Institute hits back saying ACA’s alternative standard contract is confusing the market

The two principal architectural bodies came to blows this week in a row over rival sets of standard contract for professional architects.

The RIBA, which has 40,500 members, reacted angrily after the Association of Consultant Architects (ACA) branded the institute’s client agreements “an accident waiting to happen”.

The ACA, which represents 250 UK architectural firms, this week launched an alternative contract. It said the RIBA agreement – launched last year – was a “complete bungle” and accused the institute of failing to consult the industry properly.

Stephen Yakeley, member of the ACA council, said: “The new documents are internally inconsistent and complex. The whole thing has been done in an extremely clumsy way and has had a flawed and toxic outcome.”

His criticisms focused on a clause within the RIBA contract which he said bound architects to the client’s timetable and budget and left them at risk if circumstances beyond their control lead to project overruns.

“It’s like a lawyer saying, ‘I guarantee you will win this case’ or a doctor saying, ‘I guarantee you will be cured’,” he said. “Professionals just don’t do that and insurers don’t like it.”

But the RIBA said its agreements were “reliable, trusted and independently ratified”, and accused the ACA of confusing the market.

Richard Brindley, the RIBA executive director of professional services, said: “We are disappointed that the ACA has decided to publish its own set of documents, particularly as it was extensively consulted.

“A plethora of different standard contracts is certainly not helpful to either architects or clients, especially as the ACA form appears to follow the lead of RIBA’s.”

He added that it was appropriate for architects to take some responsibility for time and costs. The ACA denied the RIBA’s claim that it had been consulted in the development of the institute’s documents.