KBS Reference Desk: Engaging Architects for Construction

Q:        After some severe weather, our facilities are in need of significant repairs, including roof patching, flooring replacement, etc. We have discussed the work with a local contractor, and he estimated the cost will be around $60,000. We are starting the competitive bidding process to select a contractor to perform all of the work. We’ve already had an engineer prepare the engineering plans for the mechanical/electric issues. However, since this is not new construction with no new design elements, do we still have to hire an architect to complete drawings or specifications prior to bidding?

A:        Possibly. An architect will be required if the work will impact the structural integrity of a facility, including removing or relocating walls or altering any building exits.

            For repairs or alterations to existing structures, as in this case, the Texas Occupations Code (regulating the practice of architecture) requires that a plan or specification be prepared by an architect (rather than just the contractor) when the work meets the following conditions: (1) it is owned by a political subdivision (including a public school); (2) the building will be used for education, assembly or office occupancy; (3) the work will include “removal, relocation, or addition of a wall or partition or the alteration or addition of an exit;” and (4) the repair/construction costs will exceed $50,000.

 In some instances, general contractors may feel that the repairs can be completed without the need for an architect; however, a school district should always ask detailed questions about the scope of the projects in order to determine compliance with the Occupations Code. Failure to use an architect in violation of the Occupations Code may result in an investigation by the Texas Board of Architectural Examiners.  If an architect is used, the district must select one in accordance with the Professional Services Procurement Act, Government Code Chapter 2254 (as with Professional Engineers). The Act provides that a professional services provider may not be selected on the basis of competitive bids, but rather (1) on the basis of demonstrated competence and qualifications to perform the services; and (2) for a fair and reasonable price. Tex. Gov’t Code 2254.003.

This flowchart developed by the Texas Board of Architectural Examiners provides an easy step-by-step process for determining the need for an architect for your project.

https://www.tbae.texas.gov/Content/documents/LawsEnforcement/ArchRequiredFlowChart.pdf

 Lastly, whether utilizing an architect and/or a general contractor, always consult your school district’s attorney, as your counsel will likely recommend significant revisions to the standard AIA contract or other written agreement proposed by the professional selected.