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Professional Practice AR 805  Year V/I ‐ 2013 

 
 
2. PROFESSIONAL RELATIONSHIP

2.1 ARCHITECT-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP


For the practicing architect, attracting and retaining fee-paying clients is a matter of survival.
In the US, out of over 13,000 architecture firms owned by AIA members, only 5% employed
more than 10 architects while 62% were one-person firms and growing. In India out of over
23406 registered architects in 1998, 10% were in the public sector, 30% in the private sector
while 60% were self-employed. In Nepal as employment opportunities in the public and
semi-public sectors become saturated, the trend towards individual private practice will have
to be expanded. Currently less than 5% of the buildings in Nepal are designed by architects
and the majority of the architects are concentrated in Kathmandu Valley. If the percentage
of buildings designed by architects can be increased and architects begin practice in the
rapidly urbanizing centers of the country, the scope for private practice is quite significant.

The success of private practice hinges on successful client-architect relationship. Professional


organizations recognize this and include it in their code of ethics. Breakdown in relationship
is less from failure in design and more often due to breakdown in the contractual
relationship due to misunderstanding, miscommunication or general lack of comprehension
of the relative responsibilities of both parties. It is important, therefore, for both parties to
have a clear understanding not only of their own rights, responsibilities and duties but also
of the other party. This understanding can be brought about through discussions, letters,
recorded minutes of meetings etc., however, use of contracts is one of the most convenient
ways of establishing the ground rules. Although one can produce one’s own contract, uses of
standardized contracts ensure that important issues are not left out. They have been
continuously reviewed and revised and tend to be fair to both parties.

For the meeting of minds to be successful, two conditions must be fulfilled:


• The relationship needs to be detailed out as much as possible so that both parties
understand them fully
• The understanding needs to be achieved BEFORE the contractual relationship has
been formalized

The AIA, RIBA have various types of standardized agreements. The Indian Institute of
Architect also recommends the use of a standard contract agreement. SONA has yet to
produce its own set of contract documents, whereas, SCAEF has a standard agreement
based on FIDIC and ADB documents. Many projects being implemented in Nepal through
donor funding have to use the contract agreements of the concerned agencies e.g. the World
Bank, ADB, UN, USAID etc.

The contract document also allows the architect to “educate” the would-be client on the
roles and responsibilities of each side and conversely what is NOT part of the basic services.
The standard agreements always specify the basic services to be provided. This helps to
protect the architect against unrealistic expectations of the client and also alerts the client to

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Professional Practice AR 805  Year V/I ‐ 2013 
 
 
his role during the period of the contract. Although this appears to be a tedious task, not as
interesting as discussing design and also has the possibility of frightening off a few clients, it
is better to lose an uncertain client before the work begins rather than during the process.
Architects are most vulnerable to working for a client on a verbal or informal basis in the
beginning of their careers because of the need to grab any client at any cost. As a result they
are overworked and underpaid. Example – a client demanding daily site visits delayed
payment, conflict.

When dealing with a client, a few things which need to be kept in mind:

Time to Sign Contract


It is quite common for architects to produce a few sketch designs at preliminary meetings
with the client before signing a contract. This is not necessarily a bad practice as it is akin to
“fishing” and helps secure the client. But such work should be limited and agreement should
be entered into within a reasonable period of time. In Nepal certain clients are notorious for
trying to milk architects for designs, simultaneously engaging two or more, and finally getting
the agreeable design developed cheaply through an overseer or draftsman. It is often very
difficult to deny clients when they request to take the sketches to discuss with family and
friends. They should be judged carefully before parting with such sketches. When the client
tends to prolong the signing of an agreement, the future of the relationship needs to be
carefully evaluated. Better to lose a potentially troublesome client than to risk problems later
on. Architects in heavy demand or with substantial workload can charge for preliminary
works, but this may not be possible for beginners.

