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Last edited 16 May 2022
Appointing consultants for building design and construction
The term 'appointment' typically refers to a situation in which the client contracts designers (such as architects, landscape architects, engineers, specialist designers, specialist contractors, etc.), and/or other consultants (such as cost consultants, independent client advisers, site inspectors, project managers, client representatives, etc.).
NB: See Consultant Team for a more detailed description of the range of consultants that might be appointed.
When the client contracts building contractors (rather than consultants) this is generally described as 'contracting', not 'appointment'.
On publicly-funded projects, the consultant team will often be contracted along with the main contractor as part of a complete 'integrated supply team', and so appointments may be restricted to independent client advisers and project managers.
 Finding consultants
A range of search engines is available to find consultants:
- Association of Consultant Architects directory of members.
- Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists (CIAT).
- Landscape Institute directory of Registered Practices
- RIBA chartered members directory.
- RIBA client design advisers' directory.
- Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).
- Find a structural engineer.
- Find a services engineer.
Appointments may be made by a process of:
- Recommendation, for example, one consultant may recommend others, which can save time for the client and make it easier to establish collaborative working practices (it is important to set out requirements for collaborative practices during the appointment procedure to ensure that the consultant team works effectively together throughout the project).
- Research and interview.
- Open competition (with or without design).
- Selective competition (with or without design).
- An existing relationship or framework agreement.
A survey by the RIBA in 2014 (ref: RIBA Journal February 2014) revealed that the most common methods of appointing architects were:
|Competitive fee bid or financial tender only||21%|
|Framework agreement with or without further competition for specific projects||10%|
|Invited competitive interview (no pre-qualification questionnaire (PQQ))||4%|
|Expression of interest / PQQ only (no design work)||3%|
|Expression of interest / PQQ followed by competitive interview (no design work)||3%|
|Expression of interest / PQQ followed by design competition||2%|
|Invited design competition (no PQQ)||1%|
|Open design competition||1%|
Smaller practices tended to be appointed mostly by direct appointment (61%), whereas this was less common for larger practices (25%).
Appointments on publicly-funded projects may fall under public procurement rules in which case strict procedures must be adhered to, including advanced advertising of appointments. This procedure can take some time and so should be initiated as soon as the client has identified a possible need for an appointment.
 Request for proposals
Whatever the process of selecting potential consultants, agreeing the scope of services and fee for the appointment will generally require that the client prepares some form of 'request for proposals'. This may include:
- A strategic brief, describing the client's assumptions, aspirations, budget and programme.
- A management structure for the organisation of the project.
- Assumptions about the procurement method that will be adopted.
- The scope of services required.
- Guidance on how fees should be quoted and broken down against stages of the project.
- A description of the form of appointment and conditions of engagement (such as step-in rights and the level of professional indemnity insurance required).
- Employer's information requirements (BIM).
- Requirements for collateral warranties (for use where a warranty is to be given to a purchaser or tenant of premises in a commercial and/or industrial development).
- A request for details of resources and curriculum vitaes of staff along with a summary of their relevant experience on similar projects.
- A request for references.
- A request for hourly rates to be applied to any work outside the proposed scope of services.
- A request for identification of any sub-consultants the consultant intends to use.
- For the appointment of design consultants, it may include a request for design proposals. If so, it is good practice for the client to offer payment for the work involved in preparing designs. This benefits the client as it will encourage the consultants to prepare their proposal more carefully, and will also demonstrate to them that the client is serious about the project and is likely to treat them fairly.
Some clients may feel they need assistance from an independent client adviser to decide on the form of appointment, identify a short-list of potential consultants, prepare the request for proposals, assess submissions and negotiate fees.
See Request for proposals for more information.
 Standard forms
Standard forms of appointment for consultants are available, a range of which are listed below:
- RIBA Standard Agreement for the Appointment of an Architect / Consultant.
- ACA Standard Form of Agreement for the Appointment of an Architect..
- RICS Standard Form of Consultant's Appointment.
- B103 - Appointment of a Structural Engineer.
- B100 - Appointment of Professional Consultant.
- NEC Professional Services Contract.
- CIC conditions of contract for the appointment of consultants.
- ACE Agreements.
- JCT Pre-construction services agreement.
- JCT Consultancy agreement.
