Working with your Architect
An architect's role and obligations
Architects are obliged to abide by the NSW Architects Code of Professional Conduct. The Code details the standards expected of architects in their professional practice, and relate to general ethical standards, dealings with clients, insurance coverage, continuing professional education, alternative dispute resolution dealings with the public and professional relationships with other architects.
As the client, you are entitled to rely on the skills of your architect; but you do have an important role to play alongside the architect. Depending on your agreement, your architect has a number of obligations and services to provide.
Your architect will:
- Provide written terms of engagement or a client/architect agreement before any work is done for you and give you a copy of the NSW Architects Code of Professional Conduct
- Develop a design solution appropriate to your needs and budget.
- Communicate with you to ensure that you understand important steps in the project and important decisions taken.
- If engaged to administer the building contract, will act as your independent advisor on contractual matters.
Typical Architectural Services
Typically the services of an architect can be broadly divided into three phases. You may engage an architect for all or some of these phases. Whatever services you require should be agreed to before work commences and be included in a written agreement between you and your architect.
Before the design phase your architect can advise on feasibility, selection of a site, planning and scheduling if required.
The design phase typically moves through three stages:
- Briefing discussions to clarify your requirements.
- Sketch designs to explore possibilities; usually including some cost options.
- Design development to produce detailed drawings and selection of materials, fittings etc and associated cost.
Contract documentation produces technical drawings and specifications to obtain a planning and building permit, invite tenders, and for use in construction.
Contract administration. If you have agreed to engage your architect to administer the building contract, they can advise on suitable contracts for the project and on a process of tender or negotiation to select a builder.
Your architect does not supervise the building works; that is the role of the builder. Your architect will:
- Liaise with the builder to assess quality of work at key stages and ensure that contract and specifications are complied with.
- Keep you informed of progress.
- Approve, with you, any variations
- Certify progress payments
- Identify defects and administer their rectification
- Decide when practical completion occurs for occupancy.
The built works need to be certified by the Council or an independent certifier to make sure they are built correctly and according to regulation. This is outside normal architectural services.
Choosing an architect
You may know which architect you want to use; or you may look at the Australian Institute of Architects or the Association of Consulting Architects or contact Archicentre for advice. Whatever method you use to make initial contact with an architect, you should make sure you choose the right architect for your purpose.
- Firstly outline your requirements. Try to contact two or three architects about your project. Architects would expect you to obtain a few proposals.
- Check the architect's qualifications and registration. If in doubt, call the NSW Architects Registration Board to ensure that the person you are dealing with is an architect. You might also check with the Office of Fair Trading to see if there are any complaints against the architect as a trader.
- Look at some projects designed by the architect to see if you like the designs.
- Ask for client references. Verify if the architect had a good client relationship and whether they are happy with the outcome. Was the architect conscious of budget and time constraints? Is the client satisfied with the services they received? Is the client enjoying the solution designed for them? Would the client recommend that architect?
- At the initial meeting with the chosen architect briefly outline the nature of your project and the budget you have in mind. The architect can assist you in clarifying and formulating your brief. Discuss the services the architect will provide and the stages of the project. Clarify the fees payable, the cheapest fee quoted does not really mean the best. Make sure you have the right person for your job.
A client's role
What can you as client do to assist realisation of your project?
- Be as clear as possible about what you want to achieve, what you need and what you can afford.
- Do not hesitate to ask about the client/architect agreement before you sign the contract to clarify what will be done for what cost.
- Avoid changes once you reach the detailed drawing stage otherwise the costs may increase.
- Be clear about the responsibilities of the architect, builder or sub-contractors.
- If your architect is administering the building contract, avoid three-way confusion by dealing with all queries through your architect who will deal with the builder.
- Keep your own notes of meetings, either in the office or on site.
- Do not hesitate to ask questions, be involved, but allow your architect to do their job.
- Be aware of your rights as a consumer of architectural services. Professional conduct of architects is governed by the NSW Architects Code of Professional Conduct. Familiarise yourself with the Code which should be provided to you when you sign the contract with your architect. The Code can also be downloaded from the Board's website.
- If you have a problem, firstly talk to your architect and try to resolve these problems. If you have a complaint about the professional conduct of an architect, contact the Board.
Link: Document Resources