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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
As I expand my design/build company I am looking for a drafter/designer to collaborate with on some upcoming projects. I envision me being very much involved in the design phase and probably as the sole go-between with the client.

My initial thoughts are that for branding reasons I want my company name on the plans rather than his/hers. It seems like that for the client this creates the seamless feel between the design and building phase that I want.

Are there problems with this approach (liability comes to mind)?
Do designers do this? Is it insulting to ask someone with their own business to put my company name on the title block?
Any other way to accomplish what I am shooting for?
Any thoughts would be helpful thanks
 

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Money will get you anything you want. Every set if plans I ever seen are stamped with the designers brand logos like its a billboard. Perhaps if you could find a guy who does this on the side he may be willing to do that. Or you could say this hassle and just take a full time guy on who does this if you need these enough times a year.

I was just gob smacked at how much plans were from 2 architects to draw up my new house plans both were very close to 18k a piece. Got a few others getting back to me but that's way more than I expected to be paying.
 

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In your current situation, the engineer/architect/designer you contract with will be carrying E&O (Errors & Omissions) Liability insurance, also known as Professional Liability insurance to cover any design flaw claims/lawsuits. You will need to get your own E&O insurance if you set yourself up to now be the design firm, stamping drawings, etc.; in addition to being a construction firm.

I am not sure where you are located. You will need to check the regulatory requirements in your state/province with respect to what qualifications you need to have and what E&O insurance you have to carry. In Ontario, for example, any firm that provides design service needs to register and qualify under Bill 124 and carry a certain amount of E&O insurance. Example: over $100,000 a year in billings requires proof of insurance of minimum $1,000,000 per claim/ $2,000,000 aggregate.

You mention wanting to put your company's stamp on the drawings. I don't see how this is possible unless you actually hire the engineer/architect as an employee of your company, and then your company is allowed to stamp drawings based on his professional qualifications. If the designer is still an independent that you contract with to provide design services, his stamp goes on the drawings, not yours.

Another point to consider is that if the owner only sees and knows you, in the event of any future design work claims, your company will be the only one named in a lawsuit; as opposed to both you and an outside design firm being jointly sued (and where you then get your name removed from the lawsuit, and the design firm is left to handle the problem).

Claims for faulty design work are very expensive as the legal defense costs are high. Many times no settlement is paid out, but there are still huge defense/legal bills and investigative report fees to be paid. You can have a design flaw claim where nothing physical has actually happened yet. If you build a roof incorrectly and it collapses, then the associated CGL claim is pretty obvious. If you design/build a school, and now there are "allegations" that the foundation wasn't properly designed for the terrain, so there are concerns that there "might" be future seepage and mould; well, that kind of claim can drag on for years and require numerous outside professional inspections and opinions as to whether seepage will actually occur or not. Furthermore, to rectify such a claim might involve demo and reconstruct of an entire building that hasn't actually been damaged yet.

Professional Liability coverage is almost always written on a Claims-Made basis. That means you have to have the policy in force when the claim is made. Example: You contracted to design/build an office building this year, 2013, and you paid the expensive premium for E&O insurance as well as your regular CGL insurance bill. In 2014, you decide that your plan to incorporate the design work under your own business isn't quite working out so you go back to GC work only and using an outside design firm. Ten years down the road, in 2023, people start getting "sick building syndrome" and the building owner decides to sue saying that the ventilation system was improperly designed which in turn is causing the air quality problems. Even though you built/designed that building ten years earlier, you have to have a current Professional Liability insurance policy in force in 2023 when the claim is made (the lawsuit is filed). Otherwise, all the defense costs are coming out of your pocket. So, if you pass the regulatory requirements that allow you to run and advertise your business as a true design/build firm, then you will have to be in it for the long haul as you will have a long term liability exposure.

Many contractors advertise themselves as design/build firms but still make it clear that they work with an outside engineer a/o architect when it comes time to signing contracts. If so many have these working relationships with outside design firms, you can assume that there are good and valid reasons for running their business this way. On the other hand, if that is how you envision your business, then good for you. You did ask about insurance concerns, so here is the info that I can share in that regard. Hope you find it helpful with your business planning.
 

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Money will get you anything you want. Every set if plans I ever seen are stamped with the designers brand logos like its a billboard. Perhaps if you could find a guy who does this on the side he may be willing to do that. Or you could say this hassle and just take a full time guy on who does this if you need these enough times a year.

I was just gob smacked at how much plans were from 2 architects to draw up my new house plans both were very close to 18k a piece. Got a few others getting back to me but that's way more than I expected to be paying.
Doubtful you need an architect.

