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We should spread blame for component flaws

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I read with interest Paul Hyett's article (AJ 1.7.99) about architects' liability for the work of specialist subcontractors and the response (8.7.99) from Sarah Peck on behalf of insurers - no doubt good advice for individual architects. The point which needs to be made, however, is that where a building or any of its component parts seriously fails, it is the industry as a whole which, in the eyes of the client, is responsible and should be liable. It is no use for architects or other designers to abdicate responsibility and stand in a line with everyone pointing the finger at one unfortunate individual. The principle reason why more and more clients are moving to design-build is that it is a means of attaching liability for the product, i.e. the building, at the door of a single party. Many design-build contractors, however, forget that they are responsible for the design, especially at the end of the project and in the defects-liability period. If the design team and the contractor are not willing to jointly take responsibility for the performance of specialist components, they quite simply should not be specified or used.

John A Harris, Director, Alex Sayer Ltd, West Sussex

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