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Architect plans and copyright

(26 Posts)
MrAlbertoFrog Sun 30-Sep-12 13:58:09

We recently paid an architect to do plans for an extension of our house, firstly for planning permission -which was granted, and then the full plans for the builders to use. Part of the fee for the full plans included him putting the work out to tender. He sent the plans and a document on the spec of the work to three builders who he knew and got quotes back from them.
He had said that he knew the building firms and had had conversations with them and they would all be able to start within X months if we went with them. Once the work went to tender all the builders said that they couldn't start until a lot later in the year, at which point two of our friends both suggested we try a builder they knew so we rang him and he looked up the plans on the planning portal, had a discussion with us about the spec and gave us a quote.
The 3 original firms quotes came back at 50% higher than the amount we had been told to estimate originally (by architect and his quantity surveyor). Friend's builder came back about the original estimate.
We told architect that we did not want to take up any of his 3 tendered builders but we thinking about using our friend's builder.
Architect has now said that we can't let chosen builder use the detailed plans (which we have paid several thousand pounds for him to draw up) because the copyright is his.
Is this correct?

Sausagedog27 Sun 30-Sep-12 14:19:47

What agreement with the architect have you signed? That sounds very strange. Drawings are normally copywrite, but you also need to be able to use the drawings for their purpose. You could try and contact the RIBA for information, this doesn't sound right in my mind!

MrAlbertoFrog Sun 30-Sep-12 14:54:10

Haven't signed anything since the original agreement at planning permission plan stage that was a basic form that said what he would do for what % of the build costs, i.e.. planning permission plans..X%, full plans and tender..Y%, management of build Z%. I can't see anything about copyright remaining with him, seems crazy that we can pay for these plans but would have to use a builder sourced only by him (I'm assuming he gets something from the builder for including them in the tender?)
I may contact RIBA - I know there are some architects who post on MN so thought it best to make sure it's not standard practice smile

lalalonglegs Sun 30-Sep-12 15:49:00

No useful advice but he sounds a loony. I hope RIBA - or one of the MN architects - can give you some useful information.

tricot39 Sun 30-Sep-12 19:16:12

You pay for professional services including a licence to use the drawings for which he retains copyright.

If you pay for the planning stage you can use the plans to submit a planning application.

If you have paid for the detailed drawings for tender you can use them for tender. So he cannot stop you sending the drawings out for alternative prices.

However he is correct in saying that you cannot use the drawings for the construction phase if you have not paid for that part of the contract yet. There is also the issue that more detail should probably added for construction (eg dimensions, final details/colours etc) that are required to build but not to price. So the information might be incomplete for construction.

You need to get to the bottom of why the quotes are higher than expected. A meeting with the architect and qs might be the best way to do this. Bear in mind that you may not get a clear answer but it is worth taking time to investigate the issues before signing any contracts or switchn

There are many possible reasons. Maybe they have lots of work on because they are good. Maybe the qs got it wrong (it is not easy his job. Prices are greater than the sum of the parts). Maybe the builders dont like your architect so charge a premium that the qs didnt predict. I could go on......

If i were you i would get 2 alternative quotes or ask him to get them. Then ask him or perhaps the qs to prepare a tender report.

Now pricing of building work is a

tricot39 Sun 30-Sep-12 19:31:27


Now pricing of building work is a bit of a dark art. Your friends may have been happy with their builder but that doesnt mean that their price is the "right one". You cant tell without the comparative prices from impartial builders. Maybe the qs could suggest the other 2 for quotes?

You need to know exactly what work your friends had their builder do and be very wary if it is at all different. I was once caught out this way by asking a recommended builder to do an extension when he really maybe was only up to interior fit out. It was painful.

Low prices are a nightmare because it is very unusual for a builder to do things a third cheaper than his competitors. So that normally means the contract is a battle as the contractor claims extras all the way through to get back to the price it should have been. Either this quote has been made artificially low tactically by the builder to do this OR the architects drawings may be light on detail because he relies on using builders he knows who know to allow for all the extras he will ask for but has not shown. If the qs and your friends' builder are not familiar with him then their estimates could easily be low.

It is almost impossible for the architect to resign by the way. So you could insist he prepares construction drawings for you. If you were then fed up you could ask the qs to run the contract on site for you and fire the architect if he refused to work with a builder of your choice. However that is a risky way to go so dont do that lightly esp if you are particular about the quality of design and the finish which would suffer.

