A meeting of minds: choosing a designer

As the PCC only rules on the professional standing of the architect or architectural technologist in question, then the most they can be charged with is erasure from the register. In ROI, the Building Control Act gives the PCC powers to imprison for up to 12 months and/or impose a fine of up to €5,000 if either the client, a witness or the architect fails to attend a hearing, to produce necessary documents or refuses to take an oath or answer questions. That said, the PCC’s powers are arguably more limited in ROI than in NI (ARB) in that any action taken against an architect by the RIAI (bar the possibility to “advise, admonish or censure”) must be confirmed by the High Court. That is, any fine or erasure from the register must be vetted by the courts. The ARB and CIAT on the other hand have the power to strike off any member they deem to be breaching the Code of Conduct. For instance, both chartered architects and chartered architectural technologists must have PII cover to be members of their respective chartered institutes. Failure to comply will result in that member being investigated by the institute’s conduct committee who will expel the member as necessary. Note that anyone who calls themselves an ‘architect’ can be prosecuted for doing so both in NI and ROI, the statutory penalty being a fine and/or imprisonment.

None of the registration or professional bodies can force the architect or architectural technologist to pay damages. In order for you to be compensated for any loss or damage, professional negligence will have to be established by a court or, as seen above, through adjudication or arbitration. Litigation tends to be the option of last resort as it can be a costly and drawn out matter – not to mention a matter of public record. As always, prevention is better than cure!

Related Professions

Quantity Surveyor or QS: Trained and qualified to advise clients and designers on matters relating to building costs. Whilst you may feel that only larger projects need a QS, on small scale work their skills are very valuable for setting an accurate budget, something that every self-builder needs. The QS will also produce a Bill of Quantities (a list of every material and the amount you will need) for tendering. This will be set out so that you can compare prices from different suppliers on the same basis, for example, per lineal metre of flooring board. You should look out for their affiliation to either RICS in NI or to the SCS in ROI (under the same legislation that protects the title of ‘architect’ in ROI, ‘building surveyor’ and ‘quantity surveyor’ are protected titles administered by the SCS).

Consulting Engineer: Works alongside the lead designer to make sure the project is sound and that the systems they specify are as cost-effective as possible, all the while fulfilling the brief. Being part of the design team, the consulting engineer will conduct site visits but will not carry out any works, and the engineer could act as your lead designer if you so wish. However in self-builds, engineers normally work as external consultants to the design team, employed directly by you. The title ‘engineer’ is not legally protected in NI nor ROI so it’s advisable to make sure that the person you hire is accredited. Consulting Engineers broadly fall within three categories: the structural engineer ensures that the building is efficient and stable. The building services engineer, sometimes known as the mechanical and electrical (M&E) engineer, will design the heating, ventilation and electrical installations, including lighting. Acoustic consultants typically fall within this category. Finally the civil engineer, while most commonly associated to designing roads and bridges, will in some instances be required on a self-build, e.g. if you’re not building on a greenfield site a geotechnical engineer will be able to tell you if your soil is contaminated and how to remedy it.

Project Manager: Acts as the coordinator during the build; this is the person who will make sure everyone shows up when they should and does their job as prescribed. Your architect, architectural technologist, QS or perhaps even your engineer could volunteer to carry out these juggling tasks for you for a fee. That said, there are differing and onerous liability issues with acting as a project manager, which is why this service remains quite specialised. Many self-builders choose to take on this role themselves, but be advised – it’s both strenuous and time-consuming!

Other professionals you may need or wish to call upon include a landscape architect, a planning consultant or even an archaeologist! Your design team leader will be able to advise what extra professional help you may require depending on your circumstances.



Written by Astrid Madsen

Astrid Madsen is the editor of the SelfBuild magazine. Email astrid.madsen@selfbuild.ie

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