The day all architects love and owners too – Substantial Completion

Written by on December 16, 2011 in Construction Docs. - Comments Off

What does Substantial Completion mean?

Substantial completion is that point in construction where the “Work” is complete in accordance with the contract documents and can be used for its intended purpose by the owner.

Some insight on substantial completion courtesy of Construction Law in North Carolina

“In the AIA general conditions, substantial completion is defined:

§ A.9.8.1 Substantial Completion is the stage in the progress of the Work when the Work or designated portion thereof is sufficiently complete in accordance with the Contract Documents so that the Owner can occupy or use the Work or a portion thereof for its intended use.

While this is standard language found in most form contracts, it can–and should–be altered to fit any unusual circumstances you anticipate on your project.

Note that the AIA general conditions do not state that either a temporary or permanent certificate of occupancy must be issued for substantial completion to occur.  For example, in the case of an office building, once the building is able to be used for upfitting purposes by the owner it is substantially complete, even if the building is not yet able to be occupied.  This can be signficant if the owner is self-performing much of the upfit work, and the acceptable degree of finished work may be something altered by the parties at the time of contract negotiation.

Whatever the defined date of substantial completion in your contract, however, it is extremely important.  This is the date that triggers:

Retainage release, the warranty period,determination of any actual or liquidated damages, and the running of the statute of limitations and repose

Therefore, it is important that you read your contract and understand what the date of substantial completion will be for each of your projects.”

construction-documents-contract-documents-substantial-completion-2Example of a Public Notice notifying all parties that Substantial Completion has been reached



To all persons, firms, or corporations who have any claim for any work done, or any material furnished to, C.K. Construction Corp., 1981 Painter Lane, West Haven, UT 84401 for the City of Rock Springs, WY; City of Green River, WY; & Sweetwater County, WY; Combined Communications Center, 5 Shoshone Avenue, Green River, WY 82935.

You are hereby notified that the Rock Springs, Green River, Sweetwater County Combined Communications Joint Powers Board, has accepted substantial completion according to the Contract Documents and rules set forth in the contract between the Rock Springs, Green River, Sweetwater County Combined Communications Joint Powers Board and the aforesaid Contractor of the work in connection with the City of Rock Springs, WY; City of Green River, WY; & Sweetwater County, WY; Combined Communications Center, and that said Contractor is entitled to final settlement therefore.  Read the entire public notice of substantial completion


Example of Non-AIA Substantial Completion Form (Click To Enlarge)

Conversation regarding Substantial Completion on

“We wrote a letter requesting “substantial completion” certification yesterday from the architect. He has refused to certify. Here are the facts:

We have been discussing in project meetings for several months now that it doesn’t make sense to try to complete all the landscaping until the weather moderates a bit, architect and owner both agreed. We have installed sod in the irrigated areas and it has survived if not thrived in the 95+ degree heat. Meanwhile we are maintaining the temporary erosion control. Now the architect says completion of the landscaping is a requirement for substantial completion.

The State Fire Marshall inspected the building on the 13th, and signed off on all the life safety stuff. The State Elevator inspector also here the same day, and signed off on everything except the emergency telephone inside the cab, because the owner procrastinated in signing up for telephone service. Therefore, the the Fire Marshall issued a “Temporary” until the elevator signs off. Now the architect says the Temporary is not good enough (even though the Fire Marshall says we can move the little angels into the building, just can’t use the elevator)…”

*Featured Image is of the Abu Dhabi Performing Arts Centre, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates designed by Zaha Hadid*

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