Other forms of appointment are also available, and in some circumstances appointment may be made by letter or by a bespoke agreement. The NBS National Construction Contracts and Law Survey 2012 indicates that approximately 40% of appointments are made using bespoke agreements. However, this may be inadvisable because of the risk that bespoke agreements might not adequately or fairly make provision for all circumstances, and that they are not supported by a history of case law. It is also a poor reflection of how inflexible and ineffective the industry perceives many of the standard forms of agreement to be.
 Scope of services
With all forms of appointment, it is important that there is clarity about the scope of services being provided, particularly where a range of consultants is being appointed. There might otherwise be uncertainty about which consultant is responsible for which aspects of the project.
Areas where clarity is particularly important include:
- Interior design and artwork
- Landscape design
- Highways, fencing and gates
- Vibration control
- Below and above ground drainage
- Fire protection and safety systems
- Lightning protection
- Process engineering
- Chemical handling
- Specialist design such as laboratories
- Security systems
- Information and communications technology
- Connections to statutory utilities
- Planning applications (in particular outline planning applications)
- Furniture and equipment
- Fixtures and fittings
- Geotechnical surveys
- Topographical and setting-out surveys
- Specification writing
- External lighting
- Alterations to existing buildings
- Lifts and escalators
- Models and mock-ups
- 3D modelling
- Building control submissions
- Supervision and inspection during construction
- Record drawings
- Provision of certificates
- Insurance claims.
In addition, some standard forms of appointment may consider certain tasks to be 'additional services' not covered by the consultant's fee unless specifically requested by the client.
These might include:
- Acting as lead designer, contract administrator or lead consultant.
- Detailed thermal modelling.
- Environmental assessments.
- Options appraisal.
- Preparing or compiling the brief.
- Post-occupancy evaluations (which might include both a post-project review (to evaluate the project delivery process) and performance in-use assessments. NB: Ideally the client should commit to carrying out post-occupancy evaluation at the beginning of the project so that appointment agreements and briefing documents can include a requirement to test whether objectives were achieved.
- Outline planning applications.
- Planning appeals.
- Assistance applying for grants or other funding.
- Post-occupancy advice on letting, rating, maintenance, energy consumption, insurance, tenant queries and facilities management.
- Assisting in the preparation of tender documents for maintenance and operation contracts.
- Preparing a building user's guide (a non-technical guide with information for users about environmental controls, access, security and safety systems etc).
- Provision of unusual visual representations or models.
- Building information modelling (BIM).
- Preparation of marketing materials.
- Preparation of as-built information.
- Party wall services.
- Site surveys.
- Whole-life costing studies.
- Environmental and ecological studies.
- Site selection.
- Provision of site inspectors.
- Assessment of alternative designs submitted by others (for example, during the tender process for the main contractor).
- Dealing with claims and disputes.
- Services in relation to legal agreements.
- As-built drawings (many key systems will be shown 'as manufactured and installed' on specialist drawings and so general arrangement drawings may only be relevant as location drawings or for indicating zoning issues such as compartmentation).
 Related articles on Designing Buildings
- Architects fees.
- Architectural design.
- Best value.
- Bid writer.
- Collaborative practices.
- Collateral warranties.
- Construction recruitment agency.
- Consultant team.
- Consultant's proposals.
- Consulting engineer.
- Cost management techniques used to monitor the cost of construction projects.
- Design liability.
- Design team meeting.
- Employer's information requirements.
- Fee proposal.
- Fire safety engineer.
- Form of appointment.
- Framework agreement.
- Front-loaded costs.
- Hiring an architect as a domestic client.
- How to give professional advice to friends.
- Integrated Supply Team.
- Internal contract.
- IR35: essential steps for compliance.
- Letter of appointment.
- Novation agreement.
- Practice management.
- Pre-qualification questionnaire.
- Procurement route.
- Professional Indemnity Insurance clause in conditions of engagement.
- Professional indemnity insurance.
- Programme consultant.
- Project monitoring.
- Proprietary information.
- Quantity surveyor’s fees.
- Request for proposals.
- Schedule of services.
- Selection criteria.
- Structural engineers' fees
- Support services.
- Three party wall notice responses.
- Traditional procurement method.
- Working with lighting maintenance contractors.
- Working with maintenance contractors.
- Year-out student.
 External references
- Additional public sector guidance.
- Construction team.
- NAO guidance on the purchasing of professional services.
- NBS National Construction Contracts and Law Survey 2012.
- OGC guidance on tendering for consultancy support.
- OGC Guide to Appointment of Consultants and Contractors.
- PACE: Guide to the Appointment of Consultants and Contractors P285.
- PFI Technical Note How to Appoint and manage advisers to PFI projects.
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