Category The Architect’s Guide to Running a Job


Just as at the outset of the contract you depended upon the opinion of referees before taking preliminary decisions, it is reasonable that at the end of a contract you should offer to be a referee to a firm which has produced a good result, given a good service to the client, or whose liaison throughout the work with all the people involved has assured good progress and sound relations.

Many smaller commercial firms depend a great deal upon recommendations from past clients for further business. It is as much your duty to acknowledge a good service at the end of a contract as it was to recommend the firm to the client in the first place. When writing to offer your services as a referee for future enquiries, it is also reasonable to remember that the firm deserves to know which of their employees produced the result on their behalf, together with any comments you may have on the service, and information which would be of importance to running the business, or the way in which a future operation is conducted. Similarly, you should inform a firm if you consider their service to have been bad. As it is highly unlikely that the client, architect, contractor and sub-contractors will meet again on one job, the benefit to others of this local criticism is about the only form of post-mortem open to the building industry.

It is easy to forget, during the client’s move into the premises, that the individuals, who have been working on the building since it was a heap of mud, are being evicted at the very point where they are beginning to be proud of their finishes, and before they even get the opportunity to stand back and admire their work. Acknowledgement of good results by individuals should not be overlooked.


On the conclusion of the contract, set aside for record purposes all contract docu­mentation and a comprehensive set of photographs of the completed building as well as those taken during the works. Photographs of the completed building should be taken by a competent architectural photographer after a careful site briefing. Your client’s permission should be obtained before taking these photographs. Photographs are important for office records as potential clients will often ask to see illustrations of previous work. Only release drawings of previous contracts when you have the client’s prior permission to do so.

Should photographs be required subsequently for press publication, a good set taken at this time will ensure that your client is not inconvenienced by further photographic visits.

Kept with the photographs should be a final analysis of the job in terms of total cost, cost by superficial area, length of contract, number of assistants and cost to the office, and a short report on the work including the approach to the problem and your recommendations. Data should also be incorporated giving information on the consultants, contractor, sub-contractors and suppliers.

Depending on whether the contract was executed under hand, or was a deed, the records must be kept for a minimum of six or twelve years.

You may be asked by the contractor, or a sub-contractor, for the use of your name in advertising material. You should first ask your client whether he has any objection, and agree only on condition that your name is used as architect to the particular building, and that you may agree the copy or the proofs before they are actually passed for publication.


Final fees

Depending upon the original terms of appointment for consultants you may have received interim copies of statements for fees from the quantity surveyor and con­sultants as forwarded to the client. You may have verified these as being in accord­ance with the original agreed terms and confirmed to your client for payment direct. Ensure now that all consultants have submitted their final fees and that these have all been settled before submitting your own final account for fees to the client. Your own final account should describe the stages through which the contract has passed since submitting your interim accounts and should include all outstanding expenses. It should be noted as the ‘final statement of account’ for fees.

Forward the original contract documents to your client for his records together with a set of drawings of the building brought up to date ‘as-built’, the maintenance information and associated photographs and inform him that you intend to keep all other documents relevant to the contract for six years from the date of practical completion where a contract is signed, and twelve years where executed under seal. After this they will be destroyed. Tell the contractor of these arrangements. You may find the client has become so used to telephoning you about sundry items since moving into the building that it is necessary to write diplomatically but firmly informing him that this represents the termination of your present services to the contract.

Request permission to use photographs or drawings of the work if required for publication, exhibition, or when asked by new clients for illustrations of previous work.

If your client asks, it is as well to know that you hold automatic copyright to the building’s ‘artistic merit’ and any drawings etc., prepared in developing the scheme, until seventy years after your death. The client, in purchasing the service, has a right to use the drawings, which have been prepared to convey information on its con­struction, for that purpose.


Final certificate

The quantity surveyor’s statement of final account for the work will be an itemized statement in the form arranged at the beginning of the contract. It should take into account the variations to the work as ordered from time to time throughout the contract in order that the client can relate all his previous record copies to the relevant section of the account. It should set the original provisional sums or prime cost assessments, made when compiling the bills of quantities, against the actual sums which have been expended on the appropriate item. It will take into account extensions of time, claims, contingencies, etc.

It will be presented through the architect to the client as a statement agreed with the contractor on the client’s behalf by his quantity surveyor as his agent, and will represent the true financial statement of account for the total works. The architect’s duty, on condition that he has satisfied himself that it is a fair interpretation of respective liabilities under the terms laid down in the Articles of Agreement (which is the extent of his authority in the agreement of the final account), is to recommend the client to pay this in settlement of the contract.

The architect, therefore, if satisfied with the work, issues his final certificate (marked Final) to the contractor when passing the final account to his client. It is not a document on which discussion takes place with a view to negotiating out­standing difficulties. If defects of any kind exist when the final certificate is due the certificate must not be issued. The issue of a ‘final’ certificate assumes that every­thing is acceptable. Signed copies of the account should be sent to both the client and contractor.


