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Is an architect liable for the construction of a building if the owner is having a developer have full control over the construction?

Oct 22 '12 9 Last Comment
Stars + Stripes
Oct 22, 12 8:52 am

A developer / contractor, not the client,  I may be working with abroad wants to pin all of the responsibility of future construction on me, yet I'm neither being paid for construction admin. nor construction supervision.  If my contract with the client states, "The Architect shall not have control over or charge of, and shall not be responsible for, construction means, methods and techniques, sequences or procedures, safety precautions, or major defects or deficiencies in the Work of the Contractor, or by failure of performance of the Contractor and programs in connection with the Work, since these are solely the Contractor's responsibility," can the architect still be held responsible if the developer / contractor makes serious mistakes during construction?  This developer was hoping to pull permits to build without having a structural engineer review my work, and the building is basically on a cliff with a 27 foot drop.  I told him we need both a structural engineer and a geotechnical study to know if it is even safe to build on this property, or I won't be able to work on the project. 

 

Steven WardSteven Ward
Oct 22, 12 9:27 am

whether you're held responsible AFTER litigation is an open question but, yes, you can always be pulled into litigation. this can cost you a lot of money even if you're found not to be liable in the end.

we experienced this recently: a circumstance in which the structure was not constructed at all as our drawings indicated but we were held responsible anyway. we had no role in oversight of construction at all. 

sometimes participating in a settlement (i.e., paying up) is cheaper than allowing the court case to proceed. and settlement is private whereas the court case would be like a public flogging - not good p.r. 

cool, huh? 

LOOP!
Oct 22, 12 9:30 am

Baby I've got a plan, run away fast as you can.

wurdan freo
Oct 22, 12 11:12 am

It's difficult to tell where you are with this process? Did you already deliver a design and you're asking what your liability is or are you considering taking on this project? In other words, do you already have a contract? If you have a contract does it stipulate that you include structural engineering as part of your services? If not, then fine, but typically that is included in an architectural contract. 

Either way, as Steven said, if this goes to court you will be dragged into the mess. 

Also, while the company in question may be a developer/contractor, if they are not the client and they did not hire you, then they are acting almost primarily in a contracting role. So I would just say contractor not to confuse things.  Maybe you mean design build contractor? Hard to understand what your role in the project is and at what stage it is without more details. 

Stars + Stripes
Oct 22, 12 11:57 am

Thanks guys!

@ wurdan.  I have not delivered a design yet, nor have I signed a contract.  I am having a contract created at this moment.  The contract will stipulate that the client is responsible for hiring a structural engineer, and I will coordinate with her/him.

The developer is selling plots of land and is going to build houses for each individual client -the developer is also going to act as the contractor.

Stars + Stripes
Oct 24, 12 11:06 am

thanks again everyone.  i've decided not to pursue these projects.  the client and developer wanted to work without a contract.  i laughed and told them to find someone who was willing to take on that liability.  unbelievable.

calculator
Oct 24, 12 11:46 am

A+ good choice.  Anyone looking to work without a contract is looking to steal money from your pocket.  You would never have been paid in full and you would have been stressing out over liabilities for this project for years.

wurdan freo
Oct 24, 12 12:24 pm

You did the right thing. Good for you.

JsBach
Oct 25, 12 12:54 am

 Wow, regardless of contracts, who would build on a cliff without a good structural engineer  and civil engineer.

They want to pin responsibility on you but you have no responsibility? That's' where you print in big red letters on every page of the documents stating that these are for conceptual design drawings only, not for construction!!!

 I would talk with the client directly and warn him that this sounds like a scam builder, just wants the money without knowing how to actually build a safe project. Even if you turned the project down, I would think it ethical to warn the client.

 Or maybe I am missing the point entirely. Maybe the client is building a house for his wife, hoping she will be killed in it:)

geezertect
Oct 26, 12 12:23 pm

Congratulations, you just dodged an assasin's bullet.  If things had gone completely right with the construction, you would have been stiffed on the fee.  And if something had gone wrong, there's no telling what a nightmare you would have experienced.

Steven Ward is right.  There is no amount of legal lingo that will guarantee you safety from a law suit.  Particularly if you are licensed, you are deemed a "learned professional" and will be in the chain of liability.

As Winston Churchill said, nothing is more exhilarating than to be shot at without result.

Good war story for others to heed.

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