CE Fail, Advice Please



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    Lindsey Matetich

    I also scored a level 3 in Content Area 3.  In my search from this community, I plan on focusing back to AHPP and A201.  Narmour Wright highlight the chapters to focus on per the content areas; this is my plan.

    Best of luck to you.

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    Michael Ermann


    The area you struggled with the most is CE Content AREA 3: Administrative procedures and protocols. Typically, the content areas are too opaque to help you know what to study for the retake, but this one has more clarity to it than most: the process of documenting construction. It involves answering questions from the contractor, paying the contractor, and getting the contractor in line when they fail to live up to what was agreed upon in the contract. It is surely worth focusing on in your follow up studying because it accounts for about 35% of the items in the exam division. (By contrast, had you done poorly on Content Area 4, attributed to only about 10% of the items, I would not suggest focusing on that area.)


    I’ve posted one of my Amber Book videos here that might help here. I’ll leave it up for 48 hours. Below are also relevant excerpts from my Amber Book Panic Notes that might help with Content Area 3.




    Addendum: change after the CDs have gone to big but before the bids come in; Change order: change after the contract is signed, notorious source of conflict and cost-overruns. Construction change directive: Owner and contractor at a disagreement about who pays for something that needs to get done to keep the project moving. Architect issues a construction change directive and contractor must do it (while they continue to fight about who pays for it some more), rarely used but a big part of the contract.

    Owners are responsible for everything site-related: such as geotechnical reporting, permitting, hazardous waste removal, surveying, traffic consultants and anything that is not in contract documents even if the architect has overlooked something. Owners are responsible for programming, which does not include designing anything, but rather establishing adjacencies, budget, etc. Owners are entitled to an on-time, on-budget project. 

    Architects are responsible for any services required to complete the construction documents. At a minimum, this typically includes a Structural Engineer and a Mechanical/Electrical/Plumbing Engineer but it can also include civil engineers, landscape architects, security consultants, tech consultants, lighting consultants, acoustic consultants, audio/visual consultants, cost estimators, code consultants, sustainability consultants, etc. They are also responsible for code, zoning, staying on-budget and on-time (including answering questions promptly during construction). Architects review the contractor’s invoice and must approve it before the owner has to pay it. Architects work to the “Standard of Care” which is not perfection, but what is standard for other architects at the time. Document all changes to the design or program. Charge for changes, but if the bids come back to high, the architect must redesign for free to meet budget. The architect owns the drawings and specs. She administers the construction contract bid process. 

    Contractors are responsible for building the project exactly as the drawings and contract documents say it should be built. They are held to high standards (do everything in the CDs exactly as drawn), and are responsible for the means and methods of construction, work site safety, shop drawings, operations manuals, and submittals.

    Submittals are product data sheets, shop drawings, product samples that the contractor will submit to the architect for approval. The architect isn’t responsible for confirming that the railing shop drawings have accurate dimension lines.

    Bid bonds and performance bonds are types of Surety bonds work like insurance protecting the owner if the contractor does not follow through with a project. The third-party insurer will pay the owner to finish the project if a contractor walks away from the project. Bid Bonds will pay the difference between the accepted bid and the next lowest bid if the lowest bid cannot follow through with the work. Performance Bonds will pay for the project to be completed if the contractor defaults. Contractor’s license bond insures the contractor should construction laws be broken.

    Substantial completion happens when the building can be used (not when it is all completed). Contractors are responsible for making the punch list before substantial completion.

    Projects are considered late if substantial completion is not met by the given deadline. When that happens, the party responsible for the delay is responsible for making it right. If it is the owner or architect’s fault, they are responsible for creating a change order to adjust the completion date, if it is the contractor’s fault, they are often responsible for paying fees or hiring more workers or having their workers work overtime.

    Order of project: RFP, architect selected, Pre-design (no drawings yet), Schematic design, Design development, Construction documentation, Bidding, Contract awarded, Construction administration, Punch list, Certificate of Occupancy (CO), Substantial completion, Final completion.

    Contractor’s invoices are sent to the architect and it is the architect’s responsibility to certify that the contractor has completed the work that they are billing for. This “Application for payment” includes a change order summary, how much money is needed to complete the project, the amount of retainage for work-in-place, amount of retainage for stored materials, and certification that the contractor’s subs have been paid.

    Retainage is money owed to the contractor but intentionally not paid until substantial completion of the project. Mechanic’s liens are used by subcontractors, contractors and sometimes architects to ensure that owner’s or contractors pay for the completed work. 