Clarifying Client’s Requirements


Sometimes a client has difficulty clarifying his requirements and despite a lot of work the
architect cannot satisfy him. To safeguard against this, at the outset it must be made very
clear to the client that the architect is paid to review and clarify the client’s program. If the
client is vague about his requirements and needs substantial assistance from the architect to
gather and analyze necessary information (such as market studies, field studies, soil
investigations etc.), he should be informed that additional fees will be required.

When to Stop Designing


The architect is supposed to provide a design which fulfills the client’s expectations.
Sometimes some clients are very difficult to please and the architect has to produce a
continuous stream of drawings causing him to overrun his budget. It is possible to limit the
number of sketch design at the contract stage, especially if such a situation can be foreseen.
However, this requires the client’s agreement and he may be reluctant to setting limits. Fees
can also be set according to the amount of work done, but again the client may not agree to
this. Nonetheless, it pays to plan for such contingencies to prevent problems later on.

Accuracy of Estimate
During the early phase of design, the client needs to be given only preliminary cost of the
project. However, care must be taken to keep the cost fairly accurate. Many consultants in

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Professional Practice AR 805  Year V/I ‐ 2013 
 
 
Nepal tend to deliberately provide underestimates to the clients in order not to scare them
off. This is not a good practice as it unnecessarily puts the client in a financial difficulty later
on which could be harmful to the future relationship. Detailed estimates need to be prepared
before bids are invited. Certain consultants have been known to deliberately inflate and
underestimate certain items and later delete them or include them as additional items. This is
done with bad intentions and made known to certain contractors so they can outbid others
by quoting unrealistically low or high prices for these items.

Delays Beyond Architect’s Control


Delays can occur in getting necessary approvals/ agreements, financing etc. where architect
has no obligation to expedite the process. The client should be made fully aware of any such
delays. There should be no misleading of the client. If long delays are foreseen in some
projects (legal/financial etc.) it may be wise to include limits to project extension periods.

Extent of Services
There is a tendency to think that the role of the architect as advisor and consultant more or
less covers everything about building design and construction. Both clients and architects
often fall into this trap. Architects could be providing too many services for too little fees. It
is advisable to prepare clear terms of reference (TOR) for the architect’s services, clarify the
TOR to the client and include it in the contract. This will avoid over-expectation of services
from the client.

Site Visits
Site visits should be made at appropriate intervals depending on the stage and nature of the
project (setting out, before cover-up, reinforcement, concreting etc.). The contract
agreement should be, however, be thoroughly studied while advising on site work or
conditions and process should be followed accordingly. Misunderstanding of instructions
can lead to conflict between client, contractor and architect.

Architect’s Fees
The amount and timing of the architect’s fees is very important for the smooth functioning
and proper financial management of the firm. In many instances architects face difficulty in
receiving timely payments, putting him into financial crises and completely disrupting his
plans. Often a certain percentage of the fees are never paid at all and payment of fees is an
issue that often brings about conflict in the client-architect relationship. Thus mode of
payment, payment amount or percentage etc. must be clearly stated in the contract
agreement and must be made clear to the client. Despite all the care, certain clients are
always reluctant to make timely payments. Therefore, it is good practice to promptly submit
bills, maintain excellent records of all transactions and keep sending polite reminders.
Although legal action is possible, it should be done only after careful consideration because
of the cost, time and potential public relations damage.

2.2 ARCHITECT- CONTRACTOR RELATIONSHIP

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Professional Practice AR 805  Year V/I ‐ 2013 
 
 
Although there is a contract agreement between the owner and architect and the owner and
the contractor, there is no contract between the architect and contractor to guide and
formalize their relationship. However, the contract agreement between the owner and
contractor (the standard GoN document is based on the World Bank’s small contracts
format while the documents used by SCAEF and ADB are based on the FIDIC format)
gives certain rights to the architect (designated as “Engineer” in many of the standard
documents) associated with his contractual duties to the owner. The documents also specify
responsibilities of the architect to both the owner and the contractor. It is while trying to
balance his duties to the two parties that he faces potential problems, especially with regard
to accuracy of drawings, specifications and contract documents; certification of progress
payments; review and approval of work, substantial completion certificate and claims. To
carry out the balancing act properly, the architect should strive to gain the respect rather
friendship of both the parties.

