Case summary: The claimant house owner alleged that the periodic inspections carried out by the architect were inadequate. The architect’s defence was that he had carried out sufficient inspections by walking round the site after each monthly site meeting. The court said the extent of the architect’s duty to carry out periodic inspections (ie the frequency and duration) should be tailored to the nature of the works, but that it was unlikely that just carrying out an inspection after site meetings was acceptable. Inspections must be undertaken as and when required, depending on the progress of the works. Reasonable examination did not mean the architect had to go into every matter in detail, and it was inevitable that some defects would escape notice. Usually the architect does not guarantee that his inspections will reveal or prevent all defective works and, therefore, the architect’s performance cannot be judged by the result achieved. On the facts, the architect should have carried out more than routine monthly inspections during the period in which the main structure was built.

Comment: Consider including in the contract some stipulations as to the expected frequency and duration of inspections to ensure the parties have a similar view as to what is required. Ensure that there is still a provision requiring the architect to carry out such inspections as are reasonable in the circumstances to cover any unexpected developments during the progress of the works.

McGlinn v Waltham Contractors Limited and others (21/02/07)