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Substantially Complete

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This article is part of the RBCS series of articles about A&E Specifications.

It is common to find a project completion requirement in security systems A&E Specifications. Here is a generic example:


A.  Contractor shall substantially complete system installation by target date established by Owner.

This article’s discussion includes the terms “substantial completion” and a similar term “substantial use”.

In my experience, such requirements are rarely referenced, and I’d had heard Contractors, Owners, and Manufacturers comment, “Who can really say what that means, anyway.” However, there actually is an official definition of the term. In his blog post on the subject, attorney J. Mason Williams IV, states, “The owner is typically guaranteed ‘Substantial Completion’, which is usually, and should be, defined in a contract.”

And that is often the case when physical security systems are provided within the context of a new building project. Somewhere in the construction documents, “substantial completion” is defined. Absent that project contractual context, most contracts for security system installations don’t contain such a definition. Does that mean that a specifications reference to the term is meaningless?

From a legal perspective, it is not meaningless, because – as attorney Williams points out, in the American Institute of Architects contract template, AIA Document A201™ – 2007 General Conditions of the Contract for Construction, an entire section is devoted to SUBSTANTIAL COMPLETION, and the term is referenced more than 50 times throughout the contract document.

The AIA’s contract template defines Substantial Completion as, “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 utilize the Work for its intended use.”

Importance to Security System Projects