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Fiona Mckay

Legal Lecture IV - Novation of Architects to Contractors

13 May 2015

An increasing number of projects are design-build with the contractor being responsible for preparing the design and managing the design team.  This often means the architect starts working for the client, then finds him or herself novated to and working for the contractor. The process of novation is full of pitfalls for the unwary architect!

Novation was the topic for the fourth in the AIA UK's series of legal seminars.  Presented by solicitors from Beale and Company, this event took place at Herman Miller's London showroom on April 15th. Solicitors Andrew Croft and Ben Mullard presented a lively and informative discussion about novation to an enthusiastic audience of chapter members and guests.

Andrew and Ben made a distinction between assignment and novation, noting that novation is more fundamental and requires careful consideration and understanding of the responsibilities and liabilities.  It gets more complex as there are actually two types of novation that can be utilized.  

These are switch and ab initio. The terms and conditions of the novation agreement must be fully understood by the architect in order to gage the risk one is assuming.  Andrew and Ben pointed out, however, the novation agreement is the architect's opportunity to renegotiate the design contract with the contractor and make changes, if desired!

The discussion was fascinating and generated a number of questions from the audience. The increasing use of novation by clients makes this an important subject for architects. Clearly, novation of design consultants is a "hot topic" and may be looked at in greater detail at a future legal discussion.

Thanks go to Beale & Company's Andrew Croft and Ben Mullard for their presentations. And, to Shazia Sheikh at Herman Miller for her hospitality in hosting us! Michael Lischer FAIA

Author: Michael Lischer

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