“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.” – Anthony Bourdain
The late Anthony Bourdain’s quote can easily apply to working on an overseas architectural project. There is a steep learning curve. Risks and rewards. How do you educate yourself? A great resource can be found in AIA Contract Documents’ recently updated B161 - Agreement Between Client and Consultant for design consulting services where the Project is located outside the United States, which was first published in 2002. Provided below is a brief introduction to the newly revised document available at aiacontracts.org.
Who is the Target Audience?
Developing a template agreement to work anywhere outside of the United States and on any type of project is a challenging endeavor. Architectural practices, construction methods, language, law, codes and customs vary considerably from country to country. The earlier 2002 version of the agreement cast a wide net. The revised agreement was updated for the novice. It was made more accessible to practitioners who do not have prior or extensive experience working overseas and who do not intend to be licensed as an architect in a foreign jurisdiction. For this reason, the architect is identified as a “Consultant.” The agreement also assumes that the architect, or Consultant, will provide most of their services from the United States. Finally, the scope of services was intentionally reduced. It is generally limited to the completion of the Design Development phase as a way of separating the Consultant’s services from the services that will need to be provided by a separate architect of record.
Major Updates in the 2022 Version
The body of the agreement includes the scope of the Consultant’s services, instead of the use of exhibits at the end of the agreement. The description of the post-Design Development phase services was revised to account for the fact that the Consultant is not licensed and to limit the amount of work performed outside of the United States.
The 2002 version included a responsibility matrix exhibit to define the Consultant’s, client’s, and local architect’s responsibilities. Exhibits such as this can be beneficial, however, it proved difficult to develop one that could satisfy the wide range of variables. Instead, descriptions of the Consultant’s, client’s, and local architect’s responsibilities were augmented within the body of the agreement to eliminate the need for the exhibit.
The Consultant’s obligation to design a project within the client’s budget was revised to align with other AIA agreements, such as the B101 or B103. In this case, however, since the Consultant services are intended to be largely complete after the Design Development phase, their duty of budget compliance only extends through that phase.
The agreement assumes that all engineers and consultants will be retained by the client as that party will likely be best suited to identify appropriately experienced individuals and to manage risk related to their involvement.
A Word of Caution
Working on a project in a foreign country can be challenging and fraught with risk. The B161 agreement helps but does not neutralize all risk. Before taking the plunge, it is recommended to seek expert legal and financial advice.
In addition to the B161, AIA Contract Documents has published a free guide, B561-2022 - Guide to International Practice and Contracting for U.S. Architects. It provides a wealth of information for the novice.
And a Word of Encouragement
Working on a project in another country places you outside of your comfort zone and is invigorating professionally and personally. If the opportunity presents itself, take it.