Defects liability

On practical completion of the contract, the date for the defects liability inspection as predetermined by the defects period entered in the contract should be decided and the contractor informed. Inform your client of this date and ask him to note defects which arise before that date and which may not be apparent during the actual defects inspection. Your client should also be informed (and it should be borne in mind during your own inspection) that defects do not include damage caused by him or his staff during the move into the building or since occupation, and it is advisable to quote the clause in the contract which deals with this particular item, in order that he does not expect the contractor to make the building brand new again. Before the period elapses, ask for his list of items discovered to be defective during occupation or use of the building and incorporate it in your schedule for inspection.

The inspection of the property should then be related to the inspection schedule as used for the practical completion inspection, in order that the inspection can be made methodically and so that you can be sure that everything has been included. Copies of the completed schedule of defects should be prepared for the contractor, the quantity surveyor and the client. After consultation with your client, arrange with the contractor the dates on which he will start and finish the work and instruct him accordingly. On completion of the work, a second and final inspection should be made which goes through the schedule item by item. This inspection together with the final clearance from consultants is vital as a final certificate cannot be issued unless all defects are remedied. The quantity surveyor should be instructed that, when the contractor’s liabilities have been certified as complete, the final statement of account should be issued and to release the remainder of the retention.


Occupation and opening ceremony

As a rule the client who has lived with the construction site since its origins recog­nizes and feels part of the achievement and in retrospect, has probably quite enjoyed the process. Regrettably however there is a tendency for occupants who have not grown up with it to be somewhat petulant about teething troubles, particularly if they have lived through the defects period with the need for doors to be eased and air-conditioning to be balanced.

The architect’s hunted behaviour in dealing with this is probably part of the vacuum he inevitably feels on completing a job which has occupied him fully for a number of years. It probably also accounts for his sense of personal injury when typists stick calendars on the newly decorated walls with adhesive tape, after he has spent three months avoiding arbitration with the general contrac­tor in establishing the client’s right to have the walls totally redecorated after the defects period.

If a client decides to have an opening ceremony it will generally be some time after occupation of the building, when it is looking clean, trim and in good working order. With a large company, the event frequently contains a strong element of public relations, and the architect’s involvement will be minimal in terms of arrange-

ments. It may require the preparation of a brief description of the building, its services, its principal components and its vital statistics, which may or may not include the construction time and cost. A credits list will generally be asked for but there may be reluctance to publish any more than names of the principal consultants.

This is a full-scale client’s event, and an architect must recognize that the process by which the building emerged is the last thing which will be in the client’s mind, or be of significance to the ceremony. The process is generally acknowledged in the ceremony, but only in passing, and the architect or anyone from the design and construction team is unlikely to be invited to participate except as an observer. The architect’s job has been completed long before this event takes place; so in client terms there is, strictly speaking, no need for him to be involved at all.

In the end the architect has both to acknowledge that the building belongs to someone else, and to learn not to object to its being occupied by the people who paid for it. The opening ceremony quite clearly declares and confirms the occupant as the owner of the building.


Practical completion

Practical completion is the stage at which a building can be said to be in a state ready for occupation by the client without inconvenience. This is probably the most difficult clause in the contract to interpret fairly to both client and contracttor. It is excessively inconvenient and frustrating for a client who has moved into a new building to find sections of an otherwise complete building in need to making good, or with a couple of light fittings missing. On the other hand, it is impossible to say the building is not capable of being occupied. It is often equally inconvenient for the contractor to try to complete the work while the building is occupied and people are wanting him out of the way, with the result that it is almost impossible to get a contractor back once the client is installed.

It is essential, therefore, that the architect insists on completion offering beneficial occupation before the builder leaves the site. This means that the building is practi­cally complete pending settlement of the defects at the end of the defects liability period stated in the Articles of Agreement. Certification of practical completion is certification of completion as far as liquidated and ascertained damages are con­cerned, and this certificate has the effect, where appropriate to the particular articles being used, of releasing in a complementary certificate of payment to the contractor the agreed proportion of the retention figure as stated in the Articles of Agreement.

When the contractor has overrun the agreed contract time, including any exten­sion of time that has been granted, he should be informed that the work should reasonably have been completed and therefore, as from that particular date, the liquidated damages clause will come into operation and that future certificates will be endorsed ‘subject to whatever may be the rights of the employer under the liquidated damages clause of the contract’, or other similar qualification.

The architect must in no way prejudice the rights of his client to invoke this clause, and for this reason he should endorse the certificates.

Certification of Practical Completion represents the date from which the Defects Liability Period will run. It is the transfer from contractor to the client and the date from which the client must undertake insurances.


Maintenance information

Before the building is occupied, sub-contractors, suppliers and manufacturers should be asked to provide instructions for the best care of their materials and equipment so that the information can be passed to the client. These should cover items such as flooring materials, finishes to all internal surfaces, or anything requiring regular maintenance.

