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Last edited 09 Oct 2015
Self-build home: Appoint consultants to design the home
Unless the project is being delivered by a design and build contractor, or a kit-house is being purchased, it is likely that consultants will have to be appointed to design the home and perhaps to undertake site inspections during construction.
Typically this will include an architect and a structural engineer, but it may include other appointments, such as a project manager or quantity surveyor, and specialist projects may require appointments such as; landscape designers, interior designers, ICT consultants and so on. See Consultants for more information.
Identifying potential consultants.
Appointments may be made on the basis of:
- Recommendation (for example, an architect might be appointed first and they might recommend an engineer).
- Research and interview.
- An existing relationship.
Defining the scope of services.
To agree the scope of services and fee for the appointment a 'request for proposals' should be prepared. This asks for the submission of proposals from prospective consultants, describes the project and the nature of the appointment and sets out the information that should be included in the consultant’s proposals. A request for proposals may include:
- The brief.
- Existing design drawings (if they exist).
- Assumptions about the procurement method that will be adopted.
- The organisational structure for the project.
- The scope of services required. With all forms of appointment it is important that there is clarity about the scope of services, particularly where a range of consultants is being appointed. There might otherwise be uncertainty about which consultant is responsible for which aspects of the project. The scope of services should also detail any special requirements, such as; 3D images, models, outline planning application, party wall services, requirement to carry out site inspections and contract administration of the construction contract and so on. See Appointing consultants for more information.
- Instructions about how the consultants fee proposal should be broken down (generally against stages of the project).
- A request for hourly rates to be applied to any work outside the proposed scope of services.
- A request for details of the resources that will be used and curriculum vitae of staff along with a summary of their relevant experience on similar projects.
- A request for references.
It is sensible to approach more than one potential consultant so that proposals can be compared.
Making the appointment.
The preferred consultant should be interviewed to establish how comfortably they will fit into the project. It is also wise to check references and to look at previously completed work to get a sense of the quality they are able to deliver.
The agreed terms of appointment must be set out in writing to avoid potential confusion later. This might be done using one of the following:
- A letter of appointment.
- A standard form of agreement from the professional body of the consultant (such as the Royal Institute of British Architects, The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, the Institution of Structural Engineers and so on).
- A third-party standard form of contract such as the NEC professional services contract.
- A bespoke consultant’s agreement. Care should always be taken if using a bespoke agreement. It is very common for such agreements to be fundamentally flawed, even if a consultant has been using them for years, and so it is necessary to seek legal advise before signing.
In agreeing the terms of appointment it is important to:
- Consult with past clients to incorporate their experience into design or management improvements.
- Make sure stage payments are related to clearly-defined events in the programme.
- Make sure that fees are not front loaded so that if the appointment is terminated, the fees paid only reflect the work that has been completed.
- Remember that even once the design is complete, site visits by consultants during construction and any remedial work after occupation could last eighteen months.
- Consider introducing incentive mechanisms based on a target cost.
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