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CROSS Safety Report

Insufficient design fees

Report ID: 190 Published: 1 April 2010 Region: CROSS-UK

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A reporter raises concerns over design fees that were below typical market rates.

Key Learning Outcomes

For clients:

  • There is always a risk that safety will be compromised when the lowest cost is the main criteria for selecting products, processes or people

  • If you are appointing professionals below typical market rates, ensure that they have suitable qualifications and insurances

Full Report

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The Full Report below has been submitted to CROSS and describes the reporter’s experience. The text has been edited for clarity and to ensure anonymity and confidentiality by removing any identifiable details. If you would like to know more about our secure reporting process or submit a report yourself, please visit the reporting to CROSS-UK page.


An existing commercial building is to be converted to flats with an estimated contract value of £1.5m. The client has appointed a sole proprietor business. The main concern of the reporter is that the fees for a full investigation of existing structure, addition of an extra floor, and full design and drawing service was £4,300 i.e. about 0.3%. This is considered an order of magnitude too low with normal fees closer to 2% and ideally 3% inclusive of investigations and reinforced concrete (RC) detailing.

Expert Panel Comments

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Expert Panels comment on the reports we receive. They use their experience to help you understand what can be learned from the reports. If you would like to know more, please visit the CROSS-UK Expert Panels page.

This is an oft repeated tale, particularly in difficult times. However, strictly it is not fees per se which determine the legal position but if a professional, takes on a job for nothing he or she carries all the responsibilities regardless. The formal position is clear. The client must ensure that he or she appoints competent parties, adequately resourced.

The engaged party has a reciprocal responsibility and the CDM-Coordinator also plays an important role in this instance. Those appointing professionals so far below typical market rates should ensure that they have suitable qualifications and insurances.

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