Project Delivery

 View Only

Community HTML


Quick Links

Who we are

The AIA Project Delivery Knowledge Community (PD) promotes the architect’s leadership role in all project delivery methods by assembling and distributing knowledge and best practices for a variety of project delivery methods, e.g. design-build (DB), integrated project deliveries (IPD), and public-private partnerships (P3).

Expand all | Collapse all

Owner Wants to Hire Building Structural Eng of Record Directly

  • 1.  Owner Wants to Hire Building Structural Eng of Record Directly

    Posted 07-13-2018 03:43 PM

    Fellow Architects,


    A developer/owner wants to directly contract with his preferred structural engineer of record directly outside the normal AIA Basic Services form of agreements for a new $60M multi-family project. This is because the Dev/Owner is using a specific structural load bearing cold formed galvanized steel structural insulated panel system (SIPS).


    Our firm has been in business for 23 years and have not seen that before.


    Any thoughts on liability, etc.?






    ACi LA Blue (2)

    Larry H. Adams, Jr. AIA

    Founding Partner

    ACi Architects

    955 North Pennsylvania Avenue

    Winter Park, FL 32789 USA

    w 407 . 740 . 8405




  • 2.  RE: Owner Wants to Hire Building Structural Eng of Record Directly

    Posted 07-16-2018 05:25 PM
    I have seen it & done it multiple times.
    Liability for coordination is the same.
    Suggest having an experienced attorney handle the contracts.

    Sent from my iPad Office Email
    Burton Roslyn, FAIA, FARA, DBIA Architect
    Roslyn Consultants, LLC
    (O): (516) 484-4771
    (M): (917) 642-7287

  • 3.  RE: Owner Wants to Hire Building Structural Eng of Record Directly

    Posted 07-17-2018 06:07 PM
    I guess I don't understand what may be different about a contractual arrangement with a consulting structural engineer regardless of what type of structural system is being used for the project.  If the architect has reservations about using a specific structural system, then don't.  I am not sure that any contractual arrangement is going to protect you from litigation if there is a lawsuit or even worse, some form of failure.  If the Owner chooses to hire the structural engineer directly, your contract will likely require you to coordinate the work of the Owner's design consultants, and if it doesn't, you will have to anyway, and you will be expected to by a judge and jury regardless.  The only advantage I can see to letting the Owner contract directly with the structural engineer is that additional design fees from the engineer will accrue to the Owner instead of you.

    Alan Burcope, AIA, MBA, LEED-AP
    Senior Forensic Architect
    NV5, Inc.
    Orlando, FL

  • 4.  RE: Owner Wants to Hire Building Structural Eng of Record Directly

    Posted 07-18-2018 05:46 PM
    I would agree with Mr. Burcope that the Architect's liability will not be lessened as the coordination requirements would more or less be the same, however the delegated design route for the Structural design might be an avenue to consider.  That said I would be extremely uneasy detailing a building around, or in the absence of a properly coordinated, complete structural design since the engineer will not necessarily be cooperative with the Architect's milestone schedule or timely production of the deliverables.

    Having done this arrangement with MEP disciplines it gets the Owner the upfront bargain that he/she seeks, however it often results in an inferior product and finger pointing all around due primarily from a lack of coordination and effective cooperation.

    Structurally, it sounds like a recipe for a big ol', "Hot Mess"!

    James H. Hewitt M. Eng, AIA, CSI
    Williams Blackstock Architects
    Birmingham AL

  • 5.  RE: Owner Wants to Hire Building Structural Eng of Record Directly

    Posted 07-16-2018 05:26 PM
    The AIA standard Owner- Architect agreements should have plenty of coverage for what happens when an owner decides to provide or is required to provide their own consultants.  Basic Services generally assumes the Owner provides the civil engineer, for example, provides the soils report and geo-technical report, the site survey. While having a separate structural engineer is a little scarier than having a separate civil engineer or landscape firm, it's probably better to have the owner hold the direct structural engineering agreement if they are going to use an unusual/unique/sole source type of structural system.  Otherwise, if you retain the structural engineer and then are asked to use this unique/unusual structural system, you still will take on a load of liability. 

    You also might further set up in the specifications that the structural system is done as delegated design through the owner's engineer's performance specification to further distance yourself and protect yourself- move it all out to the owner's engineer and owner's general contractor.

