Working with your architect.


Your contribution to a successful project

The design of a building often includes the input of many other consultants such as engineers and quantity surveyors, but none of the aforementioned are as important as your and the architect’s combined input.  The standard client-architect agreement provided by the South African Institute of Architects (SAIA) provide clear guidance on what is expected from the client,  and your architect will assist you in clarifying them.


As the client you will typically provide the following supporting services:


  1. You will be responsible for the outline of design objectives, constraints and criteria, including space requirements, flexibility, expandability, special equipment and site requirements. The ultimate success of your project depends on the quality of your brief.

  2. The budget, including contingencies for tender purposes, on site changes and other costs should be put in place by you as the developer.

  3. You will have to timely approve the sketch plans in order for the architect to continue with the next phase of the work, namely technical documentation.

  4. A zoning certificate and survey of the site (which should include all services and sewer inlet levels) as well as geotechnical surveys are the responsibility of the developer.  When engaging in big construction projects, it could be necessary to gain information like soil bearing values, air and water pollution tests, hazardous materials testing, as well as ground water level testing.

  5. During construction it will be your responsibility to pay the contractor according to the payment certificate issued by either the architect or project manager.

  6. You also carry the responsibility to promptly notify the architect of any observed faults or non-conformance with the contract documents of the project.

  7. The construction of all new buildings and renovation works should be covered throughout by insurance policies.  Depending on the contract and type of construction this could either fall under yourself or the contractor.  Your architect should be able to clear up your responsibility in each case.


Remember that you are part of the building team.  It is imperative that you maintain effective communication with your architect throughout the project so he/she can act in your best interest at all times.


The five work stages

Architects provide many services to meet the needs of their clients. These fall into five work stages through which the building grows from a conceptual idea to the final built product. These five work stages will be discussed below as they appear in the SAIA client-architect agreement:


1. Appraisal and definition of the project: 

During the first stage your architect will assist you in defining the scope of the project, identify other stakeholders/consultants which might be needed, set up a preliminary programme or project milestones, and assist in projecting costs.


2. Design Concept: 

Here the project scope is developed into a more advanced stage. Your architect, by the use of conceptual diagrammes, will consider orientation, space organization, circulation, siting etc. At this stage a preliminary project budget, preliminary project construction programme and in some cases a preliminary cash flow forecast could be prepared. But because it’s still early in the project it will prove difficult to make very accurate project projections.


3. Design Development:

During this stage the design is developed into a set of plans, sections and elevations which reflect the end vision for the building. Attention is given to materials and finishes, and the different cost implications thereof can be investigated. Once this stage is approved by you the client, the architect will continue with working drawings which takes us to the next stage;


4. Technical Documentation:

The working drawings are the nuts & bolts part of the process. These are technical documents which show such things as set-out dimensions, materials, levels, wall heights, beam sizes and window and door locations. These drawings are often co-ordinated with civil, structural and mechanical engineer’s drawings. Working drawings are submitted to the local town council for approval and will also be used to request tenders or negotiate prices with contractors.


5. Contract Administration and Inspection:

This is the practical stage of the building where once again your architect will prove very useful. Your architect will assist you in selecting a competent contractor, set up and handle the contract documents and do the general administration of the project. The project management component also entails the monitoring of progress, quality and cost. Your architect will co-ordinate changes with the relevant consultants and yourself, do the necessary inspections, issue payment certificates and assemble a hand over technical document. Your architect will close out and finalise all contracts at completion.