Guidance for architects

According to Tony Bingham, the case of West v Finlay [2013], provides “a superb set of guidance notes for every architect.”

Despite the case’s length (nearly 400 paragraphs) he recommended in his column that every architect should “go chapter and verse through this case to learn the lessons.”

To save you the time, this blog sets out some of that guidance in relation to contracts and the role of the architect:

Building your contract

  • Be clear if you are required to organise and manage subcontractors working under direct client agreements. [3, 42]
  • Be clear about your fees from the very first question, or you risk not being paid. [21]
  • Be careful with standard forms. Although it is “good practice for [the architect] to specify a form of contract that provided for contractor’s design” where the contractor’s design had to be approved by the services engineer then advising the client to use a traditional form of contract is “one that a reasonably competent architect could properly take.” [211]

Working with others

  • Be independent of the contractor. Your duties are to your client or to act impartially. For example, telling a client to agree the contractor’s application for payment because he is not a ‘bandit’ does not inspire confidence. [36-37]
  • Maintain good relations: “In the context of a domestic building contract, the emotional commitment of the employer is invariably high… the maintenance of good relations between employer, architect and builder is… crucial.” [38]
  • Avoid passing the buck – it is neither acceptable, not a good reflection on your professionalism as an architect. [163]
  • Be fair. Where a subcontractor is refusing to improve or comply with the documents “an architect in this position would have to be careful to guard against giving the contractor too much leeway, but not at the risk of forcing him into insolvency… one must be careful not to give the contractor ‘too much slack’.” [178]

The full guidance can be found in my Checklist for Architects.
References in [square brackets] are to paragraph numbers from the BAILII report.

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