Appointing an Architect.


When appointing an architectural practitioner for a project, the client needs to be sure in which category the person being appointed is registered. Practising members of the South African Institute of Architects (SAIA) are all registered Professional Architects and where the term architect is used in this article, it should be taken to mean a member of SAIA.


Building projects need to be planned, designed, documented and then constructed. The prospective client will usually need assistance in drawing up the brief for the project, from which will flow the design, construction documentation and drawings, local authority approvals, the building contract and construction work.


Through the broad education and training received by an architect and because the architect has total project comprehension, the architect is well positioned to assist the client in the early stages of project planning and development as well as taking the project through from initial briefing and conceptual design to construction and hand-over of the works to the client.


Broadly speaking, the architect’s standard services cover:


• appraisal and definition of the project
• conceptual design
• design development
• technical documentation
• building contract administration


Additional or supplementary services could include special studies such as feasibility studies, interior design, or the production of promotional material. The selection of an architect or architectural practice with the expertise and capacity appropriate to the project is a key factor in the successful execution of the brief. It is strongly recommended that, in addition to an introductory interview with the architect, the client should obtain references to previous work carried out by the architect, preferably for projects similar in nature to the one being contemplated and should visit the projects and even discuss them with the owners. Client and architect need to develop a relationship of trust as soon as possible as the architect will effectively be acting as the client’s agent in carrying out the appointment.


SAIA practices are encouraged to list their areas of expertise in the SAIA database of practices, and where a practice’s expertise is recorded, the information can be made available to assist clients in selecting an architect or practice for a particular project. Other tools in the selection process include personal referral, running an architectural design competition for the project (see accompanying article Architectural Design Competitions), visiting practice websites for information on previous projects, reviewing recent project information featured in the SAIA journal, the Digest of South African Architecture and this Directory, and selecting those design solutions which resonate with the client’s needs and vision for the project.


When accepting an appointment, the architect is required to clearly set out the terms of his appointment which must include at least the following information, which should be reduced to writing:


• the scope of the work
• the allocation of responsibilities
• the limitation of responsibilities
• the fee or method of calculating it
• provisions for termination
• details of professional indemnity insurance


SAIA encourages its members to base their client-architect agreements on its standard agreement, although there are other acceptable pro-forma agreements in use.


With regard to professional fees these may, by agreement, be a fixed fee, a percentage of project cost or hourly based. In each case client and architect are free to negotiate a mutually acceptable fee and calculation method but these are usually based on the recommended tariff of fees published by the Council and amended annually.