LAS VEGAS – The risks, complications, and best practices surrounding Design Assist Models will be a topic of conversation when Construction Super Conference convenes at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas from Dec. 6-8, 2022. The specific session on Design Assist Models is scheduled for Dec. 7 from 9:45 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. and features four panelists.
Third Thursday sat down with one of those panelists—Edward Seglias (pictured), senior partner and vice president, Cohen Seglias Pallas Greenhall & Furman, Newark, N.J. to get a glimpse of what is sure to be a lively conversation.
Third Thursday: Why have Design Assist Models led to problems?
Seglias: Unfortunately, Design Assist Models have not been the hallmark of clarity in allocating or limiting design assist responsibility. And in large measure that is the result of poor contract drafting and the failure of the interested parties to clearly define the role of the Design Assist contractor.
Third Thursday: How well do construction attorneys understand Design Assist models?
Seglias: It’s hard to say how well construction law attorneys understand the Design Assist model. I suspect it runs the gamut depending on frequency of experience with the Design Assist format. But one thing is apparent, if there is a dispute, lawyers will have differing opinions about what the Design Assist responsibilities were or are. Those differing opinions will likely be due to either misunderstandings about the extent of responsibility, and the dearth of case law defining Design Assist responsibility.
Third Thursday: What is the biggest misconception (if one exists) about the risks associated with Design Assist Models?
Seglias: A common misconception is that the Design Assist contractor is representing to the design team that its proposals will comply with the overall project requirements. In fact, that is not true. The design team still maintains the responsibility to assure that the Design Assist proposals satisfy the overall project requirements.
Third Thursday: What are some of the “risks, complications, and best practices” associated with Design Assist Models that you expect to cover as a panelist?
Seglias: The primary way to account for risk and complications in a Design Assist format is to assure that the terms of the Design Assist work are clearly set forth in a separate standalone contract that sets a price for the Design Assist work only. Once that work is completed, the parties can move forward with a separate standalone contract for the actual work with price.
Third Thursday: Why are face-to-face/in-person conferences still relevant and useful?
Seglias: Face-to-face meetings will always be relevant and useful because they create a rapport with employees, colleagues, and customers that the phone and zoom simply cannot replicate. In the Design Assist format, early understanding and collaboration are the essence of the belief that Design Assist is a worthy approach, especially on complicated projects. The benefit of face-to-face meetings is truly baked into the Design Assist model.
Third Thursday: For colleagues who may be on the fence about attending CSC in particular, what would you say about the value of attendance?
Seglias: Attendance at the CSC is beneficial for many reasons, but perhaps most importantly it’s an opportunity to meet, or reunite, with a large group of high level construction executives and professionals who can share knowledge, anecdotes, and personal experiences that are enriching or perhaps even entertaining. For me, that opportunity is invaluable because it broadens my network and my thinking about important issues that could impact how I approach the next project or case.