Why not give Andy a call, scipioafricanus?
 

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So you want to build a realationship with an architect but you want to steal all the glory?

Our name is always next to the Architects. The two we work with frequently put our logos on the prints too.
 

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In your current situation, the engineer/architect/designer you contract with will be carrying E&O (Errors & Omissions) Liability insurance, also known as Professional Liability insurance to cover any design flaw claims/lawsuits. You will need to get your own E&O insurance if you set yourself up to now be the design firm, stamping drawings, etc.; in addition to being a construction firm.

I am not sure where you are located. You will need to check the regulatory requirements in your state/province with respect to what qualifications you need to have and what E&O insurance you have to carry. In Ontario, for example, any firm that provides design service needs to register and qualify under Bill 124 and carry a certain amount of E&O insurance. Example: over $100,000 a year in billings requires proof of insurance of minimum $1,000,000 per claim/ $2,000,000 aggregate.

You mention wanting to put your company's stamp on the drawings. I don't see how this is possible unless you actually hire the engineer/architect as an employee of your company, and then your company is allowed to stamp drawings based on his professional qualifications. If the designer is still an independent that you contract with to provide design services, his stamp goes on the drawings, not yours.

Another point to consider is that if the owner only sees and knows you, in the event of any future design work claims, your company will be the only one named in a lawsuit; as opposed to both you and an outside design firm being jointly sued (and where you then get your name removed from the lawsuit, and the design firm is left to handle the problem).

Claims for faulty design work are very expensive as the legal defense costs are high. Many times no settlement is paid out, but there are still huge defense/legal bills and investigative report fees to be paid. You can have a design flaw claim where nothing physical has actually happened yet. If you build a roof incorrectly and it collapses, then the associated CGL claim is pretty obvious. If you design/build a school, and now there are "allegations" that the foundation wasn't properly designed for the terrain, so there are concerns that there "might" be future seepage and mould; well, that kind of claim can drag on for years and require numerous outside professional inspections and opinions as to whether seepage will actually occur or not. Furthermore, to rectify such a claim might involve demo and reconstruct of an entire building that hasn't actually been damaged yet.

Professional Liability coverage is almost always written on a Claims-Made basis. That means you have to have the policy in force when the claim is made. Example: You contracted to design/build an office building this year, 2013, and you paid the expensive premium for E&O insurance as well as your regular CGL insurance bill. In 2014, you decide that your plan to incorporate the design work under your own business isn't quite working out so you go back to GC work only and using an outside design firm. Ten years down the road, in 2023, people start getting "sick building syndrome" and the building owner decides to sue saying that the ventilation system was improperly designed which in turn is causing the air quality problems. Even though you built/designed that building ten years earlier, you have to have a current Professional Liability insurance policy in force in 2023 when the claim is made (the lawsuit is filed). Otherwise, all the defense costs are coming out of your pocket. So, if you pass the regulatory requirements that allow you to run and advertise your business as a true design/build firm, then you will have to be in it for the long haul as you will have a long term liability exposure.

Many contractors advertise themselves as design/build firms but still make it clear that they work with an outside engineer a/o architect when it comes time to signing contracts. If so many have these working relationships with outside design firms, you can assume that there are good and valid reasons for running their business this way. On the other hand, if that is how you envision your business, then good for you. You did ask about insurance concerns, so here is the info that I can share in that regard. Hope you find it helpful with your business planning.
I didn’t read the OP wanting to start and make available to public a ‘design firm’ or meet and adhere to state regulatory requirements for an Architect and PE license. There would probably be a problem for the OP being “sole go-between’ to those licensed professionals in producing drawing’s and them taking the liability, good luck with that!

The same state professional licensing governing body that sets the statues and requirements(education and experience) for PE’s and Architect’s normally will also set the statue and requirements for when they are required to produce drawing’s. For example, here residential greater than a duplex and all commercial.

MY CGL has an exclusion for design work that basically states I am liable and uninsured if I engage in it and/or fail to hire a licensed professional. Hiring a licensed professional and "branding my name" on the same drawing and,or "being involved in the design/build phase" does not make me liable for their design work and what the state requires a license professional for, only if I fail to hire one, for those jobs I never get a permit. In some cases the city wants a PE stamp for SFH trusses just to make them feel better although it is not required by state statue.

