CA additional service liability


It seems (heresy or fact) as if some firms only offer CA as additional service. How does liability work, as AOR, after stamping permit set?. If the contractor doesn't build according to the contract documents, then the Architect has no or less(relative) liability. I understand this is a rather grey area, with different jurisdictions and their req for CA. But don't a number of smaller projects get built w/o CA by the AOR. Experience-stories,opinions are appreciated

Oct 12, 17 11:53 am

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I know this has been discussed ad infinitum in other threads but a fresh perspective would be great..

Oct 12, 17 12:02 pm

As with most things, it will depend on the jurisdiction (but I think you already understand that). Some legally require the architect to perform CA. In those cases I think it would be hard to convince a client who knows better that this should be an additional service.

If no requirement exists to make the architect perform CA, you would be free to negotiate basic vs. additional services with your client.

Oct 12, 17 12:37 pm

Our insurance carrier recommends we do CA on everything.  It is my understanding that not doing CA is not an effective liability shield.

I've come across some trash developers who will ask for "limited CA" in exchange for a lower fee, but it's always a crock of shit because they never agree to limit our liability to reflect our reduced involvement.

Oct 12, 17 1:06 pm

I write in X number of site visits included in the agreement. I always put CA in the agreement. My agreements specify that questions from GC during CA must be in writing and will receive numbered formal written answers from the Designer of Record. (Me).

I also put in the agreement that either party may terminate the agreement at any time in writing.

Oct 12, 17 1:23 pm

We try to do CA for every project we design.  However, when you work with government entities, and really any very knowledgeable client/owner's rep, they like to be involved to various degrees.  If an owner's rep chooses to go against our professional recommendation or what is in the contract documents without our knowledge and consent, we ask to have the decision documented in a formal letter written to A/E from the owner's rep for our liability purposes.  For instance, one rep asked us (during design) to cut the number of fire alarms to less than required by code because "someone might go deaf from the loud noise."  To which we replied, "I'd rather be deaf than dead." 

Oct 12, 17 1:56 pm

When I learn of some decision that seems to violate my understanding of what is intended/allowed I often suggest they get it in writing...they usually stop trying to "help" then.


This is my experience as well.


they didn't want the strobes?


Our FP engineer spec-ed horn strobes in the design. The rep thought they were grouped too closely (even though they were per code) and asked us to omit basically every other one. The rep claimed occupant safety (aka: not going deaf) but also he thought the horn strobes were too costly for the project even though the whole scope of the project was installing a working fire protection system!

that is up to the fire marshal, the fire marshal can tell you where to put them, and will

What liability do architects think they are being shielded from, or they are getting out of, by not performing CA?

Oct 12, 17 4:08 pm

We do limited CA usually, mostly because the owners don't want to pay us for doing all of it and there is not particular requirement that we do everything (we haven't found a jurisdiction yet that requires full CA and we work nationally). And frankly no one wants to spend their time reviewing pay apps. 

Unfortunately that also means the owners tend to make dumb decisions and not tell us about them until after there's no way to fix them.

Our corporate clients generally manage their own GCs and construction processes themselves, so they don't want or need us to get involved, except on questions re: conformance with design intent or permit issues. And so limited CA was born.. 

Oct 12, 17 7:33 pm

Well I've potentially learned something new today. I thought there were a handful of jurisdictions that required the stamping architect to perform CA, but I can't find more than one that does ... though my search hasn't been exhaustive.

I did find a two-year-old AIA document outlining various jurisdictions' laws and rules (though not all jurisdictions) regarding CA and it doesn't appear that any require it of the stamping architect, except for Oregon.

Oregon's rule states "(2) Architects must observe all projects they stamp, with the exception of single-family residences. If the architect will not be providing the required observation, the architect must so advise the primary authority having jurisdiction and the Board in writing within 30 days of when the architect becomes aware that he or she will not be providing observation. This written notice must also include the project address and project owner’s name" (806-010-0050, emphasis mine). I don't know what happens when the stamping architect advises the AHJ and the OBAE that they are not providing observation. It could be nothing, or that the AHJ checks with the owner to see who will be performing that task, or that the OBAE slaps a fine on the architect. Though I doubt this last option, it was interesting that Oregon's rule is worded so strongly and precisely, eg. "must observe all projects they stamp," and note it as "required observation."

Most other jurisdictions simply state that the act of CA is defined as the practice of architecture and requires an architect to perform that function. Many include provisions that require the AOR to notify the AHJ they will not be performing CA. 


As an aside, Oregon's rules also note that performing CA on an exempt structure constitutes the practice of architecture ... so if our buddy Balkins had actually been involved in that exempt theater project (in so far as he asserts that it is exempt and that he was involved with it) to the point of performing CA ... it would have been considered practicing architecture.

Oct 12, 17 8:45 pm

Reading comprehension after this long of a day isn't my strong suit apparently. The whole last paragraph above about exempt structures is wrong
. The rule says non-exempt.


A few states (TX, MA) require site visits from the architect, but usually that's it as far as requirements from the jurisdiction. Sometimes you have to provide some reports and stuff but that's rare and usually comes from a particularly overzealous small town with too much time on their hands.

{{citation needed}} 

I can find that TX requires an architect (or someone under the supervision of an architect) to perform construction observation, but not that it is a requirement that the AOR visit the site. I can't find anything related from MA.

they let trained monkeys do single family (I do single family)

Oct 12, 17 9:09 pm

My father, a lawyer, had a client, an architect, many years ago who did a religious assembly building in the mountains of Colorado.  It was properly engineered for snow load conditions, but the client allowed the GC to cut corners on what was drawn without informing the architect.  Building stood for seven years, no problem, but a record snowstorm in the eighth year resulted in building collapse.  Architect had not done site inspection during construction because the client didn't want to pay for it (naturally) and so he wasn't aware of the deviations from his engineer's details. Dad did research on the case law in such circumstances, and recommended to the architect that he settle, because the case law precedents are very unfavorable to us "learned professionals" in such scenarios.

Conclusion: plan on monitoring the project whether or not you're being paid for it.  Include that time in your calculations when setting your fee.  If something goes wrong, you're going to get sucked in.

Oct 13, 17 10:55 am

Good advice. I'm very afraid of something like this happening. Hopefully no one was in that building when it collapsed.

if you (a registrant) "monitor" a project, you are on the hook anyway.

This seems wrong. Wrong in principle, not that I think your father's experience is "fake news." I fully understand that sometimes it is less expensive to settle than it is to fight, even if you are right. However, this advice is essentially asking the architect to be omniscient and failing that, to trespass on the owner's property in order to make direct observations. Being a "learned professional" should have nothing to do with not knowing things that you can't possibly be expected to know without direct observation or involvement.

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