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Clients/Not Clients

  • 1.  Clients/Not Clients

    Posted 11-12-2021 12:30 PM
    I am currently working contract to a design-build contractor who parted ways with his designer in July. Essentially I'm stepping in and working with his existing clients to complete design and construction documents. However, I'm finding myself in a bit of a internal conflict as an architect and firm owner.

    I am not contracted to the clients and am not involved in the contractors bidding process. However, I am concerned that his pricing is high on a couple of the projects, and the clients are taking what he tells them at face value and prematurely cutting scope. For my clients, I would have no trouble expressing those concerns as I am their advocate. But what do I do when I'm just the designer on the job? I see them as both clients and not clients. A new experience for me, so any thoughts on this would be great.

    Thanks!

    ------------------------------
    Larry Paschall AIA
    President/CEO
    Spotted Dog Architecture
    Dallas TX
    ------------------------------
    Join us at the PM Luncheon at A'22! Keynote speaker is Phi Bernstein, FAIA. Click here to learn more.


  • 2.  RE: Clients/Not Clients

    Posted 11-15-2021 05:33 PM
    I hope that the contractor properly closed out his agreement with the other designer. You should have a record of that. Regarding copyright, that designer would also need to grant the contractor and you the authorization to use his design and documents to complete the project, if you are using any portion of them.

    Since you are contracted to the contractor, he is your client. You shouldn't do anything that will sour his relationship with the owner. However, if he were to do something that would violate relevant codes (health and safety), as an architect, I believe you'd have a duty to report it.

    ------------------------------
    Steve Davis AIA
    Canizaro Cawthon Davis
    Jackson MS
    ------------------------------

    Join us at the PM Luncheon at A'22! Keynote speaker is Phi Bernstein, FAIA. Click here to learn more.


  • 3.  RE: Clients/Not Clients

    Posted 11-16-2021 06:25 PM
    To echo Steve, your due-diligence to confirm you have all copyrights in writing transferred from the original architect is imperative and must conform to your state architecture board rules and regs associated with using another architect's design and instruments of service. Give your state architecture board as well as your insurance carrier a call and chat with them for their insights also call your practice lawyer.  Just  few cals to take care of your due-diligence and be able to identify the risk with eyes wide open.

    ------------------------------
    Michael Katzin, AIA | Johns Creek Planning Commission
    Michael Katzin Project Services, LLC
    Johns Creek, GA
    ------------------------------

    Join us at the PM Luncheon at A'22! Keynote speaker is Phi Bernstein, FAIA. Click here to learn more.


  • 4.  RE: Clients/Not Clients

    Posted 11-15-2021 05:43 PM
    RUN

    Ronald Filson, FAAR, FAIA
    Dean and Professor Emeritus
    27 Leyden St
    Plymouth, MA 02360
    504.858.8698



    Join us at the PM Luncheon at A'22! Keynote speaker is Phi Bernstein, FAIA. Click here to learn more.


  • 5.  RE: Clients/Not Clients

    Posted 11-15-2021 06:16 PM

    Larry,

    There is often a potential conflict when working directly for a design-build firm instead of being contracted with the end users. Seems to me that if your contract is with the Design-Build contractor, that is the entity to whom you have financial obligations. While you can certainly suggest solutions to the Design-Build contractor that mutually benefits all parties, expressing your concerns directly with the end user could be a violation of your expressed or implied obligations.  I think one of the only exceptions would be in the case of a health, safety or welfare issue in which case you have another set of obligations that might override your duties to your true client (the Design-Build contractor).

    As you might be finding out, the best Design-Build contractors to associate with are those in which you believe have integrity and values similar to your own.  While I admire that you feel conflicted, it appears that your obligations are clearly to the Design-Build contractor.  As an aside, I can't help to wonder why the Design-Build contractor parted ways with his previous designer.

    Regards,

    ___________________________

    Michael Strogoff, FAIA

    Strogoff Consulting, Inc.

    p: 415.383.7011

    c: 415.717.2755

    Michael@StrogoffConsulting.com

    www.StrogoffConsulting.com

    ownership transitions . mergers & acquisitions . practice management . leadership development . talent placement

    This message sent by Strogoff Consulting, Inc., may contain information that is privileged or confidential and is intended exclusively for the person(s) to whom it is addressed.  Access to this email by anyone else is unauthorized.  If you have received this message in error, please notify us immediately and delete this message from your system.

     




    Join us at the PM Luncheon at A'22! Keynote speaker is Phi Bernstein, FAIA. Click here to learn more.


  • 6.  RE: Clients/Not Clients

    Posted 11-15-2021 06:37 PM

    Larry,

    In over 40 years of practice, the only times we had problems were when we did NOT work directly for the owner. Your hands are tied as you surmised, but if the project goes poorly or there are issues such as the contractor over charging, you will be thrown in the negative pile too. If you don't need this work for current cash flow or possible longer term prospects, I would politely pass.

    Our biggest problem came when we did a design build project for the Corps of Engineers.  We were a subcontractor to the general contractor. The contractor regularly set us up since we had no direct communication with the owner. They worked over every decision we made to the point of delaying the project and then blamed us for cost overruns and delays. We had to bring our insurance into play.

    Stephen L'Heureux AIA

     

    Sent from Mail for Windows

     




    Join us at the PM Luncheon at A'22! Keynote speaker is Phi Bernstein, FAIA. Click here to learn more.


