Can suppliers revise their fees?
When reading through the contract, look at what they specify when it comes to their fees or charges. Many contracts will allow the architect or builder to revise their fees at different stages of the construction period. However, this is very difficult to manage if you are on a fixed budget, and it also removes a lot of control from you, the client.
Check whether the architect or technical architect are responsible for negotiating and approving the costs and invoices from contractors. It’s important that a contract specifies that you must sign off on additional expenses from a builder before they are agreed. If the onus of negotiation is on the architect and technical architect to deal with the builder and his bills, some may be more sympathetic to the builder’s claims than others and may not check with you before authorising the additional expense.
When we are negotiating and modifying contracts, we look to limit this uncertainty as much as possible. We aim for a fixed price, unless circumstances merit alternatives to be negotiated between the parties. However, you should note that this can slow down the process. Agreeing to a fixed price, means that the project documentation must be well studied and clear. This sometimes takes a little longer to prepare before a bidding process is launched. But in our experience, it is well worth the time required.
Who is responsible for signing off the works?
It’s crucial that each stage of the build is signed off and payment is withheld until it has been approved by a professional. Check your contract for the approvals process and see what input you get into this. Also check who should be checking each stage and reporting back to you, so you know that you can pay the next staged payment and that you feel confident that the project is progressing as it should be.
Ideally you want to have an independent professional checking the works and ensuring the architect and technical architect also have checks and balances and are supervising in the correct way. This is where a fully independent project manager is worth their weight in gold.