To begin with is important to identify the role and principal characteristics a Superintendent must have to deliver successful projects. The Super is the person in charge to perform the role of an independent contract administrator and administer in accordance with the drawings and specifications, under the umbrella of the contract conditions. It is also an intermediate party between the owner or principal, the designer, and the contractor. One of his most important responsibilities is “the duty of fairness” which means it needs to take the role with impartiality, fairness, and honesty. Moreover, the super needs to have the appropriate technical knowledge, experience, and skill in undertaking this role.
the project outcome. A Superintendent with a poor reputation (Amongst Contractors) can and do cause less keenly priced tenders, for that reason the position selection requires special care.
Superintendents need to use their knowledge to deliver engineering inputs, appropriate contractual understanding, accurate communication, good negotiation skills, ability to be decisive, recognise the importance of timelines of all decisions and its impacts, establishing an appropriate level of trust between the key positions of the project: principal, designer and contractor and maintaining good working relationships on and off-site.
This position carries on a level of authority stipulated in the contract, that needs to be clearly understood. Regarding the “Duty of Fairness,” many superintendents do a good job in these respects. However, others are prone to shortcomings in these areas. This is not entirely surprising given the following inherent difficulties or conflicts of interest:
- AS2124 and AS4000 recognise that the superintendent has these conflicting duties. Clause 23 of AS 2124-1992 requires the principal to ensure that the superintendent is honest, fair, diligent, and reasonable.
- Similarly, clause 20 of AS 4000-1997 requires The Principal to ensure that the Superintendent fulfill all aspects of the role and functions reasonable and in good faith
- The Principal may directly employ the Superintendent
As an example: The Superintendent may be the designer, in this case, it can be overprotective with the design unwilling to entertain alternatives, unwilling to allow improvements upon their design or inefficiencies to be highlighted to the principal. This can cost the client in lost savings. It may also be protective of design errors, unwilling to let the principal know about these and usually have a tendency to leave problems with the contractor. Further potential problems that can corrupt impartiality, fairness, and honesty are:
- An us/ them attitude can reflect a lack of trust and /or a desire to play games.
- Excessive desire to wield power and/or “feed” one’s ego
- An excessively conservative safe personality
- The Principal virtually always pays the Superintendent, therefore, the desire to prove their worth.
Focusing now in the Superintendents technical knowledge means they must have the ability to apply their knowledge and experience, need to be able to make sound engineering decisions, be able to take drawings and specifications as a sound technical base and then apply true engineering ingenuity and creative solving problem skills and more importantly always achieve best possible results not only standardised results.
In addition, appropriate contractual understanding is a key factor in the development of a superintendent career, to achieve this a good working knowledge of the contract condition is required. Also, an effective escalation process must come into play, in other words, a system of requesting escalation of any given issue of disagreement up to the next level of authority, unresolved contractual issues can be very wasteful and dangerous in all sorts of ways including the cost of course.
Overall, a superintendent must be impartial, fair, and honest, foster good working relationships, bring experience, skill and the right attitude towards the different situations that might arise on site, always be a good communicator, a negotiator, a decision maker and clearly understand their level of authority.