    Arlen Solochek FAIA
    Associate Vice Chancellor, Capital Planning and Special Projects
    Maricopa Community College
    Tempe AZ

  • 6.  RE: Owner Wants to Hire Building Structural Eng of Record Directly

    Posted 07-17-2018 05:47 PM
    I agree with your response, however, I have always wondered why the AIA B-Series documents exclude Civil Engineering from Basic Services.  Although I have been involved in private projects where the Owner provides Civil, in our area it is common that the Architect includes Civil under its scope of services.  Certainly, all or most public entities in Louisiana include it in the Architect's scope.  Personally, I prefer to have all disciplines under my umbrella to assure better coordination and integration of design details.  Your thoughts?


    Mark Baum
    New Orleans LA

  • 7.  RE: Owner Wants to Hire Building Structural Eng of Record Directly

    Posted 07-18-2018 05:33 PM

    It can be hard to determine civil engineering fees, and they can run from nothing (remodel with no site work) to a lot (new site, difficult site issues, etc.).  For owners who use a percentage of construction cost or $/sf metric for determining starting points for fees (and for architects who do the same), either skews the computation. 

    Separately determining the civil scope and fee, and then adding that as a designated service, still under the architect's total contract, helps with those issues.

    Here in Washington, the State Guidelines for fee calculations exclude site-related services (civil, landscape) from their percentage calculations.  Those calculations are commonly used for school projects, so a trend for architects is to divert all the site-related work of design and documentation to civil engineers and landscape architects.  Architect can then add those to their fee, thus reserving a few more funds for architect's portion of the work.

    Joel Niemi AIA
    Joel Niemi Architect
    Snohomish, WA

  • 8.  RE: Owner Wants to Hire Building Structural Eng of Record Directly

    Posted 07-18-2018 06:00 PM
    Regarding the why civil engineering isn't included in the contract's Basic Services probably would require some grizzled old veteran of AIA documents to explain.  I'll offer a couple of thoughts.

    1.  Someone at some point who wrote the earliest AIA Owner-Architect agreements had to look at the construction and ownership industry and make the initial decision of what the industry looked like at that time, what to include and what to exclude from Basic Services. AIA documents are written to reflect practice, not create it. Once placed into a standard agreement, things tend to get a lot of inertia and don't change unless there's some really good reason to make a change- a sort of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" situation.

    2.  Looking back as far as I can research in a short time (we happen to have the early 1970 edition of the AIA's "Architect's Handbook of Professional Practice"-  don't ask why we still have stuff like that on hand, but we do), even in the 1960's era of owner-architect agreements, structural/mechanical/electrical were the defined basic services.  The explanation given in the handbook (1970 copyright) is the following:

    "Normal Engineering Services.  The phrase "normal structural, mechanical and electrical engineering services ordinarily required in connection with a construction project" [wording directly out of the owner-architect agreement] refers to those services that are generally common to all types of building projects. Almost every building type requires structural design, mechanical design including space conditioning and plumbing design, and electrical design.... These services are part of the Architect's Basic Services and are included in the Basic Compensation."

    So, at that time, the thinking appears to be, "let's include the services that occur on nearly every type of building project in Basic Services." Only new buildings, etc. would require civil engineering, landscape design, etc. Those started out and remained either as owner provided or architect additional services.

    3.  There still are some types of building development where a civil engineer commonly is a direct to owner consultant, such as in a lot of the larger residential development projects.

    4.  Last, another explanation that I've heard is that many public agencies have a required, established fee schedule that sets out how much (usually a percentage type fee) will be paid for Basic Services, and then anything else is additional services. There is more leeway to negotiate additional services costs, as well as make up a little for the generally insufficient Basic Services fee. Since many of these fee schedules are long established and traditional to certain institutions and agencies, moving other consultants, such as civil engineering, into Basic Services is going to add more services without any adjustment in the compensation from the fee schedules. These institutions are not going to change their fee schedules or definitions simply because an AIA document now includes something in Basic Services that it didn't before. There was a lot of discussion about this in each owner-architect agreement update and the feeling was that as long as Basic Services were locked in percentages with many agencies, architects felt better keeping civil engineering, etc., as additional services and receiving fair additional compensation for them.

    I agree with your situation, and in fact, our own agreements require that the civil engineer, landscape design, etc. all be part of the architect's services and we do define these as being "Basic Services."  We also negotiate a fair fee for all of the services and are not locked into a set fee schedule, which is more than some other public owners do.

