Opinion piece: Architectural Technologist and certification

by Bregs Blog admin team

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The following opinion piece was submitted by an Architectural Technologist on Wednesday 28th May 2014.

I am hugely concerned that as a result of the debate around the exclusion of architectural technologists from the Amended Building Control Regulations, that the scope of liability of technologists who WILL choose to provide Ancillary Certification has not been discussed at all. While I personally don’t believe this role to adequately reflect the skill set of AT’s, there are many specialist service providers who will sooner or later find themselves required to provide these certificates, and due caution is as necessary here as with any Certificate.

While the added responsibilities and liabilities being piled onto architects, engineers and surveyors has been discussed ad nauseum over the past two years, there has been absolutely no discussion or debate over the scope, legal status and level of liability attached to Ancillary Certification. There needs to be separate guidance on insurances, level and numbers of inspections and Scope of Service agreements, and all other matters in relation to the Ancillary Certifier role, and it needs to be given the same level of legal scrutiny as has been attached to the Assigned Certifier Role and the primary Statutory Certificates.

There has been confirmation from the Law Society that solicitors will not check Ancillary Certificates as part of conveyancing, but rather that they will rely on the Assigned Certifier having done so. This obviously does not preclude independent legal action by that Assigned Certifier against an Ancillary Certifier in the case of a failure leading to a claim.

Neither does it preclude such action where there is no conveyancing involved, but where there is simply a failure in a building which is covered under the scope of such Certification.

WIth recent posts suggesting that Assigned Certifiers might seek authority from the Client to alter or independently word the recently published ancillary certificates this is all the more relevant.

I would urge any Architectural Technologist who provides ancillary services to Assigned Certifiers to ensure that they have

a) A thorough Scope of Service Agreement with the prior approval of the Assigned Certifier

b) Written Appointment from the Client on the basis of this Agreement

c) Adequate and appropriate Professional Indemnity Insurance (and runoff cover when appropriate)

d) Prior knowledge and written agreement of the proposed wording of any certificates required and

e) PII Provider approval for that wording

f) Adequate record keeping and backup of same to provide evidence in case of an issue.

There is also a necessity for the development of particular insurance schemes to cover the specialist role that the Ancillary Certifier will fill, based purely on the scope of the services to be provided. Insurance Providers in the Irish market also now need to develop Professional Indemnity Insurance Proposal Forms specifically for architectural technologists. It is unacceptable that AT’s should be required to fill out proposal forms which have been designed for architects (or others), and to strike out the inappropriate terms, (as is the case to date) Insurance providers please take note. It is an offence under the Building Control Act for someone who is not registered as an architect to declare themselves one. If an Architect’s proposal form is filled out by a technologist, even striking out the term ‘Architect’, does this constitute a breach of the terms of the proposal, and give the insurance company an ‘out’ ? I’d rather have that information before any claim became an issue rather than after.

There is no clarity on any of the above to date. I would urge AT’s who are specialist service providers NOT to sign Ancillary Certificates without having sought assurances or clarifications on all of the above issues from the relevant authority (professional body or insurance provider) All of the same misgivings held by other professions regarding the primary certificates might also apply here. They are ‘Certificates’. They have to be relied upon by someone, and if they are inadequate there will be consequences. Read the Assigned Certifer posts on the blog and you will understand.

Independent certification will be a new experience for many architectural technologists, and it should be treated with the appropriate level of diligence. This is a huge step up from carrying out inspections for an employer, and having them sign the Certificate. In the case of multiple ancillary services (e.g. technical design packages for other consultants) where multiple Ancillary Certificates might be required, the liability is ramped up proportionally. These contractual arrangements exist, and have worked to date, where technologists take sketch designs to Planning, Tender and Working Drawing Stages, but there is no clarity as to how this would work in terms of SI9. Who is liable in terms of a failure ? The person who prepared the sketch, or the person who worked it up ?

There needs to be guidance from the  professional organisations in this regard.

Other posts on this topic:

Thoughts on a Register for Architectural Technologists click link here

Audio Clip: Dáil Debate 27th May- Architectural Technologists & SI.9 – click link here

RIAI NEWS ALERT: Architectural Technologist Register – click link here

Message from Mick Wallace TD to Architectural Technologists – click link here

Architectural Technologists’ Petition – click link here

Phil Hogan TD to Minister Gormley on “premature” and “market distortion effects” of register in 2010  – click link here

Architectural Technologist’s personal letter to TD – click link here

An Architectural Technologist Dáil letter – click link here

Architectural Technologists’ Dáil QUESTIONS – click link here

Dáil Debate 27th May on Architectural Technologists: help needed! – click link here

 

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