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The Architect, The Builder & The Client - Managing your expectations

Are your expectations of each one correct or are you setting yourself up for disappointment?

The root cause of disputes between many of these aspects is often a misunderstanding of the roles and responsibilities each one is to be held accountable for.

An architect has a role to play and is a commodity to be employed in just the same way as say a carpenter. One area of particular confusion is what actually constitutes an architect, with the term often used generically to describe almost anyone who designs or supervises the construction of buildings. In fact the title is protected by law, with a person only allowed to call themselves an architect if professionally qualified and registered with the Architects Registration Board (ARB) following the usual seven years of training. However, the works may not require the services of a qualified Architect so employing an Architectural Technician might be more appropriate. Whichever you might use, it is this person’s role that we are interested in.

Within the build process, it is the architect’s role to provide the relevant information for both the builder and the client, however the level of information is dictated firstly by what exactly you have agreed for him (or her) to provide, secondly the size of the works, and thirdly the proficiency of the builder and client. Unless agreed, it is not the architects role to help choose the right builder nor to police his works. There may be a whole plethora of information on the drawings, but sometimes this information needs to be adapted to changes in either the mechanics or the choices as works progress. It also needs to be completely understood along with each item’s ramifications; in other words if your builder is relying heavily on the architect to help him understand the works as they progress, then you are heading for problems. The builder should have been chosen for his ability to firstly understand what you are wanting built and then be competent enough to build it. The problem is; you are taking his alleged skills at face value and may also be thinking that the architect is employed to provide back up if he is not quite as skilled as the builder said he is, or finds a problem that needs knowledge and experience to solve. Then there is your own understanding of what it involves to build your project. If you have limited knowledge on the subject, it is entirely likely that you believe that between the architect and the builder, you have all bases covered. Wrong! Whilst the architect may be very good at designing and even specifying, it is extremely unlikely that he has ever built so would not understand the practicalities of the mechanics. The builder on the other hand may well be good at what he does (building) but could very likely not understand such issues as airtightness, cold bridging or basic structural engineering which could leave serious flaws in the end product. You the client could well have very little understanding of any of the above which leaves you with at best some hefty bills from the architect and/or a build with less than satisfactory quality. You could decide to use the Architect to project manage, but unless he is very experienced at this, there are a number of reasons why it would be much easier and less fraught seeking the services of a professional Project manager who would have the necessary skills to fill in the gaps and glue together the entire process.

Vince Holden MCIOB

+44 (0) 7815 144959

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