The prime minister recently suggested a need for architects to help “design out” terrorist opportunities.
In a report on the subject, Lord West, the security minister, focused on toughening existing buildings and taking security precautions in the planning of new ones where large numbers of people are likely to congregate.
The report went on to suggest adding a specialist anti-terrorism module to architectural training. However, by placing greater emphasis on the role of architects in the prevention and reduction of terrorist attacks, the government has unwittingly raised a potential liability issue.
Previously, the main insurance-related concerns for architects, in relation to terrorism, were disruptions to their businesses and the potential for an act of terrorism to expose poor work.
The former risk should be covered by a firm’s contingency cover or business interruption insurance, but since 9/11 the insurance market has excluded terrorism from architectural professional indemnity policies. Some specialist PI brokers have managed to negotiate terrorism coverage written into architects’ policies in very special circumstances – a typical example of this would be an insurer agreeing to make good the faulty work but not pay for the consequential loss.
So what does this mean for architectural practices? We believe the most likely way forward is that the construction industry and government will draw up guidelines that, if followed, will mitigate most of the risk to the designer. Until this happens, however, we would recommend that practices consult a specialist PI broker to review their policies.
Ted Jones, head of architects, PI team, Howden