As far as what happens in court, I won’t even go there it is so unpredictable. It will not just boil down to what insurance exclusions were violated, more so what statue or case law that perhaps had a different interpretation, or perhaps what entity is being sued and what state it resides in, or maybe what mood the judge or jury is in. So vague and ambiguous only a power higher than you and I really knows the outcome.

OP: So to answer your question if the design meets code requirements and will pass inspections put your dam name on it and call it good lol! :thumbsup:
 

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Try to be flexible on the sole credit/sole go-between/branding question. If clients understand that a business relationship with you results in a well-designed project, completed on time, they won't care whose logo is on the plans. Find a good design professional and build a good relationship. Do a project or two, and if you can't work out a relationship that will help you build your brand, then find another professional.

I understand your intention is to build your brand.
 

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I've always liked the scene at the end of "My Cousin Vinnie":

Mona Lisa Vito: You know, this could be a sign of things to come. You win all your cases, but with somebody else's help, right? you win case after case, and then afterwards you have to go up to somebody and you have to say, "thank you."
[pause]
Mona Lisa Vito: Oh my God, what a ****ing nightmare!

Don't let the credit issue keep you from working with some worthwhile partners.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
If clients understand that a business relationship with you results in a well-designed project, completed on time, they won't care whose logo is on the plans.
Thats a good point. Of course my clients realize the electrician, plumber, roofer, etc. are not technically my employees but they still consider my company the one that did a good job on their remodel. As a contractor clients are paying us to organize a team of trusted professionals...and that includes the designer.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Thanks for all the advice so far.
A little clarification...
In Oregon I don't need any additional licensing to draw residential plans ("designer").

The people I have been talking to about this potential arrangement are designers (not architects). Interestingly, all the designers I have talked to (4) have said "no problem, I do projects all the time for contractors and put their names on them."...this of course would not be the same for an architect, I wouldn't ask any of them to do this.

When we are turned on to projects that I don't feel comfortable with tackling the design work because of scale or complexity I have a handful of architects that I recommend to clients (and then work with the architects on details to "keep my foot in the door")
 

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Although the Design-Build relationship has come a long ways you will see some that are in two different worlds. If you can find a Designer or Architect that has both good, otherwise by bringing construction backgrounds into the design phase will help the build phase tremendously.

Some things to consider are who will qualify the drawing and the build? If you are looking for a place to put your branding iron it is in build to print quality, and continuous quality improvements from the build that make their way into the blueprints that can range from materials to installation tolerances and better inspection points. Are you going to pay the designer to inspect or will you or one of your Production Manager’s? Having your own designed inspections and documentation can help liability and conformity issues to the client expectations and law suits.

Another thing you may want to contractually consider is who owns the design? AIA has some contracts to look at. Also, who is liable for design errors? Like most legal questions, this one does not have a clear answer. In court cases, licensed architects are generally expected to exercise “reasonable and ordinary care” in the practice of their profession, not perfection. Often errors and omissions in the plans are discovered during the construction process and result in change orders. Who should pay for changes that result from an error or omission in the plans? All plans carry language such as “contractor shall check and verify all dimensions before execution of the work.” Does this mean that the contractor is responsible if he builds to faulty dimensions? In most cases the errors are minor and worked out, reasonable people will find reasonable solutions to most problems, but having solid contracts in place is key.

If the designer is part of the inspection build to their print, and contractors are part of the design process which is great, Who’s liable for construction defects?

The moral of this story: There’s no contract or work arrangement that can guarantee good workmanship. A good contract can help if things go wrong, but the only way to make things go right is to hire capable, reputable, and trustworthy people.
 

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In your current situation, the engineer/architect/designer you contract with will be carrying E&O (Errors & Omissions) Liability insurance, also known as Professional Liability insurance to cover any design flaw claims/lawsuits. You will need to get your own E&O insurance if you set yourself up to now be the design firm, stamping drawings, etc.; in addition to being a construction firm.
I agree, as a Design/Build (DB) firm, you take on responsibility of both phases and you want to insure yourself against liability. However, only those licensed to do so, can stamp documents.

If the design fails, the owner goes after the DB and the DB goes after the Designer.

As I understand it, the relationship between the DB and the designer is the same as any contractor/trade contractor relationship.
 

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I design all my own homes in Softplan myself - no Architect. Took a little while to learn, but it's worth it if you're up for it. By designing the homes with our clients, I help them stay within their budget rather than getting back plans for a home they can't afford to build. I don't feel there is anything wrong with your idea, though. You're just hiring out the drawing of a plan you designed with your client. I wouldn't be afraid to insist on your name on the plans instead of theirs.
 
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