Construction Contracting for the Owner: The Owner – Design Professional Relationship
Once the owner has decided to undertake a project they generally retain the services of a design professional. The design professional is the engineer or architect hired by the owner to be used at various points throughout the project. General discussions between the owner and design professional should include the owner’s expectations of the projects, budgets, specific materials which need to be used or special considerations about the project. In both renovations and new construction these discussions would also include aesthetic considerations.
Although all these discussions may happen, the scope of the design professional’s relationship with the owner is that which is spelled out in the contract between the owner and design professionals. An owner in retaining the design professional needs to define his expectations of the design professional, and those expectations should be reduced to a written contract. As an owner, if you want the design professional to provide contract administration then you must ask for it in the contract. This is true for any service being provided by the design professional.
The contract should identify at which points the design professional will be involved: schematics, design, coordination of other design professionals, role with sub consultants, and contract administration. In addition the contract should address the standard of care, insurance requirements, right to use instruments of service and potential termination by either party. No one enters a contract with the expectation that it will go awry, but such possibilities must be contemplated and addressed early on before the parties move forward.
Some of the more commonly used forms are the AIA B-101 (2007) and the AIA B141 and B151 (1997). Although these form documents may provide a starting point, there are plenty of areas where additional information needs to be included so that the owner is adequately protected. Remember, a form contract is just a starting point.
Next week I will discuss the Owner-Contractor relationship.