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Although buildings in the UK are commonly designed by people who are not architects, the term ‘architect’ itself is protected by the Architects Act 1997 which established the Architects Registration Board (ARB). Only qualified individuals that are registered with the ARB can offer their services as architects.
Architects are commonly appointed by a process of:
- Recommendation, for example, one consultant may recommend others, which can save time for the client and make it easier to establish collaborative working practices.
- Research and interview.
- Open competition (with or without design).
- Selective competition (with or without design).
- An existing relationship or framework agreement.
- Searchable Directory of RIBA chartered UK practices.
- International directory of RIBA chartered practices.
- RIBA chartered members directory.
- RIBA client design advisers directory.
- Local Architects Direct.
- Architects' Index.
It is important that an architect's appointment is set out in writing as soon as is practically possible, defining the scope of services that are likely to be required and the fee that will be charged for those services. If the architect is to perform lead designer, lead consultant or BIM information manager roles, this must be clearly agreed.
A number of standard forms exist for the appointment of an architect:
- RIBA Standard Agreement for the Appointment of an Architect 2010.
- ACA SFA 2010: ACA Standard Form of Agreement for the Appointment of an Architect: (English Law).
Where a standard form is not used, it is suggested that the following matters should be clearly identified in any exchange of letters:
- The date of the agreement.
- The name and address of the employer.
- The name and address of the architect.
- The title and address of the project.
- The formal agreement to the appointment of the architect.
- The basis of remuneration for the architect and the arrangements for payment.
- The form and scope of services to be provided by the architect.
- The appointment procedure for a quantity surveyor, other consultants and the clerk of works as appropriate.
- The procedure to be followed in the event of the architect's incapacity.
- The procedure for the termination of the agreement.
- The procedure for resolving disputes between parties.
- The name of an agreed adjudicator or the agreed nominator of an adjudicator.
Scope of service
Very broadly, the role performed by an architect might include:
- Assisting the client to prepare a strategic brief.
- Carrying out feasibility studies and options appraisals.
- Advising on the need to appoint other professionals to the consultant team,independent client advisers, specialist designers and specialist contractors.
- Advising on the procurement route.
- Contributing to the preparation of a project brief.
- Preparing the concept design.
- Preparing the detailed design.
- Preparing planning applications.
- Preparing applications for statutory approvals.
- Preparing production information.
- Preparing tender documentation.
- Contributing to the assessment of tenders.
- Reviewing designs prepared by others.
- Acting as contract administrator.
- Inspecting the works.
- Advising on the rectification of defects.
However, it is important to note that some of these services will only be undertaken by the architect if they are specifically identified in their appointment documents, and will not be included within the architect's fee on all projects. These are described as 'other services' on some forms of appointment. 'Other services' might include:
- Compiling or editing briefing documents (for example preparing the strategic brief may be the responsibility of the client or an Independent client advisor, not the architect; the architect might only be required to contribute to the preparation of the brief unless additional services are identified in their appointment).
- Environmental studies.
- Applying for outline planning permission.
- Undertaking negotiations with the statutory authorities or the main contractor.
- Undertaking surveys.
- Undertaking tasks in relation to party wall matters.
- Undertaking tasks in relation to two-stage tendering (such as two-stage design and build contracts).
- Revisions to documents that are required for reasons that are not the architect's responsibility (for example as a result of changes in legislation).
- Assessment of designs prepared by others.
- Undertaking tasks in relation to disputes or work not in accordance with the contract.
- Preparing a site waste management plan.
- Preparing marketing materials.
- Assisting raising funds for the project.
- Preparing as-built drawings (or record drawings from the contractor's as-built drawings).
- Providing site inspectors.
Fees are commonly quoted as being between 8 and 12% although, according to a survey by Building Design (a survey which in part relates to fees paid by housing associations and local authorities, presumably for new build projects which traditionally attract lower fees than works to existing buildings, and which was carried out during the worst depths of the recession in 2012), '...only 21% of architects achieve fee levels of above 5% while 55% are paid fee levels of 4% or less...'.
However, as fees are entirely dependent on the nature of the project and the circumstances of the appointment, the figures quoted above are not very illuminating. Generally speaking large new build projects attract much lower percentage fees than small works to existing buildings, commercial work attracts lower fees than private residential work, works to historic or listed buildings attract higher fees still, and so on.
For more information, see Architect's fees.
Considerations for the architect
When considering an offer of appointment, an architect must:
- Be satisfied that the client has the authority and resources to commission the work.
- Appreciate the background to the proposal and understand its scope.
- Be satisfied that they have the experience and competence to undertake the work.
- Be satisfied that the office has the necessary finance, staff, and other resources.
- Be satisfied that the proposal will not conflict with any relevant codes of professional conduct, other commissions and commitments in the office and the policy of the practice.
The architect must consider their position in relation to any other architect who may have been involved in the same scheme. An employer can offer the commission to whomever they wish to obtain alternative schemes, however the architect must ensure that they act fairly in their dealings with other architects. An architect who is approached by a potential client in connection with a project with which another architect has already been concerned has a duty to inform the other architect of their involvement.
Speculative work in which the architect undertakes work at risk on the basis that payment will only be made in the event of the work proceeding is now widespread. Competitive fee tendering has also become commonplace.
The extent to which an architect is prepared to undertake speculative work will depend upon many factors such as:
- The policy of the practice.
- The architect’s knowledge of the potential client.
- The nature of the proposed project.
- The likelihood of its success.
- The architect’s existing commitments.
- The capacity of the office now and in the foreseeable future.
- The possible income and profit from the commission if it proceeds.
- The extent of competition for the work.
Even for speculative work, it is important that there should be an agreement between the architect and the client defining the extent of service and the commitment of the client to the architect in the event of the project proceeding. In the event of the project proceeding, it is usual for the architect to be reimbursed for the initial work. It is important that the practice should budget for non-fee-earning speculative work, fixing a limit to the amount it does.
Termination and suspension
- The contract of engagement between the architect and the client may generally be terminated by either party at reasonable notice.
- In the event of termination, any outstanding fees for work properly carried out become due to the architect.
- In the event of death or the incapacity of the architect, it is usually held that the client is entitled to the use of the drawings to complete the work, provided payment has been made.
- The death of either party generally dissolves the contract, but it is usually possible for a third party to assume responsibility for the completion of the contract.
- In the event of termination on the ground of bankruptcy or liquidation, the contract can be continued if both parties wish to do so and the receiver agrees.
- The Scheme for Construction Contracts and the standard forms of appointment make provision for the suspension of work in the event of non-payment of fees.
Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Architect's fees.
- Architectural styles.
- Architectural training.
- Appointing consultants.
- Collaborative practices.
- Concept architectural design.
- Consultant team.
- Consultant team start up meeting.
- Design liability.
- Form of appointment.
- Professional Indemnity Insurance.
- Scope of services.
- The architectural profession.
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