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Dear What could possibly go wrong…

An ArchiTeam member has written into What Could Possibly Go Wrong asking about what to do when a client wants to reduce the services agreed to in the CAA because they want to cut costs.

 

Dear What could possibly go wrong,

My client has written to me saying now that a planning permit has been issued they want to go to a drafting service to prepare the construction drawings even though I was engaged to do these and contract administration. They also want the cad drawings so that the drafter can use them. This hasn’t happened to me before, I’m unsure as to how to handle this.

 

Dear ArchiTeam member.

You are not alone, there is a bit of cut and run by clients at the moment looking to cut costs by taking a design with a planning permit and going to a drafting service or not proceeding with contract administration services even though this was agreed to initially as part of the client architect agreement.

It is natural for a client to see their budget as a very sensitive issue. We all do and like a lot of us they are making decisions about what they see as value. Besides, they tend to see it as now that all the hard work has been done in the design and getting a planning permit how hard can it be; surely a drafting service can get it done for a lot less impact on the bank balance, a cheap alternative perhaps.

They may think that the architect is good value for the hard bits but no so good for what is seen as the easy bit.

Clients generally don’t have the reference points to evaluate the complexity and risks of getting their project successfully completed, as such their value judgement can be askew.

Too often I hear from a client about how certain aspects of the project would be handled in their own field of endeavour and they try and relate this to their project. It is difficult for a client to see the whole picture. That’s why they wanted an architect in the first place, to bring order, balance and control for a great outcome. This is more than plans and a permit.

Because you were engaged to provide services for the entire project you have set your documents as part of an ongoing process, they are not necessarily complete within themselves. If you had been engaged for a partial service only the documents would look very different. The client needs to be made specifically aware of this.

You need to be careful with your response, your client is effectively terminating the client architect agreement, so you need to check your agreement to make sure what has to be done to remain within the terms of the agreement. Confirming the termination formally in writing to your client including the reason for the client going elsewhere would be worthwhile. You don’t want them coming back later on when things have gone wrong saying that they didn’t understand what to do and you didn’t let them know or there were other reasons for the termination.

You will of course make up your own mind as to how to best communicate with your own client and what to say but if it were me writing to my client, amongst other things, I’d be saying something like  – ‘ I note your advice that as a cost cutting measure you have chosen to limit my involvement as your architect in your project. By reducing my services to provide ‘design only’ you must be made aware that this may have an adverse outcome on the project. 

Discrepancies in design and other documents occur in every project and I must have an opportunity to correct those discrepancies. This would normally happen in the usual course of events throughout the project. You must also be made aware that there may be other limiting factors that I am not aware of at this point in time; again I would correct these as they occur. To restrict my services denies this benefit to your project. Also, I will not be able to assess alterations or substitutions by other parties.

The cad drawings are copyright, the only drawings that can be issued to you are the copies that you already have received as part of the planning permit process.’

Alternatively, you might want to offer the cad drawings at a figure representing their commercial value to you and the client. You are after all in the business of being an architect.

The underlying intent of my approach is to make the point to my client that if they go on without me they are on their own and that they can’t expect to rely on the work I’ve done done to date to be sufficient for a successful outcome for their project.

During the course of the project we are focused on representing the interests of our clients but when we get a letter like the one your received it is worth considering how your own interests will be protected. Time to move to defence mode.

Peter Finn, architect
ArchiTeam director.

 

Disclaimer – ‘What could possibly go wrong’ is not an advice column, it is only general comment from ArchiTeam who are not aware of your circumstances with any issue that you may have. You cannot rely on these general comments, each member must make their own decisions about any action they should take and seek independent advice of their own if they are unsure.

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