Although the architect will request through the general contractor that sub-con­tractors deal with the correction of any failure in material during the liability period, the client, after the contract has been settled and the obligation discharged, will need to be able to contact these firms direct for advice on anything arising related to the work. It is important, then, that with the instructions, your client is given the firm’s name, address, telephone number and, if possible, the name of the person who dealt with the contract, or who knows the history of the work on site and how it was carried out. For instance, your client does not want to have to contact you for a new set of keys.

To this information add the full set of progress photographs taken throughout the course of the work showing the construction of the building in stages.

As well as ensuring that all the equipment and services in the building have been tested under the direction of the services consultant, as well as colour coded and labelled, before handing over to your client, arrange for him or his maintenance staff to be shown the positions of all mains, intake points, distribution boxes, isolation valves, etc., and how to operate mechanical services, emergency or fire-fighting equipment.

This is the point at which the health and safety file should be handed to the client for his own and future user’s records.


Practical completion inspection

There are two stages to the completion of a building contract. The first stage, described as practical completion, is the acceptance by the architect of the building as complete and ready for occupation. The second stage is completion proper, which usually comes six months afterwards, when the building is inspected for defects, the necessary corrective work carried out and the final account settled.

Inspections for practical completion and defects liability should be careful and detailed. It is advisable to follow a fixed pattern in inspecting the building and, if necessary, to do it in several short periods rather than one long one, when through weariness or impatience the inspection may be prejudiced.

Bear in mind, when making your inspection for practical completion, that this is not the opportunity for catching up on points you should have noticed during normal site inspections, but that it should be specifically concerned with the correct operation of all equipment, completion of all finishes, and defective or omitted items. To obtain a consistent result the inspection should be made with an inspection schedule containing broad headings of floors, walls, ceiling, doors, windows, elec­trical equipment, services equipment, sanitary ware, joinery, or other items, depend­ing upon the character of the building. The later, defects liability, inspection can be a second stage of the same schedule. Detailed consideration will need to be given to such things as:

General cleanliness of all surfaces.

Adhesion of plaster, tiles or other applied surfaces.

Completed decorative finish according to schedule.

Screws and fixings secure.

Signwriting or notices completed.

Mechanical and other services tested.

Ironmongery operation, and keys handed over.

Correct light fittings and lamps.

Electric switch plates on and secure.

Fire-fighting equipment complete.

Sanitary fittings complete, clean and working.

Gully gratings, etc., in position.

Doors, windows operating full arc.

Joinery junctions, scribings, etc., finished.

Earlier defects and making good generally finished.

The contractor should arrange for the final tests to be carried out on mechanical and other services either before or during this inspection. Ensure that you or the appropriate consultant attends all tests. Your client should be invited to attend or send a representative so that he will be fully acquainted with the operation of the services and equipment. Consultants must confirm acceptance of all work under their direction. Finally, check escape routes and any other conditions of consents, including party structure or adjoining owners’ work.


Topping out ceremony

The origins of this ceremony seem to be lost in history, but it is performed all over the world in one form or another and is traditionally associated with the point at which the topmost stone is to be fixed to the building. In its simplest form this act is signalled by a branch of evergreen being hoisted to the top of the building, and a toast drunk by everyone on the site to celebrate the completion of the structure of the building.

There have been many variations of this over the years depending upon the period in history or its location. On an open site the evergreen is frequently thrown to the ground to be burnt, as the last part of a ceremony to ward off any evil influences, and it is claimed that when sacrifices were associated with the event, it has involved building the architect into the structure. . .

In practical terms it establishes the point at which the client is able to thank and pay his own respects to the men who have actually been constructing the building, and it is, and should be, his party for all the workmen on the site. The space allocated to that part of the event should therefore be fairly generous. The ceremony itself takes place at the highest point, so may have to be confined to a fairly small platform that will hold the immediate participants, principal guests and photo-

graphers. On the other hand, where it is a flat roof area, the entire site personnel can be accommodated for the party and the ceremony.

The client as host will be responsible for the list of guests over and above the general invitation to all site staff, and will welcome all vistors on arrival. Plenty of time should be allowed between the arrival time and the ceremony to permit people to get from the street—possibly by hoist—to the top of a building which is still essentially a shell, and special safety arrangements may have to be made to conduct this operation.

On this occasion the architect explains the background and introduces the cere­mony to the assembly. The client then thanks and congratulates all the people concerned with the construction, and the builder generally responds and invites the principal guest to undertake the topping out. This is done by placing in position the last brick, tile or shovel of concrete as appropriate; the site agent will have made arrangements for this to be done in whatever way is simplest and least likely to fail. When this is done the evergreen is hoisted, and beer, the traditional drink for a topping out, is distributed for the proposal of the toast and the equally traditional three cheers.