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Issues Facing the Architect in Today's World

Updated: Mar 10, 2020

Picture of a model depicting some buildings

This is the second in a series of articles that will examine issues that can arise in the relationship between the architect in a construction project and the property owner, the contractor, subcontractors and others who may be involved.

As we discussed in the first article in this series, The Florida statutes define an architect as one who engages in the practice of architecture in Section 481.203. The term architecture is defined, in part, as “rendering services in connection with design and construction of a structure or group of structures which have as their principal purpose human habitation or use, and the utilization of space within and surrounding such structures.” The statutes also set forth a definition for interior design as part of the licensure requirements for interior designers. “Interior design”, according to the statutes specifically, excludes the design of or the responsibility for architectural and engineering work, except for specification of fixtures and their location within interior spaces.” Then the statutes say that “architectural and engineering interior construction relating to the building systems” includes, but is not limited to, construction of:

  • structural,

  • mechanical,

  • plumbing,

  • heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning (HVAC),

  • electrical,

  • vertical transportation systems, or

  • construction which materially affects life safety systems pertaining to fire safety protection such as:

  • fire-rated separations between interior spaces,

  • fire-rated vertical shafts in multistory structures,

  • fire-rated protection of structural elements,

  • smoke evacuation and compartmentalization,

  • emergency ingress or egress systems, and

  • emergency alarm systems.

In a round-about way, this section includes within the responsibilities of architects (and engineers, without specifying who does what) all those function listed just above. It is a very comprehensive list of responsibilities.

Notwithstanding the lumping of architects and engineers together, a very practical question arises. In the construction world as we know it, who really takes care of all the details included in the list of duties we have here? Buildings today are not what they used to be. In the past, one could design a comprehensive building by including pretty much the outside structure, the interior structure, electricity, a heating system and plumbing. Technology has drastically changed all of that.

Today’s structures are more complicated. There are still the basic elements just mentioned, but to that are added sophisticated HVAC systems, security systems, communications systems, elevators and lifts, and fire prevention systems, to name some. Some of these are interconnected by telephone and computer systems that also must be planned and integrated. Who is responsible for all these systems?

There are specialists who design and supply such systems. Some are contractors or sub-contractors, and some are manufacturers or vendors. While the architect must know that these systems must all be incorporated in the building’s design, it is usually not very efficient or cost effective for the architect to design each of these systems. Therefore, their design is delegated to those who specialize in them. The design of the project becomes modular, with individual systems incorporated into the architect’s overall design.

Thus, we have delegation of the design, at least in part, by the architect to others to design specific elements of the structure.

There are questions that arise from delegation. They include:

  1. Who is responsible for designing the element?

  2. Who is responsible for engineering the element?

  3. What documents reflect the division of responsibilities?

  4. Who is responsible for determining and implementing performance criteria?

  5. Who is responsible for evaluating whether the performance criteria are met?

  6. What document specifies performance criteria responsibilities?

  7. How does the element relate to and integrate with the other elements of the project?

  8. Is the element fully designed to include all items necessary?

  9. Are there design or engineering issues that related to other aspects of the project that need to be addressed?

  10. How does the element fit into the design and engineering aspects of existing portions of the project?

Future articles will investigate some of these issues.


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