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Developing a professional team

Developing a professional team

RIBA, the professional body for architects has helpful guidance about commissioning an architect

Extensive guidance about employing a professional team for a building project is available from Locality Brokers.

Your architect and project manager are likely to be your primary professionals. You may want to use them to support the process of appointing other professionals. Of course you need to be in charge of costs but It will be helpful all round if your professional team work well together.

With all professionals, key factors in establishing a successful partnership include:

  • Make sure your professionals understand the nature of the project you are asking them to work on – spell this out in the commissioning brief
  • But at the same time, don’t be too precious about it all. At the end of the day, this is another building project.
  • Get several quotes and depute a small team to interview prospective appointees.
  • Make sure you see examples of their work and, ideally, talk to previous clients.
  • Let the prospective appointee meet the full group at a structured meeting
  • Put a business like system for working in place. Have a single link person for each member of the professional team and make sure all communication is channelled through that person. Tell your professionals not to accept instructions from anyone else and make clear to your group that they are not at liberty to phone the professional team independently. Make sure your professional team understand about your decision making processes and train them to give you good notice of major decisions – but equally, make sure you are flexible enough about the timing of meetings etc to deliver those decisions. Train your group to understand how to behave as a “client”. Time will usually be money.
  • For important meetings, make sure at least two, but no more than three or four, of your group are present.
  • Tie down costs accurately in writing. Fixed fees are much easier for groups to work with – but then you will need to be clear how much  time you get for that. If your fees are charged on another basis, make sure you understand that fully.
  • Be clear about the tasks which are your responsibility, those which are your professional team’s responsibility and those which are shared.
  • Your relationship with your professionals needs to be a partnership; it requires mutual trust and respect. But it also has to be hard headed. Keep a close eye on contracts, budgets and time. Preferably separate those functions internally so that there is always a check on the individuals liaising with the professional team. It is easy to become too understanding of the “problems”. Make sure that you coordinate effectively and frequently internally so that all link people are fully aware of what others are doing and understand the sequencing of actions.