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Do or should design professionals warrant their work to be free of defects?

An architect recently tweeted the following question: Do or should design professionals warrant their work to be free of defects? We replied with a resounding YES. Were we right? Please explain why you think we were/weren’t correct.

Should they? Yes! Do they? Not very often.


You’re living in a fantasy world if you think architects will admit their drawings or details were defective. The wording in specs and the submittal process puts the burden on the subcontractor. If the drawings are not correct the sub should be educated enough in his field (EIFS) that he should be able to detect the mistake and be able to notify the architect or GC before the work is installed. Architects will do whatever they can in order not to have an insurance claim on their policy.


No, because I don’t like it when our clients take a black and white approach with us. This approach only increases construction costs, pushes money away from us and into the hands of lawyers.


Architects don’t seem to be capable of doing the drawings defect-free, if they were there would not be numerous addendum prior to the job bid or numerous change orders during the construction. Some of this is caused by the owners wanting the job out to bid before they have time to properly complete and check there work and part because of change owners make after construction has started.

—Wayne Haber,

Amestoy Dri-Wall,

Albuquerque, New Mexico

You are absolutely correct! Accountability should not be an elusive item. Mistakes can of course be made in any discipline, but professionals should warrant their work so that the client ultimately is receiving what they are expecting to receive for the value being expended. Ultimately, the professionals that do their job correctly will raise the bar so that all professionals are at or near the same high standard. Contractors—especially those in our area of expertise—will benefit and probably avoid litigation that often follows the investigation when a problem (i.e., defects) surfaces.


Design professionals do not know how it fits together.


Yes, as they are aware, poor drawings cause nothing but problems throughout the construction process from Tender to Substantial completion, and architects usually wipe their hands of all responsibility once the contracts are awarded and the trades are on site. Design professionals need to be more accountable for their work and the work of their staff.


When a set of drawings indicates that they are 100 percent, one would think that they are complete—at least enough to build the building with minimal RFIs and glitches.

That, however, is rarely the case. For whatever reason, we rarely see a set of drawings and specifications that we can blindly follow.

We acknowledge that design professionals are oftentimes expected to do their work with too small a budget. The owners think they’re being frugal and in the end are hurting themselves and the whole construction team. If we were not creating schedules for the general contractor along with shop drawings and recommendations, the job would be a disaster.

We love the line in contracts proffered that says, “subcontractor will hold the indemnitees – owner, architect and general contractor—harmless for death, injury or damage—whether or not said is due to the active or passive negligence of the indemnities.”

Of course we won’t sign for that.

Or, “subcontractor will perform all work associated with this scope whether or not it is shown in the drawings or specifications, but in accord with the designer’s intent”!

At what point do the “design professionals” own liability for their designs?

Architects therefore have “design liability insurance” in anticipation of oversights or errors.

The caveat here is that there are conscientious and capable architects who strive to provide the construction team and owner with viable and quality designs. But they are the exception.

A general contractor superintendent told me this morning that on his last job he had 2,300 RFIs.

—Rob Aird, President,

Robert A. Aird, Inc.,

Frederick, Maryland

YES. If you are drawn into a lawsuit and the contractor did not follow your plans/design, do you use that as a defense? If you design a project correctly and all goes well, do you take credit for a good job? It’s a two-way street, and all professionals should be responsible for their work.

—Bill Wood, Chino, CA

A design is not made in a cookie cutter; it is a proof, a piece of art. It is made for the first time. The design is approved by a client and engineered by a professional licensed and certified engineer. What are you warranting? Will it work? Will it be all the client expects? What? Is the architect involved with the builder or is the architect the builder, too? I suppose plans from a licensed professional should make sense. Defects could be such that if the roof doesn’t work with how he or she designed it, then the architect should make the correction. This type of warrantee would make sense. Hopefully the builder catches it before time and money are wasted, because then there could be damages.


Of course they should. Why should they not be accountable for their work and why should we be responsible to be mind readers and pay for their shortcomings?


Why not? Currently, architects and engineers use exculpatory language to shift the effects of their errors to others. Owners shift their liabilities to GCs who then use contracts of adhesion to force subcontractors to indemnify them, often even for intentional harmful acts. The material vendors and sub-subs have very limited exposure. Thus, the subcontractor gets left holding the bag. It is about time we reverse this trend back toward everyone being responsible for what they can reasonably foresee and control, and not one iota more.


I disagree. An architect’s work is primarily to transfer a client’s concept or idea to a form that can be communicated to a contractor to complete the work. Miscommunication between a client and the architect are common. Who would, therefore, be the judge in determining who was wrong? Most disputes are over whether or not something should have been on the plan or not. They normally surface when a contractor asks for additional money to do something that is not on the plans but was requested by the owner.


I think you were most definitely wrong to engage in tweeting with an architect. If you must communicate with architects, only do so in writing and copy a third party who can later serve as a witness.


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