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Architect of Record fired

zachf

I work at a hospitality company that had a in-house architectural department. We have been producing drawings and submitting them for permit to the city officials as we completed them. The company has decided to change directions and move to 3rd party Architects to draw up and be responsible for providing Construction Documents. So the signing Architect in the office was let go/fired. The Architect was contracted, so had his own company under the larger umbra of the hospitality company. Being paid by the hospitality company to produce, review, and sign drawings for permit.

My question is as follows. We had a project that he signed into the city for review for a permit and was in the final stages of being permitted (the project is in the state of New Jersey). We sent in revised drawings in response to City comments and they were in the process of issuing a permit. So the permitting process had started, reviewed and city comments replied to as required. The problem is, he called the City and told them that he no longer works for our company, which has caused the permit not to be issued.

My understanding is that the signed documents that our company sent to the city and paid the signing Architect (Architect of Record) for, are able to be used for the permitting process and the City not issuing the permit due to his call is unwarranted. I understand that the Architect of Record might want to remove himself from the liability as the project is constructed, but that up to this point the drawings are signed and certified by that signature to be viable for the permitting process. Even if they were not at the city being reviewed, the drawings were signed and paid for by the hospitality company and provided to the hospitality company to use. The signing Architect can put in a request to the City to remove himself from the Architect of Record, but that doesn't invalidate the drawings from being used for the permitting process.

I have my B.A. in Architecture and have worked in the field for 16 years, but I'm not licensed so my clarity on this issue is foggy. My research and Google mastery, has only produced that; the company has paid an Architect to produce, sign and submit drawings for permit. Those drawings are valid and signed drawings at the City and a call from the signing Architect informing the City of his termination does not change the fact that they are signed construction documents issued to be permitted by the city for construction. I have no ill will towards the Architect and would hope that we can approach the city to just get our permit and move on.

Any thoughts, answers or experience with a situation like this is welcome. I gathered some information from the forums of similar situations, but couldn't locate something that was better suited then just asking the question.

Thank you.

 
Jul 21, 20 12:57 pm
gwharton

When your in-house architect left, your company no longer had a professional licensee, so can no longer be the architect of record. That role needs to be transferred to his new company, or to another licensed architect. It's not a big deal to do that, mostly just filing paperwork, but it needs to be done.

Jul 21, 20 1:04 pm  · 
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zachf

Thank you. Was assuming beings he was a licensed Architect and licensed in that state, that his employment status wouldn't affect that the drawings would be able to be used for the permitting process.

Jul 21, 20 1:16 pm  · 
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gwharton

That would only be true if he personally was listed as the architect of record, not the company. I assume that is not the case, since you got this notice from the permitting authorities. It's not just the stamp, it's who is taking responsibility for the stamp.

Jul 21, 20 1:17 pm  · 
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zachf

He is listed as the Architect of Record, as far as I know. But what you are saying make sense to me. In either case the city/permitting authorities would want to make sure there is a responsible party to approach during the construction process and if they don't have a valid Architect of Record on file, then that would be a good reason not to issue a permit. Understood the Architect wanting not to be liable, after being removed/let go/fired, but was under the impression that didn't change the fact that a licensed Architect stamped drawings for a permit. Could understand if the Architects license was revoked or not valid, that it would be clear cut. But assumed if he stamped and sent them in for permit, he would be taking liability that the drawings/documents meet all the local and national codes which would be enough to issue the permit. But understand all states and municipals might vary in what they require and allow. But if I knew the answer I wouldn't have posted. Appreciate your help

Jul 21, 20 1:42 pm  · 
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thisisnotmyname

Was the architect fired before the before the permit review was completed? Did your company do any work on the documents to address permit review comments after the architect left?

Jul 21, 20 3:49 pm  · 
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zachf

The permit review comments were addressed before the Architect was let go. Why my understanding was we should be able to still used the stamped drawings. The permit was ready to be issued but we received a call from the city saying they couldn't issue the permit.

Jul 21, 20 6:14 pm  · 
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thisisnotmyname

If you have supporting documents to prove the architect oversaw the full duration of the permitting process, you may want to share that with the city. The city may have been given some other impression when the architect contacted them post-firing. Making you re-submit with a new AOR is a neat and tidy way for the old architect to walk away and move on, but the former employer doesn't necessarily have to go along that. Unless the employment agreement had language to the contrary, the former employer is fully within their rights to use the lawfully prepared stamped plans and get a permit.

Jul 22, 20 12:03 pm  · 
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archanonymous

It all depends on his relationship with the firm... Was he an employee of the firm? Was he an independent contractor working for the firm?

Given the requirements for supervision, review, and oversight and administration placed on stamping architects, there is no way he could uphold the quality of work or professional obligations in this situation. Depending on the state, he may have been required (or if he was an employee its more likely the professional services firm he was employed at would be required) to notify all permitting authorities for projects in permitting or under construction of his employment status change. 

Jul 21, 20 1:06 pm  · 
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zachf

Good to know. I was just designing and preparing the C.D.s, and still kind of new to the company so unsure of the exact relationship with the hospitality company. My understanding was that he ran and operated his own firm under contract with the hospitality company. So it would be similar to hiring an outside Architecture Firm to design and sign the drawings for the hospitality company. That would mean that once the drawings were sent to the city for permit, it wouldn't change the fact those drawings were supervised, reviewed and signed/stamped by a licence Architect.

Jul 21, 20 1:25 pm  · 
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thisisnotmyname

Yes, as far as providing stamped plans to secure the permit, the hospitality company met the requirements and should get a permit.  If the building authorities require an architect's participation during construction and/or final inspections, the company will need to get the architect of record to come back or they could get another licensed person to somehow step in and assume that role.