  • 7.  RE: Clients/Not Clients

    Posted 11-16-2021 09:56 AM
    I cannot comment on the legal or ethics of your situation, but I would suggest that your situation is an outcome of several decisions that have been made and need to be respected, not the least of which is that the client chose this contractor to carry out their building plan.  Unless you were part of that discussion & decision process, you cannot then be aware of other factors for choosing the contractor such as previous relationships, other successful projects, or promised schedule and cost controls.  So, taking your concerns regarding their pricing policies to this Owner could be challenging.

    Secondly, you chose to work in a Design/Build relationship with assumed foreknowledge of the various challenges that are inherent in this form of contracting.  You have now found the chief one of those challenges in that there is very little accountability in the system.  Unless there is outright fraud being committed there is little legal recourse for you.  If there is actual fraud, then it is your duty to report it.  Otherwise, actions you take may likely open you up to legal challenges by your client (the contractor) for disclosing potentially protected information to the Owner.

    Your choices actually seem limited:
    1. Finish the contract and don't work with the Contractor again.
    or,
    2. Find a legally acceptable reason to terminate the contract....like perhaps the first architect did.

    One other cautionary note would be to make sure that if the contractor is offering up revisions as a cost control measure, that you are getting compensated for the work it takes to make changes to work you feel is still within budget.

    I wish you luck in your deliberations.

    ------------------------------
    Michael Clark AIA
    Owner/Architect
    AMC Public Safety Consulting
    Plymouth MN
    ------------------------------

    Join us at the PM Luncheon at A'22! Keynote speaker is Phi Bernstein, FAIA. Click here to learn more.


  • 8.  RE: Clients/Not Clients

    Posted 11-16-2021 04:30 PM
    Hi Larry, this means you are a good architect! I tried working with friend's in similar situations but our goals just did not align. I've learned only to work directly with the client. 

    It's thru the client/architect collaboration that brings unique designs, joy and satisfaction to our work and will further your reputation and business. In my opinion this situation will not enhance your career. 

    If you are financially able I would part ways and practice 'your' architecture. Unfortunately I don't think there is anything you can do for your non-client without creating potential risk for yourself.  Best of luck!



    Join us at the PM Luncheon at A'22! Keynote speaker is Phi Bernstein, FAIA. Click here to learn more.


  • 9.  RE: Clients/Not Clients

    Posted 11-17-2021 11:20 AM
    Edited by G. Drake Jacobs AIA 11-17-2021 11:24 AM
    Hello Mr Paschall,
    I fear you have jumped into a business/professional relationship without having done your homework. 

    From your comments, it appears you have several legal, professional and ethical issues with the contractor. Design-Build is a kind of marriage and it cannot succeed with such differences.  Also, when you accepted taking on the project after the first architect departed did you get written confirmation from the predecessor architect that you may use his work product. If not, you may be violating his copyright. There may be other issues that cloud the relationship of the contractor with the original architect that may be of interest to you. Getting similar documentation from the contractor would be appropriate.

    In a Design-Build relationship you need to know and understand the business practices and ethics of your contractor 'partner.' Behavior that would have been unacceptable in a standard Design-Bid-Build relationship will now be part of your behavior, by default. It also appears that the Contractor is the 'face' in the relationship with the client and you are along mostly for the ride. This may put your reputation on the line.

    If you cannot have a meeting of minds with the contractor (with a written letter of understanding of some sort), then you may be best served by extricating yourself from the relationship. It appears you will need qualified legal services.

    In all matters of contract, as a matter of due diligence, never sign anything until you review the materials with your insurance carrier, and possibly with your firm's lawyers. Insurers do not charge for such reviews.

    When Owners agree to Design-Build, depending on their contract (of which you must have an unredacted copy) they are basically agreeing to accept the final construction so long as it meets the scope definition in the contract. Your communications with the client are likely limited by the relevant definitions in your Design-Build Agreement with the Contractor.
    Good luck,
    Drake

    ------------------------------
    G. Drake Jacobs AIA
    Melrose MA
    ------------------------------

    Join us at the PM Luncheon at A'22! Keynote speaker is Phi Bernstein, FAIA. Click here to learn more.


  • 10.  RE: Clients/Not Clients

    Posted 11-18-2021 11:23 PM

    I disagree with all the talk about legal recourse.  This harkens back to the 80s when design/build was scorned.  Contractors were the bad guys in the industry.  It was the time of design-bid-build with the traditional direct client/ architect relationship.

     
    Fast track became the way projects were done, and in many cases still are.  The adversarial relationship between architect, contractor and owner prevailed.  But that process was cumbersome and proved increasingly ineffective.  We architects ceded control in the construction process to contractors years ago.  We became the pain in the neck obstacle to getting things done.

     

    In this case, the next step would be to discuss directly with the contractor what the concerns are.  Listen.  Your fear may be unfounded or solvable.  Gcs are not the bad guys anymore.  They should be partners.




    Join us at the PM Luncheon at A'22! Keynote speaker is Phi Bernstein, FAIA. Click here to learn more.


  • 11.  RE: Clients/Not Clients

    Posted 11-18-2021 08:02 AM
    Lawrence, there is a lot of good input provided.  Aside from all the legal, insurability and licensing aspects - my final thought though is about trust. 
    Going into a design-build project delivery requires trust amongst architect and contractor and the trust is established before the project starts.  Something untrustworthy happened on this project and unless you get the fully transparent version of the circumstances of why the original architect is no longer participating - if you do not have full trust just stay away from this.

    ------------------------------
    Michael Katzin, AIA | Johns Creek Planning Commission
    Michael Katzin Project Services, LLC
    Johns Creek, GA
    ------------------------------

    Join us at the PM Luncheon at A'22! Keynote speaker is Phi Bernstein, FAIA. Click here to learn more.