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Insurance hikes of as much as 800 per cent hit architects hard


Apologies for length, but this stems from wide reaching issues within the industry. Our PI has trebled without any claims in 10 years. The main reason I was told is that Lloyds underwriters have lost money over several years now on their overall business. They were told by Lloyds administrators to look at their client profile and address the biggest risk sectors or even remove them. Construction was one of the worst. I detect a "take it or leave it" approach, enhanced by failures of cladding, fire strategy, basements and swimming pools in basements and undertaking responsibility for these without controlling authority or often adequate skill. Doing these upped our premium. In the insurers panic to categorise these items and cost each separately we couldn't get clarity. Our policy cost more if we said we do "cladding". I qualified that by saying in the industry a few boards or a cavity brick wall outer skin is often called "cladding". I couldn't get greater clarity on what cladding meant so our policy went up. Others may find a wide definition of what cladding is may enable insurers to get out of liability if they hit the courts. The ambiguity and carelessness regarding responsibilities on Grenfell and probably many other less publicised projects, where architects take on responsibilities (liabilities) without authority over them is one of two significant factors. I once refused to remove waterproofing from our drawings for a basement and the contractor said he wouldn't work with us again because "we weren't a D & B contractors type of architect" That was on a large office building where we were novated. He didn't install it and it leaked. The other factor is the competence of many architects. The first is down to exercising intelligence and care with appointments and not taking on onerous responsibility to win a project, in the hope that the worst won't happen. The second is down to technical ability. On the whole Universities treat technical training as something someone else can do later. I detect a kind of snobbish aversion to the blue collar side of things. We see many newly qualified architects who cannot even competently detail a dog kennel when they qualify, and nearly all 35 year olds who don't know the difference between or purpose of a vapour barrier and breather membrane, let alone the movement of moisture through a facade. This is appalling and significantly contributes to the mess the industry is in. Re insurance, this happened in the early 1980's when big insurers withdrew and The Wren was set up so that insurance would always be available. That is potentially a good model if it could somehow be carried down to smaller practices. Its limitation of over zealous appointment conditions is admirable (it also shows how reckless non-Wren practices take on over zealous conditions when the Wren rejects appointments that those others take on). However, its a mutual and the practices are the underwriters, so a serious vetting competence and a minimum turnover requirement had to be imposed.

Posted date

15 May, 2020

Posted time

11:53 am