    Arlen Solochek FAIA
    Associate Vice Chancellor, Capital Planning and Special Projects
    Maricopa Community College
    Tempe AZ

  • 9.  RE: Owner Wants to Hire Building Structural Eng of Record Directly

    Posted 07-17-2018 04:20 AM
    A contract directly with the Engineer for a specialty system, would allow the Owner to sue the Engineer for failure, without involving the Architect.  This significantly reduces the Architects liability.
    Jamie Copeland 

  • 10.  RE: Owner Wants to Hire Building Structural Eng of Record Directly

    Posted 07-18-2018 06:26 PM
    Please recall that long ago Architects provided "Full Services."  Then the 70's came upon the profession and insurance changed the rules and services were diminished or eliminated.  That is, less risk and therefore less responsibility, but insurance premiums were held in check.  Less responsibility, smaller role and of course smaller fees.  More importantly others are now involved in performing portions of the work.  Let's continue to look forward and visualize the future.  CM's, Licensed PMP's, Design-Build (run by contractors for the most part), etc.  From my recent experience working in Canada there are two significant differences.  First, engineers perform architectural services and believe that they should.  Second, fees are set through bidding, which is to achieve the lowest cost for services making architecture a commodity.  Prediction: the more that services are provided by others that are now experts in subjects such as the American with Disabilities Act, the further away from full service the architect become.  This is a the smaller role architects have in future work.  In short, pure design services will become more separate because the service is not "cookie cutter" services provided by everyone.  Thus, those that take responsibility, risks, will be independent and have a role while the balance of us will be working for others - those that take risks.  Reason, risks will be managed by firms and therefore costs will be lower for architectural services resulting in a declining role.  In closing, all success regarding roles for all organizations and persons come through accepting risks, which means better compensation.

    Richard Byfield AIA
    Incline Village NV

  • 11.  RE: Owner Wants to Hire Building Structural Eng of Record Directly

    Posted 07-18-2018 08:16 PM

    From Joel Reitzer, Architect

    of R4 Development (Architecture & P.M. firm)


    This issue arises quite often, and this has been the case since the 90's in Texas. With licenses in Texas, North Carolina, and now in Florida, I have found this diminished role everywhere I have worked. It seems that developers have segmented design teams and have encourage forced courtships upon firms for their own convenience, claiming volume discounts.

    It is true that our fees have been reduced as a consequence, along with our influence over the final product. In addition, we are not expected to provide overall project coordination at the point of fee negotiation, but have found that our coordination role is essential for project success. Thus, we have provided project leadership, as a service to the ultimate projects' success, as we found that clients and their selected specialty consultants failed to recognize facets and complexity of various projects. Stepping-in when needed or required to complete our part of the project and its whole, our coordination services have saved many projects' schedules and their successful delivery.

    The problem is not necessarily one of communication with these types of clients in pre-project talks, but one of belief, on their part, that their knowledge of processes is sufficient for them to carry the ball. Impacts upon our performance were found as follows:

    1. Reduction of Fees
    2. Increased project time (necessitated by poor client coordination)
    3. Younger client representatives lacking experience are essentially freely tutored by Architects
    4. Design of many solutions before proof is found that the architect's vision was proven to be correct
    5. Diminished successful coordination with agencies by clients reps vs architect

    Having served as a client in the corporate world and in government,  I always encourage staff to negotiate the project fee with full services in mind. My client P.M.'s were able to add value in their roles, but without diminishing the Architect's full coordination role, where the Architect had the entire design team under their contract and at their disposal.  

    Segmentation of the design team by clients is penny wise, but pound foolish. 

    Joel Reitzer, Architect

  • 12.  RE: Owner Wants to Hire Building Structural Eng of Record Directly

    Posted 07-18-2018 06:43 PM
    Hello, Larry.  You've probably got this sorted out by now, but from my vantage point I don't see the issue. Owners can assemble a team of professionals any way they like, from one-stop-shopping Design-Build to holding each Agreement individually.  Here's what I would want to know:

    1.  What type of Owner/Architect Agreement is being used?
    2.  What duties does the Architect have relative to ANY consultants hired directly by the Client?
    3.  What does your E&O carrier think about the idea?
    4.  What does your attorney need to do to the Agreement to best protect your interests?
    5.  If you have to wait for the SE to wrap up their design so you can wrap up yours, how does your Agreement with your Client address delay claims?
    6.  What Project Delivery Method is being used?
    7.  How many projects have you done with this Client?

    You get the drift. Reasonably protect yourself but don't be afraid to do the work.

    Phil Scott AIA
    GSC Architects
    Austin TX