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The Importance of a building contract and the role of the Architect

The Importance of a building contract even for the smaller domestic building projects

Many homeowners will agree terms for a house renovation or building project with the builder by way of a simple letter agreeing the price.  However, you may not be aware that the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (the “RIAI”) publishes standard forms of construction contract for use for construction projects which set out the key-terms of how the works will be carried out and the specific obligations of the builder.  There is a form of contract that is suitable to all types of domestic building projects – not just whole new houses but also substantial renovations and extensions.  The RIAI standard contract will protect you in two very important respects – time and money.

  • Time – the builder will be required to complete the works by a specific date.  Although this date can be extended in certain specific circumstances, if the builder does not finish by that date, the builder must pay you damages for the delay which can include rent for alternative premises and other expenses.  This is an effective way to avoid the builder ‘disappearing’ from site for periods of days or weeks and prolonging the build well beyond what was originally promised!
  • Money – you only pay the builder for works properly completed on site.  Advanced payments or ‘equal monthly instalments’ so commonly looked for by builders, are not allowed.  If the builder does not finish the works or does not carry out the works to the design and standard required, you are not out of pocket for those works.  This is the most effective way to ensure you get what you expect from the builder.

Your Architect plays a vital role under the RIAI contracts.  The Architect regularly visits the site throughout the build to ensure that your project is delivered in accordance with the agreed quality and design.  The Architect also certifies payments to be made to the builder to that you can be assured that you pay only what is properly due to the builder.  

We would always recommend that you continue to engage your Architect throughout the building process and to enter into a formal contract with the builder.  Your Architect can provide the appropriate form of contract and advise you further on the benefits.

This article first featured in Open House Journal 2021.

About Open House Dublin 2021

Matheson is proud to sponsor Open House Dublin 2021. Open House Dublin is Ireland’s biggest architecture event, with hundreds of building tours and events across Dublin. The 2021 festival takes place on 15 October - 17 October 2021. Attendees of all ages can attend online and in-person guided building tours, workshops, outdoor tours, talks, and film screenings at no cost.

This year’s event will welcome discussions on the responsibility of a city, and of the people who create, live and work in it. There will be a focus on relevant subjects including the climate crisis as well as collective action and quality design.

You can book to attend any of the events here.

If you would like further information please contact Rhona HenryKimberley MasudaBrian DoranSally Anne StoneLeonie DunneCillian O’Boyle or your usual Matheson contact.