The contract document designates the Project Engineer/manager (who normally represents
the architect at the site) as the main line of communication between the client and the
contractor. Since the architect is vested with the authority to receive and give instructions on
behalf of the owner, the architect’s action or lack of it, makes the owner liable to the
contractor for the architect’s improper actions. The owner also expects to recoup any losses
incurred due to the architect’s action/inaction. The owner expects the architect’s full loyalty
in protecting the owner against poor workmanship and excess costs. However, as per the
contract, the architect, despite being hired by the owner, is expected to act impartially
between the two parties. A few areas of potential problems are:

Errors in Drawings and Estimates


As per the contract documents, the contractor is responsible for the careful review of
drawings, specifications, estimates etc. and pointing out any errors, omissions or
inconsistencies. This does not cover review to ascertain whether the drawings are in
accordance with applicable laws or building codes. Genuine claims by contractors can arise
due to errors in the drawings and documents, whereas, the owner may be reluctant to bear
the additional costs. The architect has to objectively deal with such conflicts.

Construction Supervision
The architect has the authority to ascertain that works are being undertaken as per the
contract. He has the authority to reject defective materials and construction, make variations,
certify payments etc., however, he needs to carefully follow the procedure spelled out in the
contract. He can ask for testing of works which if found proper has to be paid for by the
owner. The owner expects the architect to favor him during such decisions while the
contractor may question the objectivity of the architect. The architect is expected to act fairly
towards both the parties; however, he may be put under great pressure by the owner,
especially if the owner happens to be the government or a large institution.

Changes to the Construction Contract

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Professional Practice AR 805  Year V/I ‐ 2013 
 
 
Changes in the construction contract are quite common due to problems in the drawings,
specifications, site conditions, weather, acts of God etc. Sometimes the owner orders extra
work. Change orders can sometimes effect the profit or loss situation of the contractor if
loss making items are increased or profit items are deleted unreasonably. The associated time
extensions also affect the contractor if there are bonuses or liquidated damages built into the
contract. When there is mutual agreement between the owner, architect and the contractor,
the change orders can be executed without problems. However, even if the contractor
disagrees, he is obligated to perform the work whether agreement is reached or not. Owners
are also very sensitive to changes as they increase cost. Some owners even insist on deleting
items to reduce costs. Thus the architect needs to be very careful while making change
orders in the contract as he could come under attack from both the parties.

In certain circumstances, the architect needs to be extra careful about requests for change,
especially if he suspects there is collusion between the owner and the contractor. This is not
unusual if the owner is the government and is represented by corrupt bureaucrats. In case of
legal action, the architect is liable to be made the scapegoat. Because of such malfeasance the
World Bank and ADB have now made it mandatory to include a clause on corrupt and
fraudulent practices which can terminate a contract and blacklist a contractor. This clause
becomes completely redundant when the owner himself colludes with the contractor. In
such severe situations the architect has to be very careful and may even have to consider
terminating his agreement. Example of an architect who wanted to cancel the tenders
because of suspicion of collusion among contractors during bidding and the owner insisting
on continuing giving the excuse of excessive time loss in re-bidding. Unfortunately, there are
also innumerable examples of architect’s colluding with contractors as well as with clients.

Disputes
The architect is given the power to resolve all claims and disputes between the client and the
contractor, including any claims arising out of the architect’s errors or omissions.
Unfortunately, many contractors tend to discount the architect’s ability to be fair in
determining disputes between the owner and the contractor and prefer to refer them to
arbitration. As arbitration involves extra time and cost, it is important that the architect
resolve claims and disputes fairly so that the contractor builds more faith on his neutrality.