    Architects are legally responsible for completion of the specs and producing correct drawings. 

    Give nothing away for free, you should be paid for anything that is not included in the contract and anything that an owner changes. Get any changes in writing, deviations from the initial contract must be documented. Take ownership over the accounting for architects, don't be intimidated by the numbers, it is not that complicated. 

    Allowances are funds set aside to pay for, say, the microwave in each residential unit. An alternate is an item placed into a bid when an owner wants to understand the cost for a second option (how much more cost for a better-looking curtain wall?). Unit Prices are incorporated into the bid on a per square foot (or per linear foot or per cubic foot or per ton or per item) basis because we’re not yet certain how many cubic yards of earth we’ll need to move. Schedule of values: line item cost of windows, drywall, HVAC, foundation, etc. Contractor is to have been paid for 20% of the cost of drywall if 20% of the drywall is completed. Otherwise his Application for Payment is “out of balance.”

    When there is a large dispute between the owner and the architect, the AIA documents state that the path to resolution is to start with a mediator and if that does not settle the dispute, to then take the dispute either to arbitration or to a court for litigation by jury. This is agreed upon in advance by both parties in the contract documents. The mediator will get all the parties together, hear both sides of the story and suggest what should happen. This decision is not binding and if either party does not approve of the decision, they can force the process to go to the next step, either arbitration or court. 

    In a dispute between the owner and the contractor, their AIA contract selects an Initial decision maker (usually the architect) to help settle time-sensitive disputes for now so that construction schedules aren’t delayed while the parties negotiate, enter mediation, or go to arbitration/litigation . 

    An owner has the right to fire an architect at any time “for convenience,” if the owner decides to do this they are responsible for paying the architect for all services already completed. The architect can also bill for the profit that your firm had planned on.

    7 days: If an owner stops paying an architect, the architect can write the owner saying that they have 7 days to pay the architect or they will stop providing services. Either architect or owner can terminate the contract 7 days after written notice to the other party that the other party has violated the agreement. Also, the architect has 7 days to approve (or dispute) the contractor’s application for payment.

    14 days: If the contractor discovers contaminated soil or asbestos or some other previously concealed existing-site condition that will materially change the project, he has 14 days to tell the owner and the architect. The architect must “promptly” investigate and rule whether this discovery merits a change in the terms of the contract. If the owner or contractor disagree with the architect, either can file a dispute through the normal channels. Also, if you think that a contractor’s incompetent mafia-tied sub is unacceptable, you have 14 days to notify the contractor of your objection. 

    30 days: owner’s final payment to the contractor is due 30 days after architect issues final certificate for payment.

    60 days: architect’s construction administration services end 60 days after substantial completion. Architect’s work after that is charged as additional services. Also, disputes between the owner and architect sit in mediation for 60 days before being advanced (if necessary) to arbitration or litigation.

    90 days: If the owner suspends the project for more than 90 days, the architect can terminate or renegotiate the contract.

    1 year: The one year period after substantial completion entitles the owner to corrections of any construction defects. If an exhaust fan is fixed two months into that period, it is warantied for an additional year from that date. Also, upon request of the owner within one year of substantial completion, the architect will meet with the owner to discuss building operations and performance (without additional compensation). Also, architect-owner contract terminates one year after substantial completion.

    10 years: all claims between the owner and architect (and between the owner and contractor) are dropped 10 years after substantial completion.

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    James Andras


    I'm using your amber book videos and practice problems, and developed a much better strategy than when I started exams. Furthermore, using Hyperfine, Ballast, designer hacks, and Black Specs. Am taking this exam again on Sept 20th.


    Beyond reading your notes above, are there any other tips you would recommend? Thank you greatly for your feedback!

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    Phuong Nguyen

    Hi James, how did you get the performance table of your score? Did you have to authenticate it? Thanks a million!

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    James Andras

    Hi Phuong, Just authenticated it.

    In order to get the performance table, you have to fail, haha. When you click on the exam tab and hover over the score - where it says pass or fail, it gives you a pdf download. 

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    David Kesting

    James, MIchael's analysis is spot on and frankly should be read by everyone who is going through this test. If you havent already been to the Schiff Hardin lectures yet I recommend those. They have an attorney go through the major contracts and detail what is covered in them. It might seem dense at first but honestly if you listen to them you will find them fascinating.


    You will really want to know the contracts super well and how they relate to various issues that may come up. Think, what would happen if this part of the job had a serious issue and suddenly the OAC relationship  is about to derail... How would I fix it based on these contracts.

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