Sorry you are having hassle like this. I'm afraid that is the way of building work and it will get worse before it gets better. Good luck!

minibmw2010 Sun 30-Sep-12 19:33:45

Hmm it sounds to me that he's determined you use one of 'host' building firms and if they are coming in so much higher I'd be suspicious of him getting a retainer sad

MrAlbertoFrog Sun 30-Sep-12 19:36:52

Thanks Tricot. The only contract-like information we have refers to these plans and scope of work (which was very full of detail, types of electric socket, finish of walls and floors etc) as part of the second 'stage' which ends with tender. The 'third stage' of the contract would be for 'project management' during the build i.e. does not mention more plans to build from.
To be honest he upset us several times when drawing up the plans, repeatedly drew plans for how he wanted us to use the space rather than how we had asked. We have absolutely no faith that if he was project managing or involved with the builder during the build that they will build what we actually want so we have paid him up to the end of second stage and dh will liase with the builder.
He said the increase in the costs were due to prices in the building industry increasing over the last year or so (it took that long to go from planning plans to detailed plans - partly because we were concerned that the planning plans showed space that we could not use so had a break at that point whilst I worked out how we could move things within the footprint of his plans so we could actually move around the room etc!).
Was so relieved when we finally paid the final bill. Then he sent this email to say that he wouldn't be involved with our friend's builder because he didn't know him, therefore we couldn't use the plans.

MrAlbertoFrog Sun 30-Sep-12 19:47:25

Re our friend's builder - they are specialists in doing this type of work. I have a relative who is a retired builder and he estimated the job at about this (lower) price.

1605 Sun 30-Sep-12 20:07:30

If the plans are incomplete anyway, you'll need to use a second architect or specifier to change the spec and finish the job.

At that point, architect 1 will lose design copyright (which is incredibly hard to defend, as any lawyer will tell you).

Are you already in possession of everything you have paid for? If so, tell your architect to sling his hook and have his hissy fits elsewhere.

MrAlbertoFrog Sun 30-Sep-12 21:06:44

The plans seem totally complete to me (I'm not a builder obviously) and we have a copy. We are at a natural break (end of stage 2) with no obligation to architect (except that he is insisting we can't use his plans outside of his control).
My plan at the moment is to go through our spec (not the architect spec because he put in things that we don't want!!) with Friend's builder, see if he needs more detailed plans, and then contact RIBA to see if we would be able to give/show him the existing detailed plans. Feeling v annoyed if we can't though, since we have ended up paying several thousand pounds for plans that we can't use for a basic building job where I had to do most of the internal design anyway. Friend's builders have their own design team etc so I'm sure they can come up with something if necessary.

tricot39 Sun 30-Sep-12 21:34:21

Can you ask your relative and/or friends' relative to suggest another architect? It sounds like this might be a good time to make the break.

Can you clarify whether he is refusing to work with another builder? Or whether you had always agreed that your dh would do the site bit?

Copyright applies to taking copies. It wouldnt prevent you from transposing all of the info from his documents into your own set if you chose to do so.

MrAlbertoFrog Sun 30-Sep-12 21:43:03

I think Friend's builder has either an architect or architectural type technician which they use.
He is refusing to administer a formal contract or manage the project via F's builder but would be available for queries if we paid him a fee for each visit.
We originally only returned to Architect after the disappointing planning permission plans because we wanted someone to project manage. Since then it looks likely that dh will have a break in his employment so it makes sense for dh (who will be on-site all the time) to project manage but also because we don't trust architect to build what we want.
I really would be happy to never have to deal with architect again so am hoping we won't need to go back to him for anything.

tricot39 Sun 30-Sep-12 21:46:17

Sorry x post.
You can show them to a builder to get a price as you have paid the architect for that.

That should give you a while to sort out the issue of construction. What fee would have been due for stage 3 because if you paid that you could use the plans with no further issue. Galling - but a quick resolution.

MrAlbertoFrog Sun 30-Sep-12 21:50:29

Tricot - I've PMed you a couple of details that may make this situation seem less complicated.

MrAlbertoFrog Sun 30-Sep-12 21:55:01

Stage 3 (project management) would be at least another £2.5k, he is basing his fees on the lowest of the quotes from his builders (because he says that lower quote won't be based on the same spec, which to be honest it won't be because we don't want some of the stuff he put in). The architects fees so far have come to 15% of the cost of F's builders quote (ie the amount we originally thought this would cost).

