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Project Brought to You After Previous Architect Passed Away

  • 1.  Project Brought to You After Previous Architect Passed Away

    Posted 10-21-2021 09:57 AM
    I'm not sure if this is the correct forum for this or not but here goes.

    I recently had a close friend (RA) pass away; his wife had asked if I could help some of his existing clients.  He had many projects in various stages of completeness, some just beginning, and some already permitted.  One of his clients reached out to me to discuss his project, and I am wondering what I should do...

    The project is a small single family residential structure that has already been stamped, signed, and submitted for permit.  The AHJ, and Owner, have requested some modifications to the foundation plan and associated sections and details.   In the Owner's eyes, this is a small ask, but as the 'new' Architect to the project, I have no idea what the proper protocols/legalities are of modifying another Architect's work is, let alone one that has passed away.

    Would creating an ASI with my stamp and signature be OK?  Or would I need to completely re-do the entire project on my title block and take ownership for the entire project?  I'm not interested in doing the latter, and I am sure the Owner isn't interested in paying for the project again.  I'm trying to assess the best way to help an old friend and his wife.  Does anyone have any experience in this predicament?

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


  • 2.  RE: Project Brought to You After Previous Architect Passed Away

    Posted 10-22-2021 05:45 PM
    IMHO once you become architect of record you own the project, dwgs and all. Your insurance company should be able to provide you direction and some legal language in taking over a project, let the contract spell out the liabilities and risk. And if the ins co won't cover it you shouldn't take it.

    You could instead be a client's rep to help find another architect, review and manage progress, advocating for your friend. Good luck!



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


  • 3.  RE: Project Brought to You After Previous Architect Passed Away

    Posted 10-27-2021 08:33 PM
    All, 

    I want to thank you for taking the time to give me your advice.  I spoke to the individual with the request and thanked them for the opportunity to continue their project, but regretfully had to decline.  Current workload and home life were the main reason, but the uncertainty of the project legalities tipped the hand.  I did however give the contact information (after speaking with him) of a friend of mine who is also an Architect, and positioned in such a way that taking on the project may make sense for him.  I did let him know all the advice I received from you all, as well as what literature I dug up on the NYS website pertaining to altering another Architects documents; at this point it would be up to him to accept it.

    Ultimately the client understood.  It never feels good to turn down work, especially given the circumstances, but it felt right to do so.

    Thank you all again, I appreciate this community's willingness to share their expertise.

    ------------------------------
    Joseph McNinch AIA
    Rochester NY
    joemcninch@gmail.com
    ------------------------------

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


  • 4.  RE: Project Brought to You After Previous Architect Passed Away

    Posted 10-22-2021 05:49 PM
    I would probably follow the following steps:
    1. Ask the heir to the architect (assuming it was a sole practitioner practice) write a "termination letter" to the Owner for the project.  It does not have to be any long winded document.
    2. I would recommend that you create a separate agreement with the Owner for you to provide services - list what services you must provide, what you have received to begin the work, and identify what must be done to complete the work.
    3. Once I was legally the "Architect of Record", I would then call and speak with the local Authority Having Jurisdiction and explain to them what is happening.  Explain to them that the design will be reviewed and you will be supplying a new set of documents with your seal/signature/letterhead and that you will be working on behalf of the Owner going forward.
    4. I would then develop a set of construction documents on your own letterhead/sheets.  The deceased architect's documents are no longer valid if a permit was not obtained.  What if you find some code concerns during the redrawing process?  If you just redrew them and they were accepted and the project moved forward - you would be accepting the liability for not being in direct control of the work.

    This solution may cost the client a little extra time and money - but unfortunately for them, it is the cost of doing business in today's litigious society.  You are only trying to help them out...
    Good luck

    ------------------------------
    Ket West AIA
    Associate, Architect
    Hafer
    Owensboro KY
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    Join us at the PM Luncheon at A'22! Keynote speaker is Phi Bernstein, FAIA. Click here to learn more.


  • 5.  RE: Project Brought to You After Previous Architect Passed Away

    Posted 10-22-2021 06:38 PM
    Explain the issue to the client, then execute something along these lines (with your attorney or E&O agent's input) and do the amount of work that you are professionally comfortable with to properly protect yourself and your client. We frequently rely on our E&O agent when faced with these types of issues.

    PROTECTION OF SUCCESSOR CONSULTANT

    In consideration of the risks and rewards involved in this Project, the Client agrees, to the maximum extent permitted by law, to indemnify and hold harmless the Consultant from any damages, liabilities or costs, including reasonable attorneys' fees and defense costs, arising or allegedly arising from any negligent acts, errors or omissions by any prior consultant employed by the Client on this project and from any claims of copyright or patent infringement by the Consultant arising from the use or reuse of any documents prepared or provided by the Client or any prior consultant of the Client. The Client warrants that any documents provided to the Consultant by the Client or by the prior consultant may be relied upon as to their accuracy and completeness without independent investigation by the successor Consultant and that the Client has the right to provide such documents to the successor Consultant free of any claims of copyright or patent infringement or violation of any other party's rights in intellectual property.

