The Warranty Checkup

by F. Josh Millman, AIA, LEED AP, CFM | Vice President, NTD

Rodger picked me up at my office for lunch. He knew I would be excited to drive in his new roadster; I suspected the lunch was more an opportunity for him to show it off than to discuss upcoming projects. I had last seen Rodger at the ribbon cutting of the first building we designed for him. 

It was the middle of last winter, and he was talking about buying this beauty once the weather warmed.

After we had reasonably exhausted the topic of his new car, I asked Rodger for feedback on the recently completed building. His observations were fair and to the point:

Regret that he had rejected my design advice on a few items.

Confession that he had decided to accept some of my design ideas that, in truth, he was not that excited about.

Satisfaction with the transformation of his company’s culture to be more collaborative - something that he attributes in part to our open plan design of the new building.

I next inquired about when we should schedule the warranty inspection. Rodger looked at me in shock - as if I had just suggested someone would buy a two-seater without a convertible top!

Concluding that Rodger’s previous architects had not advised him of this service, I explained that the contract documents required the general contractor to warranty all materials and labor for one year after the architect had issued the certificate of substantial completion. The building’s warranty was set to expire in the middle of October. I advised that now would be the perfect time to perform a warranty check of the building’s exterior before the cold weather came, as well as the mechanical systems since it was at the start of the heating season.

Rodger responded that everything in the building was apparently working fine. As I had advised, he had hired the mechanical and electrical subcontractors to do all the routine maintenance and seasonal preparation on the building systems for at least the initial year of operation. He was sure that these subcontractors were addressing any warranty items as part of their scheduled maintenance program. “Thanks but no thanks on the warranty checkup.”

Clearly, I was failing to make my point. However, as I glanced out the restaurant window to where Rodger had strategically parked his “baby” in full view from our table, an idea sprung forth. Feigning a segue to another topic, I asked him about the warranties on his new car. As I expected, he knew each interval. When Rodger mentioned the 60,000 mile drive train warranty, I told him I always brought my car in for a full checkup just before that milestone. I did not want to risk having a problem identified just after the warranty expired. He readily admitted that he did the same, even if the car was performing beautifully.

But as those words were out of his mouth, Rodger instantly understood my earlier point. He then asked how much the checkup would cost him. I assured him that, in accordance with our contract, my inspection was included in the original architectural fees. If problems were found, then I would be compensated by the contractor for my time in resolving them. Rodger quickly agreed to schedule this walkthrough, now willing to invest his time, and being as prudent with his place of business as he was with his car. In fact, we were able to pick a date for the walkthrough that would be the same day as the kick-off meeting for the planning of his next building.