Pannacotta Sun 30-Sep-12 22:00:42

Apologies if I am being dim (been a long week) but how would your architect know that you are using his plans as a spce if you dont tell him?
He sounds very odd to me and I would be inclined to use his drawings anyway given you have paid for them, not a lot he can do about it surely?

MrAlbertoFrog Sun 30-Sep-12 22:00:43

He has definitely said that there would be copyright issues if we used the plans to get another builder to quote (let alone build), so I guess I'll go through the (very minimal) contract again and contact RIBA to see what they say (I'm sure that it will be the same as Tricot).

MrAlbertoFrog Sun 30-Sep-12 22:03:26

Pannacotta - I don't know - but I guess the moment we start building he'll assume we are using his plans, and I don't want the hassle of trying to prove that we are not. We will have to check the planning permission to make sure that anything we build is covered by that because I don't want to go back to the start again.

tricot39 Sun 30-Sep-12 22:38:31

Sent you a pm.

However it is unfortunate that there are things in the spec that you didnt want that have been priced. Can you prove that you told him this before tender?

If so, using the lowest of the 3 quotes, you should remove all of the items that you did not want before calculating fee etc. Unfortunately if you were sent the stuff pre tender but didnt say you didnt want it then you are in a much weaker position.

He is probably right that the quotes are not like for like. what is the stuff you do not want that he has included?

Pannacotta Sun 30-Sep-12 22:48:19

Poor you it all sounds a bit nightmarish.
Good luck and do stand your ground...

One option would be to use his drawings as a basis for a spec but alter them to reflect what you do actually want (pointless having builders' prices for things you dont want included anyway), but this would be a hassle unless you are very building/design savvy.

pchip Mon 01-Oct-12 07:09:10

Lol, ignore. Large architectural practices don't have such copyrights over tenders and contractors - why on earth would a sole architect have it over a residential dwelling? I would politely reply asking him to highlight this unusual stipulation in the contract you signed. Since he can't (because you haven't), when he replies it's standard, ignore. Practically speaking, copyright infringement is very difficult and extremely expensive to prove.

Pendeen Mon 01-Oct-12 11:52:33

I charge by the 'stage', unless contracted for 'full service.

If a project requires planning consent then my fee includes initial consultation, feasibility, survey, drawings and completing the planning application.

These are clearly marked 'For Planning Consent Only'

If successful (or planning consent was not required) then I prepare detailed drawings for building regulation approval. The fee also included any negotiations with building control but not structural or other specialist design.

These are clearly marked 'For Building Regulation Approval Only'

Once the client has all the necessary approvals in place then they are free to take the project from then onwards or if they want I can then provide contract drawings, tender documents, administer the contract etc.

Copyright is always vested in me however my clients are free to use my drawings to tender or negotiation, bearing in mind the intent of each stage's drawings.

The whole purpose of copyright is to protect my intellectual property - my design. If a client wants to muck it up with poor construction or various on-site changes then that is up to them. My only stipulation is that they could not exhibit that finished item as representative of my work.

Your architect is morally wrong in attempting to restrict your choice of contractor on the pretext of copyright.

tricot39 Mon 01-Oct-12 20:44:33

Sorry i forgot to ask about buiilding regs yesterday. Presumably he has sorted that out? You have had an engineer do their bit too?

MrAlbertoFrog Mon 01-Oct-12 21:37:37

Have got separate plans from structural engineer, showing the steels etc.

Pendeen - thank for your comments, you've 'helped' me before with architect questions smile - I am laughing at the '. If a client wants to muck it up with poor construction or various on-site changes then that is up to them. ' Yup, that's us that is smile

Joking aside, we do trust F's builder, part of the cost difference will be I guess, because they are from a town 30 mins drive from here but which has high unemployment (t'is ver' naice here and recession not hit yet) and part will be the small changes we want (no fancy light circuits, no superfluous plumbing) and I also guess the fact that we showed him the site and pointed out things like we already had the main plumbing and electric fitted to the area (something Architect never seemed to remember and wasn't in the tender docs). The important stuff, steels, insulation spec, building materials for walls, roofs etc is the same.

Thank you everyone for your comments. F's builder is due to start in a couple of months so will talk to them shortly about the plans/design/copywright. If they feel OK to draw something similar but without the bits we don't want then we should be OK......waits for writ to arrive ;)

Ooh one more question for Pendeen -when you do tender documents do you take them to a professional printers to be printed and bound before they are sent by snail-mail? We were a tad shocked that in the days of email he did this for the Scope of Works (and charged us obviously).

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