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Last edited 05 Jul 2021
Architectural technologist - delineation of roles
On appointing a chartered architectural technologist, clients need to determine the extent of the role required to satisfy their requirements. This article does not intend to cover all stages or scopes of work, but focuses on common misunderstandings.
Technologists and their clients should be clear on their obligations to make appointments to cover their duties appropriate to the project and local legislation, such as Principal Designer (under CDM 2015), Party Wall Surveyor (England and Wales), etc. Partial or full services may be contracted, involving duties which may include assessing the development feasibility all the way through to contract administration and completion. A chartered architectural technologist could be undertaking the preparation of initial and detailed designs for clients’ approval and preparing and submitting plans for statutory approvals (including planning approval, building regulations and conservation approvals).
Looking beyond the traditional work stages, misunderstandings between the chartered architectural technologist and the client sometimes arise regarding the nature of the overall role(s) being undertaken on a project. This article aims to clarify the main distinctions between the different roles that commonly arise.
For example, the differences between acting as a:
- Lead designer/lead consultant.
- Contract administrator.
- Consultant with ‘an inspection role’.
- Consultant with ‘a supervision role’.
- Project manager.
Having a clear understanding of each of these roles will assist both the chartered architectural technologist and client in documenting the nature of the services that have been contracted. It will also manage the client’s expectations as to what can be expected from the chartered architectural technologist.
 Lead designer/lead consultant
The chartered architectural technologist acting as the lead designer/lead consultant is the normal basis of appointment and he will be tasked with coordinating and integrating the designs produced by all the designers engaged for the project.
In terms of coordination and leading the team, the lead designer/lead consultant may be expected to produce a design programme and take steps to see that the other consultants (for example, quantity surveyor, services consultants structural engineers, etc.) adhere to it. The role can involve coordinating the designs of specialist sub-contractors including checking sub-contractors’ tenders, although it should be noted that the appointment of such consultants and/or sub-consultants is the responsibility of the client and is separate to that of the lead consultant who would not be expected to be liable for their work.
In relation to integration, the lead designer/lead consultant may be expected to take care to see that their own design is compatible and integrated with the designs of the remainder of the design team and specialist sub-contractors. The obligation might extend further – to a general duty to see that the designs produced for the project are compatible with each other. As ever, which position applies will depend on the terms of the appointment.
The role of the lead consultant, but not the lead designer, can often involve duties to advise on the need for other consultants, sub-contractors and specialists and the scope of their services, procurement matters and managing significant changes to the design.
In order to limit liability, a lead designer/lead consultant usually seeks to ensure that their appointment agreements include a clause to make it clear they do not accept responsibility for the designs of others. A check should be made to ensure there is a positive obligation in the other consultants’ agreements which places the onus on them to cooperate with the lead consultant/lead designer and to integrate their designs with the designs of the other consultants, specialists and sub-contractors.
It is also usual to incorporate provisions to exclude liability on the part of the lead designer/lead consultant for any work, materials or goods or workmanship carried out by any of the other consultants and/or subcontractors.
- Preparation and/or collation of tender documents and contract documents.
- Issuing instructions to the contractor.
- Issuing certificates under the building contract — for example payment certificates, practical or partial completion certificates and the final certificate.
- Valuing the works and agreeing the final amount (where there is no quantity surveyor).
- Dealing with contractors’ applications for extensions of time and extra payment.
- Inspecting the works at stages during the construction and preparing defects lists at practical completion and at the end of the defects rectification period. This is not a duty to supervise the works unless the contract administrator is expressly appointed for this role and is aware of their additional responsibilities and duties. (See section on 'site supervision' below.)
- They must take reasonable steps to ensure that the work which is to be the subject of the certificate has been properly carried out in compliance with the building contract. What is 'reasonable' will depend upon the size, nature and complexity of the project.
- They must take reasonable steps to ensure that the work is properly valued, i.e. that claims for payment are reasonable and justified by the work done at the time, both in terms of quality and amount.
