Build a school – The Consultant’s Role

Construction projects abound in schools.  Ensuring good outcomes requires careful planning from the initial ‘light globe’ moment to that joyous day when the ribbon is cut.

During any construction project, consultants will be needed.  They might be designers, structural engineers or project managers.

Finding the right consultant for the job can be tricky and we could talk about just that for hours.  This article is about engaging a consultant.

Everyone knows that a building project requires a contract with a builder but often people overlook the consultancy contracts.

Routinely, the first consultant you will encounter on a new project will be an architect.  In addition to designing the works, the architect will usually takes you through the tender process when a builder is selected to do the works.  Along the way you will also need an engineer and possibly a planner.

Understanding exactly what each consultant is to do, when, where and how much it will cost is vital.  Often a written proposal is the de facto contract but that is not good enough.

Proposals will deal with scope, timing and cost but they usually do not get into the thorny issues of liability, insurance (type, amount and duration) design ownership and licences, consequences of delays in delivering the services, changes to scope (and fees) during the project, ending the consultancy before the services have been delivered and so on.

A well drafted consultancy agreement will cover these issues (and more) so that everyone understands their respective rights and obligations before work begins.  Of course, you may not have to look up the contract once it is signed but, if a problem arises, you will certainly want to do so.  Having everything spelled out in a contract is a great way of avoiding problems and if necessary, solving them.  Problems lead to disputes and disputes lead to lawyers who charge fees!

There are standard form contracts that can be used as a basis for the engagement of a consultant.  Consultants are more likely to accept standard form contracts and these contracts can be ‘tweaked’ to suit the particular engagement and risk allocation (between school and consultant).

If the consultant proposes their own form of contract, before signing it, you should have it checked by a lawyer who specialises in construction.  The lawyer will advise on risk allocation between the parties and will be more likely to pick up clauses that are not so favourable to the school.

A well-documented project is more likely to be a successful project for all concerned.

Written by Michael Hutton, Partner, Lynch Meyer Lawyers

Michael_Hutton.jpgLynch Meyer Lawyers are school specialists.

If you require assistance with preparing or advise on building contracts and project management, please phone Michael Hutton, Partner on 08 8236 7612.