I thought I’d devote this post as the first of a series to talk about the Client-Architect agreement after hearing about a situation that has come up from a friend of a friend. But before I dive on in let me clarify a) I don’t know the whole story, b) I’ve not met the parties involved, and c) Fifth Dimension Design isn’t one of the parties involved.
And you thought I was just going to show funny photos of bad construction issues? Nah, there’s plenty of that on the web, however. Check out a few here if interested (not associated with Fifth Dimension Design).
Here’s the scenario: I heard that a Client was looking for a second Designer/Architect/Draftsperson to finish the final few components of her home design so she could start bidding and then building her home. Apparently, her first “hard to deal with” Architect didn’t finish up the design of her home and left her hanging when he took a better job. The drawings are missing a few things…like all electrical outlets throughout the house. Kind of need those, in my opinion. Sort of like the missing stairs below! Need them too. Obviously there is probably more to this story than I know but it begs several questions.
First and foremost, did the Client have a good contract with Mr. Hard to Deal With? If there was a contract in place (and there should always be a contract for design services) was the Architect supposed to deliver full services? If so he owes the Client the completed drawings. She probably paid for full services so she should receive everything needed to build the house. And I say good contract because not all contracts are thorough enough. Not sure about the contract your Architect is proposing? Ask questions, or have your attorney review it before you sign it.
Second, if there was a contract in place why did Mr. Hard to Deal With bail before finishing? The job wasn’t fully done, and having a better project come into the office is no reason to stiff a client. Ever. Maybe the relationship became so tenuous he walked away. I hope it didn’t come to that – walking away from a Client is about the last thing I’d do.
Finally, I think it is going to be difficult for the Client to find a good person to finish the drawings. There are all sorts of legal issues to consider, like who owns the design and is therefore able to add to it, and who would be to blame should errors or omissions occur? I know a pretty large group of Architects who would shy away from picking up where another Architect left off for these and many more issues.
So what can you do to avoid a design issue such as this?
Have a strong, enforceable contract between yourself (Client) and your Architect. We typically use standard contracts from the American Institute of Architects (AIA) for all our projects. The contract spells out what each parties’ responsibilities and deliverables are in addition to fees and other information. You know at the very start of the project what Fifth Dimension Design will deliver – and we deliver it and more.
Keep a running dialogue between yourself and your Architect. Open communication is always best for both of us. I often leave small and minor things that don’t influence design out of my presentations – like where the electrical outlets go. But they’ll be there in the final drawings, unless our contract is for limited services or some similar reason. If knowing where they will be is a hot topic for you, let me know and we will spend the time necessary to review where they go and adjust as necessary.
Finally, ask potential Architects you might hire if they have dealt with situations like this before. Their response might tell you a lot about their firm and about their character.
Want to learn more about contracts and what they mean to you? Watch for upcoming posts on the topic soon!