The Role of Architect in the Contract Establishment

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In 2017, the RIAI amended the standard building contracts in order to take into account the introduction of the Construction Contracts Act (2013) and the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations (2014). The new contracts were designed to make the content simpler. They are now easier to read and understand. According to the RIAI (2017) the main changes relate to the identity of the parties, definition of the “works”, avoiding and resolving disputes, Construction Contracts Act 2013, and, the introduction of gender neutral wording. What is a contact? In simple terms, a contract is a promise enforceable by law. The promise may be to do something or to refrain from doing something. A valid contract requires the mutual assent of two or more parties with one of them ordinarily making an offer and the other accepting it. If one of the parties fails to keep the promise, the other is entitled to legal redress. Why use a standard contract for all projects instead of an individual one drawn up for a specific project? The Latham Report (1994) found that the main advantages of using standard contracts was that they were fair and well known by the parties allowing them to become familiar with the clauses and au fait with their rights and obligations. This paper examines the role of the architect under the RIAI Standard form of Building contract, i.e. the ‘with quantities’ ‘Yellow Form’. This type of contract is usually used for substantial projects. Under this form, the Contract Sum is that contained in the Contractor’s priced Bill of Quantities. If there are any errors in work descriptions or mistakes in quantities they are corrected and treated as a Variation to the Contract. These errors are usually paid for by the Employer. This paper also discusses how the consultant Quantity Surveyor contributes to the success of the architect’s performance.

The RIAI advise that an architect is someone who offers a level of professional service and expertise which “no other building professional can provide” ( They are professionally qualified, legally registered, properly regulated and subject to a strict Code of Conduct. While the primary training of an architect is in the design of buildings in terms of function, form and regulatory compliance, they often work as part of a team co-ordinating a coordinate a team of specialist consultants such as quantity surveyors, builders, sub-contractors, engineers, and interior designers. Accordingly, their services extend way beyond that of design. Articles 3 and 4 of the yellow contract deal with the respective roles of the Architect and the Quantity Surveyor.

Clause 2 deals with control and sets out the extensive power of the architect who must be satisfied in relation to such matters as modification of design, the quality and quantity of works, correcting discrepancies, site clearance, condemning work and remedying defects, correcting discrepancies, posting work and dismissing those he or she regards as incompetent. The single most important feature of the ‘Yellow Form’ of Contract is that it based on the Contractor’s priced Bill of Quantities which is prepared in accordance with the current Agreed Rules of Measurement (ARM4). One of the first jobs of the architect under the contract is furnishing the required setting out information to the Contractor who becomes responsible for accurately setting out the Works. Nearly every project will involve variations. These do not vitiate the contract. But the architect will endeavour to find agreement between the parties on the cost of such variations. If the contractor wishes to sub-let the work he must first obtain the architect’s permission. The architect may appoint nominated suppliers to supply specific materials or goods. The architect is heavily involved in situations where the work is not completed or not completed on time and adjudicates on any penalties or damages that might arise. However, the architect has the power to extend the contract. When the job is completed the architect issues a Certificate of Practical Completion or if part only of the works is completed he or she may issue and Possession Certificate. The Defects Liability Period then comes into play which again is adjudicated by the architect. In the event that a letter of notice of default or determination is sent to the Contractor, the architect can secure the site. Throughout the building process the architect will issue certificates to enable the contractor to be paid in stages. Clause 35 (d) provides the Architect with the discretion to pay for materials off site before delivery to site. The architect also adjudicates on any retention money to be withheld.

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Whereas architects are regarded as the designers of the construction industry quantity surveyors are regarded as the economists. They manage all aspects of the contractual and financial side of a construction project. They prepare cost analysis based on the architectural drawings, engineering estimates, materials required and labour involved. They draw up cost plans to enable design teams to produce practical designs for construction projects. They prepare tender and contract documents, including bills of quantities and evaluate tenders from contractors and subcontractors and, where appropriate, negotiate with the contractors. In each stage of the project they exercise control in relation to predetermined budget and expenditure. Their job is to monitor and track the progress of the project. They are responsible for the measurement and valuation of variations in the work during the contract as so work closely with the architect in this regard. They work with the architect in determining interim payments and the final account. They can contribute to the success of the architect’s performance in many ways. Generally, speaking they can be flexible and adaptable. They can maximise the use of existing assets. They can help ensure immediate starts and early finishes. They can ensure that there is minimal waste and defects. They can provide greater predictability of cost and time.

According to SCIS (2016) they principally work with architects at the Stage 7 – Construction stage where they work with the architect in checking progress applications and recommending payment. They also monitor and report on costs of variations. They prepare quarterly cost forecast of the Final Account including adjustment for variations. They, with the architect, negotiate with Contractor and report on the Final Account. If there are disputes on delays they assist the architect in carrying out preliminary examinations as to where the responsibility lies and apportion damages accordingly.

Quantity surveyors may also provide additional services which will enhance the success of the architect’s performance. They estimate life cycle costs and can advise on special conditions of contract as well as drafting special contract conditions. They can prepare and negotiate Bills of Reductions. They can also be involved in the pre-qualification and selection of contractors, the management of the procurement process and the refinement of the construction methodology, employer’s requirements and contractor's proposals. They greatly assist the architect in monitoring the site performance of the contractor to ensure that key milestone dates are achieved and in the management of the phased completion of the project. In these ways, they substantially alleviate the pressure on the architect.

That’s how quantity surveyors help architects and it should work in theory. Often there is friction between the two professions. Boxall (2011) talks of student architects regarding quantity surveyors as “philistine bean-counters with no understanding of, nor sympathy for, architecture”. He says the feeling among quantity surveyors is mutual. There is sometimes a lack of real understanding as to the jobs they are each trained to do. Good design does not necessarily cost more money. But it will, if quantity surveyors do not have a clear understanding of the architect’s intentions. This is why working, from the very start, alongside architects at the core of a construction team is vital. Collaborating from day one allows the quantity surveyor to understand the project fully. This, in turn, enables them as to identify how best it can be delivered, without compromising architectural vision.

In conclusion, it is clear that the role of the architect goes much further than simple design and the role of the quantity surveyor is a lot more complex than simple number crunching. Both are vital in Yellow contracts. If they are prepared to work together then the results will be in everyone’s best interests but, in this regard, and to effect maximum utility early involvement and collaboration is vital. Mutual respect and understanding between architects and quantity surveyors is a pre-requisite to a successful project.

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