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So you have bought the stand and looked through all the home & décor magazines to get pictures of what your dream house must look like. The first step is to appoint an architect to design your home.

Start by building a list of potential architectural professionals, which can be an architect, a senior architectural technologist, a technologist or a draughtsperson.

Look at projects in your neighbourhood and find out who designed the houses or get recommendations from your friends and relatives.

Make sure everyone on your shortlist is registered with the South African Council for the Architectural Profession. They should have a valid Professional Indemnity Insurance policy in place which will cover all aspects of their design work for your project.

Once you’ve decided on an architect he must set out the terms of appointment in a written agreement, which you both need to sign. It must include the following:

The scope of work setting out the following architectural stages of work:

Stage 1: The architect receive, appraise and report on the client’s requirements with regard to the brief and budget, the site, project program, the need for consultants and methods of contracting.
Stage 2: Client receives an initial concept design indicating space provisions with proposed materials and intended building services.
Stage 3: The architect develops the design and construction system and consults with local and statutory authorities.
Stage 4: The architect prepares documentation sufficient for local authority submission and complete construction documentation for tenders.
Stage 5: Contract administration.
Stage 6: Complete the project closeout.

Now before signing the terms of agreement you have to decide whether you simply want the architect attend to stages 1 – 4 mentioned above, which include design, production and approval of drawings, or whether the architect will render a full service meaning they will administer the contract and oversee construction as well.

Where the full service is engaged and 100% of the normal architectural fee is charged on average you will find that 15-20% of the fee goes towards producing the drawing and specification. Another 10-15% for site inspections and contract administration, and the balance is what you pay for the experience and ability of your architect or designer to produce a good design.

When it comes to the fee of the architect it can vary depending on numerous factors including, level of experience, background training, type of building, size of building, complexity of building, and the location of the building. The fees can also be based on a percentage of the total construction cost, on time expended, or a lump sum.

At this point it is important to note that many people do not include professional fees and related costs in their initial budget estimates. This figure could be as high as 10% of your total budget and could include architect, engineer and land surveyor fees, council and NHBRC fees and connection fees, etc.

At least 60% of these fees will become due for payment well before any drawings are approved by the local council. This also means that you cannot rely on any bank building bond to pay them as nothing has been built yet.

Once you have decided on the extent of the service you will engage the architect for and you have signed the appointment the first issue that your architect should be dealing with is your choice of building style.

There are a number of really good alternative building systems on the market, one of which will suit the look you want to create, your lifestyle and your budget. Your architect should be presenting these choices to you and assisting you to weigh up the merits of each one.

I dealt with a case where an architect, who will remain nameless, convinced their client, let’s call her Ms X, to make use of a groundbreaking concrete and polystyrene slab building system. As the system was untried in SA it resulted in a 12 week delay to the building progress and a huge financial loss for the client. Because the client trusted the architect to oversee and administer the building the architect merely approved the delay and the client was left with no recourse against the builder.

The second issue is to make sure the architect understands your lifestyle and design taste.

Thirdly, your architect should produce a full specification for your project.

This will give the builders a fixed document to quote on and you will have a good comparison when looking at the various tenders. Without it your builder could be quoting on and building anything.
It is important to note that the architect’s main function is design and production of detailed drawings and specifications. The architect is not a contract specialist, they regularly fail to keep proper record of minor changes, variations and delays in construction which leads to problems of proof should a dispute arise and lacks the legal and contractual knowledge to deal with a situation where the builder is not performing in terms of the contract.

Also the architect is part of your professional team and, even though his conduct is regulated by his professional body, you need to make sure that the architect is managing the building contract accurately otherwise you might find yourself in the same position as Ms X.

We regularly assist both architects & clients entering into professional fee agreements.