When issuing a final certificate, particular caution should be exercised. There is a danger that, in the absence of wording to the contrary, a court will normally view a final certificate as conclusive evidence as to the quality of workmanship and materials. As such, if a contractor is in possession of a final certificate, it may be difficult for the client to get any redress from the contractor if defects arise after the certificate has been issued. In these circumstances, the client would inevitably seek to claim solely against the consultant who issued the certificate. The wording of the building contract should always be checked to guard against this outcome. The contract administration forms issued by CIAT provide for such eventualities.
 Inspection/site supervision
A contractual duty to carry out periodic inspections and/or visits to the works involves a reduced scope of service compared with a contractual duty to supervise. Nevertheless, the following guidelines should be borne in mind, which have arisen as a result of case law on the duty to inspect. The chartered architectural technologist should:
- Not rely on regular fortnightly or monthly site meetings which may well have been arranged in advance and without reference to the elements of work being progressed on site at the time;
- Make their own reliable arrangements to be kept informed of the general progress of the works;
- Inspect any key elements of construction that are going to be repeated throughout the development on the first occasion, or at an early stage of construction, so as to assess the contractor’s ability to carry out that particular task and whether the contractor’s methodology and quality is satisfactory;
- Instruct the contractor to provide adequate notice of important elements that are to be covered so that relevant inspections can be made;
- Require work to be opened up if they have any doubts or a critical element has been concealed before inspection. If work is found to be correct the contractor will require payment. If it is defective they will not get paid for the opening up.
These inspection obligations (and whether they have been performed) should be borne in mind in the context of issuing certificates of inspection, including the Council of Mortgage Lenders’ Professional Consultant’s Certificate. Such certificates should not be issued if the works have not been inspected or if the chartered architectural technologist is uncertain whether the relevant work is satisfactory. Of course, certificates of inspection do not guarantee the quality of materials or workmanship.
A chartered architectural technologist may be asked to supervise the works. This is a more onerous level of responsibility than that of inspecting the works. The level of supervision required will depend upon the individual requirements of the client and the terms of their appointment. Some clients may require a clerk of works/site supervisor who has a constant presence on site. A clerk of works/site supervisor ought to be a separate appointment by the client.
A clerk of works/site supervisor is often considered to be the ‘eyes and ears’ of the client on site. They are there to attend to matters of detail, although the separate appointment of a clerk of works/site supervisor will not absolve a chartered architectural technologist of any inspection responsibilities they may have been contracted to perform.
If a chartered architectural technologist agrees to provide ‘supervision’, this may well imply that they are undertaking to have a continuous presence on site and will provide detailed and continuous direction to ensure, as far as possible, that the quality of the work matches up to the standard inherrent in the building contract.
Generally, project managers will be appointed in connection with large building contracts. Their role will usually be organisational – for example, procurement, insurance issues, advising on the order in which the project will run, controlling costs, timescales and quality standards. It may often involve responsibility for matters that might otherwise form the role of the lead consultant, including advising the client on the pros and cons of different design solutions and specifications.
The term ‘project manager’ should be approached with caution. It is only loosely defined. The title itself does not confer any particular extent of either power or responsibility. In determining a project manager’s powers, a court will simply look at the facts of a particular case (including the terms of appointment and other contractual documents) to see what powers have been conferred on the project manager in that particular instance. It may construe that it means the ‘guardian of the project’.
Simply labelling oneself a ‘project manager’ without carefully defining what that role entails will, to a large extent, leave the parties in a nebulous position. It may also create confusion among other consultants/contractors as to the scope and nature of the project manager’s role and the overlap he or she may have with, for example, a contract administrator.
In the absence of any express agreement to the contrary, a Delineation of Roles 3 project manager (as with a contract administrator) would not usually have the power to vary the terms of the contract they have been appointed to manage. If, for example, a project manager signs-off on a settlement agreement on behalf of a client which purports to compromise a final account, it is unlikely that the settlement agreement will be legally effective.
Ultimately, the scope of a chartered architectural technologist’s duties will be defined by the agreement with their client. As always, the terms of any written contract should be carefully checked before being entered into, to ensure it properly reflects the intentions of both the chartered architectural technologist and the client.
This article was originally published by CIAT on 1 April 2016.
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