    ------------------------------
    Christian Rogers
    Blackmon Rogers Architects, LLC
    Birmingham AL
    ------------------------------

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


  • 6.  RE: Project Brought to You After Previous Architect Passed Away

    Posted 10-22-2021 09:40 PM

    Good evening Joe,

     

    Just went through this situation with one of my close friends and fellow architect.  As a sole practitioner, I am fortunate to have a close knit group of six fellow architects who collaborate regularly.  Although we compete, we share information and frequently help each other through code and AHJ related issues.  We are all older architects.  Each of us have been having fun at this game for 40 years or more.  Over the past few years, we all made a commitment that if anything happened to one of us, we would gather the team and divide and conquer the work that was in progress to fulfill the final obligations of the fallen friend.  This process was initiated in January 2021 when one of our group suddenly passed.  We initiated the efforts of our remaining group of five plus we reached out to other architects in the community who expressed an interest in helping to complete the projects "on the boards".

     

    We contacted all of the clients, told them of the situation and that their projects would be taken care of by another very capable architect.  Each project was handed off.  The contracts were renegotiated and fees agreed to between the client and new architect.  Most of the projects are now under construction.  Some are still in the process of approvals and preparation of construction documents.

     

    Hopefully, you can take on some of the projects while other projects may be best passed on other architects that you know.  Assess your scope.  Don't assume this burden by yourself.  Reach out to your peers for assistance.  You will be amazed by the goodness of fellow architects willing to get involved with helping out a fallen architect who can no longer service his clients.  I believe your head and heart will guide you forward.

     

    Koz               

     

     

    David J. "Koz" Koscielniak  ALA

    12310 West Waterford Avenue

    Greenfield, WI  53228-1892

    Phone:  (414) 303-8489

    E-mail: koz@kozitecture.com

    Web: www.Kozitecture.com

     

     




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


  • 7.  RE: Project Brought to You After Previous Architect Passed Away

    Posted 10-22-2021 09:59 PM
    In no particular order, but it seems like all of these should be done:
    1.  Talk to your professional liability insurer. How much of his work will they cover you for?
    1a. If you do take the project(s) over, will they charge a one-time premium for the added responsibility?
    2.  Read your state's rules about what you are responsible for.
    3.  Contact his professional liability insurer. 
    4.  Review the relevant building code to see what it says about changing the "professional of record" during a project.
    5. Talk to the AHJ about what you might be responsible for.

    Can you "fix" the parts of his work which need updates, and stamp/sign the drawing with a note that says "I'm only responsible for these specific parts" ?

    Does the AHJ / local code require the design professional to be involved during construction?  If yes, your liability insurer will be interested.

    Will his liability insurer sell his widow "tail" insurance that could cover his prior work?  If there is a liability claim, he and his estate would probably be named.  Better for her to let the insurer deal with that.

    My wife has asked me, a few times, the proverbial "what do I do with your in-progress projects if you are hit by a bus?"  The best I've come up with is "someone will be able to extract drawings from the computer".  One of those topics often swept under the rug.

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    Joel Niemi AIA
    Joel Niemi Architect
    Snohomish, WA
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    Join us at the PM Luncheon at A'22! Keynote speaker is Phi Bernstein, FAIA. Click here to learn more.


  • 8.  RE: Project Brought to You After Previous Architect Passed Away

    Posted 10-25-2021 06:16 PM
    Had a similar situation recently - didn't know the architect, but I knew the client. Since it was residential and the edits being requested by the AHJ were minor, we ended up having the homeowner resubmit the revisions themselves as homeowner (since no seal is technically required). In other commercial cases involving dismissed but not dead architects, I have had one AHJ be OK with my stamping revised sheets only, and another AHJ insist that the entire set must be stamped/signed by the same architect, effectively requiring that I take on the whole set & and make whatever revisions I deem necessary - which can be difficult or expensive since the "new" architect may only have pdf's, in which case I try to find a way to dance stage left.

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    Scott Knudson AIA
    Principal
    Knu Design, LLC
    Boyds MD
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    Join us at the PM Luncheon at A'22! Keynote speaker is Phi Bernstein, FAIA. Click here to learn more.


  • 9.  RE: Project Brought to You After Previous Architect Passed Away

    Posted 10-23-2021 10:34 AM
    My understanding is that you should be fine continuing with the project. Just make sure your contract language clearly states that the original AOR is responsible for permitted scope of work, and you are only responsible the revisions to the project you directly make under your direct supervision in control.

    You may want to consider preparing a simple “remodeling” set of drawings that references the original documents and shows the proposed changes. That will introduce a layer of separation between the original CDs and your work. Just a thought.
    Sent from my iPhone


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


  • 10.  RE: Project Brought to You After Previous Architect Passed Away

    Posted 10-23-2021 10:39 AM
    This happens more often than than you may realize. In addition to death, architects leave their jobs, get fired, or become incapacitated. Most states address the issue for replacing another architect on a project in either in their statutes or their Board’s rules, which you can find on-line. While there are many similarities in the process from state to state, there are differences such as the time frame for notifying in writing the AHJ, the Owner, etc.

    Sent from my iPhone


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


  • 11.  RE: Project Brought to You After Previous Architect Passed Away

    Posted 10-23-2021 02:02 PM
    Sorry to hear about your friend. A first step is to contact asap 1) your state licensing board and 2) your professional liability insurance carrier for their input. This is uncommon but couldn't be the first time they have addressed this issue.  After those conversations you can define a few options to offer the client and appropriately protect yourself. 

    Michael Katzin, AIA | NCARB
    Board MemberCity of 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.


  • 12.  RE: Project Brought to You After Previous Architect Passed Away

    Posted 10-24-2021 11:31 AM
    First and foremost, I would speak with an attorney skilled in construction law who can give you some idea of which direction to take. Most likely they've litigated similar situations. If you don't know one, contact your liability insurer and get a recommendation. This is one of those situations that feels like a slippery slope, and no doubt your insurer will be interested in what might be planned moving forward.

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