I was contacted by an attorney last week in the hope that I might provide expert testimony against an architect who the owner believes was negligent in meeting the professional standard of care. The owner had engaged the services of the architect and a contractor to design and construct a new office building. One of the goals for the project was to have the project achieve LEED Platinum certification - which is no easy task. The owner provided the architect and contractor with what he felt was a reasonable budget.
After a few months of working on the building design, the project cost was estimated to be a little more than twice the owner's budget. YIKES! This, of course, did not please the Owner and now, the original architect and builder are no longer involved in the project - which continues to move ahead with a new project team - but do get to continue working together in an enjoyable process called litigation.
I was interested in how the attorney came to contact me relative to this matter. I have no prior relationship with the attorney or the client, have never provided expert testimony in any case, anywhere, at any time, and in general have tried to stay as far away from courtrooms as possible. It turns out my name just got placed on the list of people to call through some strange algorithm of a web search involving the key words architect, LEED, Minnesota. So much for my ego.
I declined to participate in that endeavor for a number of reasons.
1. The longer I've worked, the less I feel an expert in anything!
2. I know some of the individuals involved. While I believe I could be fair in my assessment, I don't really want to participate in that kind of painful exercise that will likely cause collegues no small measure of duress.
3. There are a great many reasons why budgets get blown in any project. Project teams may not have enough experience in the specific project type to understand the cost implications of the project and any special considerations (such as LEED Platinum certification), owners sometimes give contradictory information after setting the budget, or increase project scope without increasing the budget.
I always cringe when I hear about these things happening on projects. It's unfortunate, no fun for anyone involved and adds to the stereotype that architects just want to spend your money. It's just not true. Architects want to do great designs that satisfy a client's goals, meets their needs, solves their problems, looks super cool and is of great value. Add environmental responsibility in the mix and you've got a pretty tall order.
I hope the parties involved can come to terms, reach a respectful and mutual understanding, and part ways without meeting in a courtroom first.
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