architect had a different
view of what was required according to the contract.
Ambiguities discovered when preparing a bid can pose a dilemma.
If you bid a job assuming the most stringent and demanding
requirement, you most likely will not be the low bidder. If you
base a bid on the less onerous requirement, you may face a costly
problem during the job if the owner or designer had intended a more
demanding provision to apply.
If you recognize the discrepancy before submitting a bid, the
course of action is clear: make a prebid inquiry to ascertain
exactly what is required. If the inquiry is made at a prebid
meeting, the response should be recorded in the minutes distributed
to all bidders. If the inquiry is not made at a prebid meeting, the
inquiry should be made in writing within the time period set forth
in the instructions to bidders or as soon as you notice the
discrepancy. The clarification should be issued as an addendum to
the contract documents.
If an ambiguity does not become apparent until during the course
of construction, you will need to tell the general contractor,
architect and/or building owner about your interpretation of the
contract requirements. If the owner has a different view of what is
required, abide by the owner's or architect's instructions so as to
not delay completion of the job and follow the change order and
claim procedures set forth in the contract documents. But will you
be able to recover the extra expenses incurred if there was an
ambiguity in the plans and specifications and you interpreted the
contract requirements in a different, less costly...
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