The architectural assignment limited to works requiring authorisation (Cass. 19 May 2016)

The architectural assignment limited to works requiring authorisation (Cass. 19 May 2016)

A principal must call upon an architect to prepare the plans and to inspect the execution of works for which an urban development permit is required (art. 4 of the Architect Act of 20 February 1939).

A restrictive reading of this article makes it possible to limit the architect´s assignment to works that require permits, mainly the wind- and watertight rough structure.

The Court of Cassation has now confirmed this in a decision of 19 May 2016. The Court ruled that the intervention of the architect is not legally required for actions which, under the law, are exempted from the collaboration of an architect or for which no urban development permit is required. The fact that the urban development permit is granted for the erection of a building does not entail that the intervention of the architect is also obligatory for the additional works that are required for the use of this building, but for which no authorisation per se would be required. After the execution of the rough structure works, the architect is thus not obliged to perform further interventions for the finishing works, which per se are legally exempted from the collaboration of an architect or for which per se no urban development permit is required. The architect can thus limit his inspection assignment to the rough structure/wind impermeability phase, unless the finishing works entail the solution of a structural problem or alter the building’s stability. According to the Court, the freedom of industry and labour opposes an expansive interpretation of the obligation to call upon the services of an architect.

The architect can thus be exempted from his further intervention after the execution of the works for which a principal was required to have an urban development permit, primarily the rough structure works. The Court does not say actually whether or not "finishing works" are of such a nature as to cause structural problems or to affect the stability of the building, and thus fall under the obligatory assistance of the architect: this is an issue of fact which must be assessed by the judge on the merits and then tested against the regulations on urban development and the authorisation requirement. Thus there is no limitation in principle to the wind- and watertight rough structure: the assistance of the architect could also still be obligatory for finishings (but also surrounding area works, changes, etc.) if an authorisation is required for these aspects due to e.g. impact on the stability. 

For more information on this topic, you can consult Gerlinde Gielis and Siegfried Busscher (the authors).