Payments
The architect has to process the contractor’s interim and final payment requests. Care has to
be taken against “front-end loading” or excessively high or low rates for certain items in the
contract. He should consider asking for additional guarantees if he feels such imbalance
could affect the smooth performance of the contract. Payment is a sensitive issue as the
owner does not want to pay for work not performed while the contractor does not want to
continue work unnecessarily at his own expense. The architect needs to certify payments
within the stipulated time period. Unless there are valid reasons e.g. defective works,
persistent delays, failure to pay subcontractors etc., the architect should not unreasonably
withhold payment certification as it can be very financially damaging for the contractor.

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Professional Practice AR 805  Year V/I ‐ 2013 
 
 
While processing of payment requests need to be as thorough as possible, minor errors or
omissions can easily be adjusted in the subsequent bills.

Project Completion
It is the architect’s responsibility to certify substantial completion and final completion of
the project. After substantial completion, a significant proportion of the retention money is
released, building use is permitted, liquidated damages period is terminated, defects liability
period is commenced and preparation of final bills initiated. Before certification, a joint
inspection is made and a list of minor items to be completed is prepared. Conflicts can arise
during the preparation of the list or determining whether the substantial completion
certificate can be issued as it involves large financial outcome.

2.3 ARCHITECT’S RELATIONSHIP WITH OTHER CONSULTANTS


AND STAFF

Consultants

When a construction project requires certain services outside the normal services offered
by the architect, on the advice of the architect, the owner may employ specialists. This is
common for a one person practice. Separate contracts should be made with the specialists
so that the architect is not made liable for the specialists’ work. Some of these specialist
services are town planning, quantity surveying, structural engineering, mechanical
engineering, electrical engineering, interior design, landscape design etc. Often it is more
practical and profitable, especially for an architectural firm, to include these services within
its normal services in which case it must increase the fees to account for payments to be
made to the consultants. When the architect takes on the full responsibility of providing
the specialist services, he is liable for their performance so he must ensure their work is
undertaken with skill and care. He also needs to make the owner clear about such an
arrangement as he has to bear their costs. Where the specialists’ inputs form a part of the
architect’s services, it is advisable for the architect to sign an agreement with the specialists
prior to the commencement of the work, clearly outlining the scope of services,
responsibilities, terms of payment, duration of services etc. in order to avoid
misunderstanding and conflict later on.

While dealing with fellow architects, the architect should not try to compete with them
unfairly by reducing fees; offering discounts or other inducements in order to undercut
their fees. He also should not discredit or try to undermine the professional credibility of
other architects. Until and unless it has been determined that the contract of an architect
has been terminated in a fair and proper manner, no attempt should be made to supplant
that architect. Such actions not only create problems among architects, they are in breach
of the code of ethics of architects.

Staff

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Professional Practice AR 805  Year V/I ‐ 2013 
 
 
The architect should take every care to ensure the health, safety and general welfare of his
employees as far as he reasonably can. This includes providing a proper working
environment, training and social benefits. Although a contract is not generally necessary for
employees, a statement of the terms of employment should be provided. The terms
of employment should generally include:

• Names of parties,
• Date of commencement of employment,
• Wage or salary rates
• Payment intervals
• Working hours
• Benefits such as paid leave, sick leave, insurance, provident fund, pensions, gratuity
etc.
• Job title and job description
• If the employment is for a fixed period, the date of expiry of employment
• Restrictions on private work, if any
• Position as to copyright

Certain obligations are implied on both the architect and his staff after employment. It is
the duty of the architect to provide work, wages, take reasonable care of the employee’s
safety and indemnify them against liability in the proper performance of their duties. He
should also recognize and respect the professional contribution of his employees,
associates and consultants. Similarly, it is the duty of the staff to work honestly and
faithfully and not to permit personal interests to conflict with their duties. They should use
reasonable skill and care in performing their jobs and to indemnify the architect against
liability incurred as a result of a breach of duty.

Reference:
Professional Practice; Dr. Roshan H. Namavati; 1997.
Professional Practice: A Compendium of Business and Management Strategies
inArchitecture; Andy Pressman; 1997.
Legal and Contractual Procedures for Architects; Bob Greenstreet and David Chappell;

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