The recent news that Archial, the UK's sixth largest architectural practice, has been placed in administration will not have escaped many in the construction industry's notice. Archial are unlikely to be the last architect to face the spectre of insolvency and it raises the question for many funders and employers as to what happens when a consultant collapses during a project.
First and foremost in a client's mind will be how they can complete the project. The answer will depend on the form of appointment being used. Bespoke appointments are more likely to provide clients with security and protection.
From the client's perspective in this situation, an appointment needs to provide the client with an immediate right to terminate the appointment whilst permitting them to retain the use of the documents prepared by the consultant to complete the project. The licence granted to client to use these documents should be irrevocable. Clients should beware that some standard forms of appointment permit consultants to revoke the licence in the event that the client and consultant fall into a dispute over the payment of fees.
Clients will also need to ensure that, going forward, they have a level of accountability for the work done by the previous consultant. This may involve requesting any replacement consultant to review the work done by their predecessor and requiring them to agree that it is suitable or suggest an updated design. Do note however that an incoming consultant is likely to demand an uplift in their own fee if they are to be responsible for any work carried out by the previous consultant.
What happens may depend on the stage the project had reached when the consultant went into administration. If it is early in the project, then a new consultant may feel more confident in providing its own design. If the project is nearing completion, the client may feel that no replacement consultant is required or that little deviation from the design can be made.