Duties and obligations of architects - a useful summary

Duties and obligations of architects - a useful summary

In Freeborn v Marcal [2019] EWHC 454 (TCC) the Technology and Construction Court held that an architect had negligently produced a design which had not met the employers' requirements or been approved by the employers.

In its judgment, the court set out a useful summary of the principles of law concerning the duties and obligations of architects:

  • The primary basis for the duties owed by an architect is the contract pursuant to which it is engaged
  • The architect owes a duty to provide the services with reasonable care and skill (section 13 of the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982)
  • The standard of reasonable care and skill is not a standard of perfection. It does not make an architect the insurer or guarantor that the work has been properly done.  It is not sufficient to prove an error to show that there has been a failure to exercise reasonable skill and care.  A claimant must establish actual negligence
  • An architect is entitled to recommend to the employer that the employer appoint a third party with the requisite knowledge to carry out work which requires that specialist knowledge.  Ordinarily the architect will carry no legal responsibility for the work to be done by the specialist which is beyond the capability of an architect of ordinary competence
  • An architect’s obligation to supervise or inspect works will depend on various factors including the terms of the retainer, the nature of the works and its confidence in the contractor
  • The employer is only entitled to recover any loss and damage caused by the architect’s negligence and which it has sought to mitigate
  • The damage ordinarily recoverable where a building suffers from defects consequent upon the negligence of an architect is the cost of rectification
The full analysis of the ruling, in which the court described the cinema as designed by the architect as being an ugly duckling that cannot be turned into a swan, and the architect's day-books as 'tumble dryers of misinformation', is available on LexisPSL: Architect had gone on a ‘frolic of his own’ (Freeborn v Marcal).

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About the author:

Jon is Head of the Built Environment Group at Lexis®PSL.

Jon trained at Hogan Lovells and qualified into the firm's construction disputes team. Jon has experience of acting for various parties in relation to disputes arising out of construction and engineering projects in various jurisdictions. Jon has acted for clients in TCC litigation, arbitration, adjudication and mediation as well as providing advice on various aspects of construction and engineering projects.