Jul 21, 20 2:17 pm  · 
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archanonymous

More or less. It all comes down to the nature of his contract. And as gwharton points out, if he was an employee, the second he was terminated (assuming he was the only licensed architect on staff) then you ceased to be a licensed professional services firm.

Jul 21, 20 2:20 pm  · 
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Spend the $300 to make a call to a construction lawyer to find out. These things are tied to such state specific stipulations, I wouldn't trust that any one answer you get here will be correct. Best money you'll spend on the project. 

Jul 21, 20 3:06 pm  · 
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Non Sequitur

calm down... op is an employee in a large development firm... the answers above are decent.

Jul 21, 20 3:14 pm  · 
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thisisnotmyname

Both the company and the fired architect would do well to at least briefly consult their lawyers. There's a lot of potential pitfalls for both of them, depending on the local regulations in play and the nature of their contract, or lack thereof.

Jul 21, 20 3:45 pm  · 
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@non- totally calm day, even though it's about 100 damn degrees here and covid hasn't magically disappeared in the heat like it was supposed to. this is a tricky situation - it's why we have lawyers. use them.

Jul 21, 20 3:55 pm  · 
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Non Sequitur

op's bosses need the lawyers.

Jul 21, 20 3:58 pm  · 
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zachf

We have a lawyer in-house, but more business side of things. We are working with other firms to switch to as Architect of Record. We have no ill will towards our former employee, just hoped to get the permit to get work started.

Jul 21, 20 6:16 pm  · 
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BulgarBlogger

If your company is in New York State, under State Law, only certain types of firms can offer professional services. 

"While an architect may retain an interior designer as a consultant, or have an interior designer on staff, and pass on those services to the client, an interior designer or firm may not pass on architectural or engineering services to the client. There is nothing to prevent an interior design firm from having an architect on staff to participate or assist in the provision of interior design services, however, even if the architect has ownership in the interior design firm, the firm itself is still not authorized to provide architectural services."

http://www.op.nysed.gov/prof/arch/archguide-b2.htm

So your company either fired your inhouse architect to comply with State Law, or he was negligent/becoming too expensive. Either way, what your company did was illegal. 

Jul 21, 20 3:20 pm  · 
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OP said the project was in New Jersey. I'm not seeing how the NY state practice laws apply to a company offering services in NJ by a NJ-licensed architect ... even if they are located in NY.

Jul 21, 20 3:27 pm  · 
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BulgarBlogger

Oh those New Jersians...

Jul 21, 20 3:37 pm  · 
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More like "oh those North Dakotans" if my googling is correct ... and I'm pretty sure it is.

Jul 21, 20 8:06 pm  · 
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Interesting situation and I don't have much to add other than I think the architect pulling the seal from the documents probably has more to do with being fired than with any concern for liability, etc. If he had his own firm formed under the umbrella of the larger company, it seems strange that he wouldn't be able to take his firm out of the company and continue to offer services to finish out the projects under development. Sounds like there is more going on behind the scenes than we or the OP knows. 

It may also be related to his own interpretation of his role on the project. I.e. Maybe he feels like he is no longer able to exercise responsible charge of the documents because the people who might be revising them are no longer his employees (still apparently employed by the client it seems) because his company was essentially dissolved. 

Jul 21, 20 3:24 pm  · 
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joseffischer

*sounds like there is more going on..." Agreed

Really though, OP has clearly been assigned the task of "get this permitted" and is in over his head.  No amount of lawyers or corporate discussion will help or is necessary.  He just has to go to the AHJ and jump through their hoops, which most likely will include telling his boss some bad news.  The quickest way to resolve this most likely will be reaching out back to the Architect and giving him one last check to get this done.

Jul 22, 20 11:22 am  · 
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Probably right. They're going to right a check to someone ... might as well be the architect rather than the lawyer in my opinion. After doing some googling last night, I don't think this architect "had his own company under the larger umbra of the hospitality company" as stated in the OP. Every indication I could see was that he was simply an employee of the hospitality company. Seeing something like this happen has been a learning experience for me in showcasing why if you're signing and stamping drawings you should probably have an ownership stake in the company. At least that way if they want to get rid of you, they've got to buy you out rather than just tell you to pack up your desk and leave. Food for thought at least for the other archinector wondering about taking on a position as in-house architect.

Jul 22, 20 12:05 pm  · 
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joseffischer

Yes, we had an electrical engineer who refused to manage projects without using his own stamp, and eventually left. Transition was way smoother than the two posts we've seen here. We left both stamps (old and new) on the drawings with a note that the new stamp (director of Engineering/co-owner, as all our other jobs are done) only covered the addendum going forward. Paperwork with the AHJ was also handled. Only one job actually had to be in that limbo two-stamp area. The rest had either not gone to permit or had completed all changes and were issued. Architecturally, all our jobs are stamped by one of the 3 architectural owners.

Jul 23, 20 12:54 pm  · 
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proto

sometimes there is a jurisdictional obligation for commercial projects for the architect of record to oversee construction

that could possibly undermine the OP's project...until a new arch of record can assume resposibility for the documents

Jul 21, 20 4:02 pm  · 
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My understanding is that an architect can revoke their stamp on a project *at any time before the permit process is completed*.  If you don't get a complete fee from a client, you can revoke your stamp until they pay you. If the owner says "I know we had to submit it like this to get permit but I'm not going to actually spend the money to build it that way" you can revoke your stamp.

But as Gregory said: architecture-related law varies pretty widely by state. Get a lawyer from New Jersey to answer it.

Jul 22, 20 12:43 pm  · 
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thisisnotmyname

Interesting discussion by code officials here:

https://www.thebuildingcodefor...


Jul 22, 20 3:09 pm  · 
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