The terms of employment of architects are governed by contract between the architect and clients. Thus, if the parties enter into an express contract for architectural services, an architect’s duties are determined by such contract.[i] The duty of the architect to exercise the requisite skill and care corresponding to the requirements of the profession is implicit in every contract for architectural services.[ii] Hence, an architect’s failure to exercise reasonable professional care in the discharge of his/her contractual duties results in the breach of the contract of employment.[iii]
An architect’s employment is strictly governed by the contractual stipulations. Thus, an architect employed to design a building, with the explicit understanding that construction will be completed within certain cost limitations, cannot recover compensation for his/her services when the building cannot be erected except at a higher than the specified amount. On the other hand, when there is no such express contractual obligation to design a structure within a specified budget, “construction at a cost greater than anticipated by or acceptable to the owner is no defense to an architect’s action to recover a fee.” [iv]
The architect has a common-law duty to perform the work with care, skill, reasonable expediency, and faithfulness, and a negligent failure to observe any of these conditions is a tort as well as a breach of contract.[v]
An architect does not imply or guarantee a perfect plan in the absence of a special agreement.[vi] An architect’s liability is similar to that of a lawyer or physician and is limited to failure to exercise the requisite standard of care. “The architect is not a warrantor of his plans and specifications and the result may show a mistake or defect, although he/she may have exercised the reasonable skill required.”[vii]
Thus, an architect’s duties may be limited to the preparation of plans and specifications, and an architect is not always duty bound to supervise construction.
Although an architect is not under a duty to supervise construction, they do so supervise as a matter of common practice and courts have held that such supervision is properly within the scope of their professional capacities.[viii] When architects specifically undertake supervision of construction in addition to the preparation of plans, they generally are compensated separately or additionally. Also, in such cases, the architect’s liability with regard to negligent supervision will be separate and distinct from the liability of the party who negligently performs the actual building process.
[i] Guirey, Srnka & Arnold, Architects v. Phoenix, 449 P.2d 306 (Ariz. Ct. App. 1969)
[ii] Rowe v. Moss, 656 S.W.2d 318 (Mo. App. 1983)
[iii] Durand Associates, Inc. v. Guardian Inv. Co., 186 Neb. 349 (Neb. 1971)
[iv] Getzschman v. Miller Chemical Co., 232 Neb. 885 (Neb. 1989)
[v] Driekosen v. Black, Sivalls & Bryson, Inc., 158 Neb. 531 (Neb. 1954)
[vi] 5 Am Jur 2d Architects § 23
[vii] Lukowski v. Vecta Educational Corp., 401 N.E.2d 781, 786 (Ind. Ct. App. 1980)
[viii] McDowell v. Long Beach, 12 Cal. App. 2d 634 (Cal. App. 1936)