Retaining survey or geotechnical consultants directly – what’s the risk?

Submitted by CourtneyHolmes on Fri, 10/11/2019 - 04:00
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{"version":"0.3.0","atoms":[],"cards":[],"markups":[["strong"],["a",["href","https:\/\/www.aia.org\/articles\/6207512-three-ways-architects-can-avoid-risk-when-","target","_new"]],["em"],["a",["href","https:\/\/www.aia.org\/resources\/85486-the-risk-management-program","target","_new"]]],"sections":[[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"You are an architect starting a new project for your client. Your client has asked you to hire the geotechnical engineer and surveyor. You know that the AIA contracts require the owner to furnish those services, which suggests that both are outside of the architect\u2019s scope of services. What risks should you think about and discuss with your client when considering their request?"]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"At the start of a project, the owner provides important information to the architect and its consultants so that the design professionals can understand the client\u2019s needs. These details normally include things like the owner\u2019s program, budget, and site information. Traditionally, the architect relies upon that information to develop a design. "]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"The site information normally includes, at a minimum, a geotechnical soils report and a topographic survey. However, certain sites may require additional site information, such as an underground utility location survey, an existing conditions survey involving 3D scanning, or wetlands delineation. It is understandable that some clients might prefer that someone else handle these important investigations and request that the architect retain and coordinate those consultants. For the sake of the client relationship, it might be tempting to accept that client request, but there are significant risks that architects should consider before contracting to deliver those services to the client."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[0],1,"Issues to consider"]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"First, take a step back and think about the types of services provided by consultants who investigate a site; none of those services involve design. For example, geotechnical site investigation includes operating drilling equipment to obtain soil core samples. Likewise, licensed surveyors measure and collect data operating scientific equipment in the field. Neither of these activities involve \u201cdesign;\u201d Rather, the activities being performed are more similar to construction or demolition work."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"Both geotechnical engineers and licensed surveyors collect field data to generate specialized reports that are complex and highly technical. If there were an error or omission in those reports, it is unlikely that an architect would be able to identify it. Accredited architectural education institutions include courses in structural, mechanical, and electrical engineering so that architects can coordinate with other design professionals and have a basic understanding of those fields; however, most architects are not trained either by education or by experience to identify errors or omissions in soils reports, topographic surveys, and other similar site information. It is more appropriate, then, for the architect to request required site information and the owner obtain and provide it with a contractual right for the architect to rely on such information to design the project. If the owner\u2019s site information professional makes a mistake, any redesign required by the architect should be compensated as an additional service and the owner\u2019s recourse is to resolve the matter with the geotechnical engineer or the surveyor."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"Conversely, what happens if the architect retains the consultant instead of the owner? In that instance, if the consultant makes a mistake, the architect would be responsible to the owner for that consultant\u2019s error or omission because the architect can be vicariously liable for its consultants\u2019 negligence. Further, the architect would not be entitled to compensation for additional engineering or surveying services to correct errors, or any required redesign by the architect and its other consultants. The architect is not entitled to compensation in this instance because the architect is responsible for the accuracy of the information generated by the architect-retained consultant."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"Claims related to geotechnical and survey services can be costly, if not catastrophic. For example, if a geotechnical engineer made incorrect soils remediation recommendations in the soils report, which the civil and structural engineers incorporate into their respective designs, the building could settle and shift. In that situation, the fix could require anything from adding helical piers to demolishing and rebuilding the entire structure. By way of another example, an error in a topographic survey citing an incorrect benchmark reference could result in thousands of cubic feet of extra cut and fill or even a complete redesign of the building to fit within a revised boundary. "]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"Errors or omissions from survey or geotechnical consultants can have a significant impact on a client\u2019s budget and schedule. In recognition of the magnitude of the potential risks, most geotechnical engineering and survey firms include a limitation of liability in their agreements as an added layer of protection, given that their fees are hardly proportional to the degree of related risk. Their limitation of liability might protect them, but it will not protect the architect if the architect retains them directly."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"Another important consideration is insurance. Most professional liability carriers prefer that their insured architects avoid providing non-design services like geotechnical engineering and surveying. If you regularly contract to provide those services, you may see an increase to your insurance premium and\/or your self-insured retention because insurance carriers know of the risks inherent in these site services and know that geotechnical engineers and surveyors are often under-insured. In the worst case, carriers can terminate or decline to quote professional liability insurance for your practice."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[0],1,"Evaluate the risk"]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"Now that you understand some of the considerations and risks of your client\u2019s request more fully, it is time to evaluate that risk. When evaluating risk, it is important to understand the basis for your client\u2019s desire to have the architect retain the geotechnical consultant. If your client\u2019s reasoning is that they do not want to assume the risks inherent in contracting with those consultants directly, then it is necessary to explain why it is unreasonable for you \u2013 as the architect \u2013 to assume those risks. If your client\u2019s reasoning is, instead, that they do not want the hassle of procuring all those different contracts, then it may be that you can help them identify an appropriate scope for those services for an additional fee, but they will still need to contract directly for the services. If, however, they still insist that you retain the survey or geotechnical consultants, there are significant "],[0,[1],1,"risk mitigation measures"],[0,[],0," you should consider before agreeing to such a request."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[2],0,"AIA has provided this article for general informational purposes only. The information provided is not legal opinion or legal advice. The "],[0,[3],1,"Risk Management Program"],[0,[],1," posts new materials and resources periodically."]]],[1,"p",[]]]}
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