Contractual Guidelines for Substantial Completion under National Design-Build Standard Forms of Contract


Many research efforts have promoted robust contract administration practices for the construction industry. Although substantial completion constitutes an important milestone for any construction project, very few studies have investigated the contractual and legal aspects associated with such a critical matter. This paper fills this knowledge gap by examining the broad framework associated with and governing substantial completion in the construction industry. To this end, the authors used an interdependent desktop research methodology. First, the provisions for substantial completion were reviewed as provided by the national design-build standard forms of contract issued by the American Institute of Architects (AIA), ConsensusDocs, and the Engineers Joint Contract Documents Committee (EJCDC). Second, a comprehensive comparative analysis was conducted in relation to the rights and responsibilities of the contracting parties as well as the requirements intertwined with the issuance of certificates for substantial completion. Third, available law cases were analyzed to pinpoint a practical perspective of substantial completion issues related to conflicts, claims, and disputes. Fourth, the authors developed comprehensive guidelines to support a clear understanding of the respective obligations, liabilities, and procedures for substantial completion such as those related to certification procedures, partial use or occupancy by the owner, punch list, retainage, liquidated damages, safety, and correction period. Ultimately, the findings of this paper will better enable and support a smooth transition of projects from construction to operation.


Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

1943-4162; 1943-4170

Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version


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© 2021 American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Feb 2021