Appendix D
The Architect as Advocate Architect/Compliance Architect/Design Manager/Researcher

By Cliff Harvey, OAA, FRAIC and Jason Robbins, MAA, MRAIC


For the purposes of this chapter, to provide clarity in the text, the architect acting in the capacity of advocate to the owner in the design-build delivery project is referred to as the advocate architect. The architect providing design services, either to a design-builder or design-build-finance-maintain (DBFM) entity, or through an intermediary such as a project management service provider, is referred to as the consulting architect.

The term compliance architect refers to the expanded role of the advocate architect in alternate funding plan (AFP) or public-private partnerships (P3) delivery projects. The terms compliance architect and conformance architect are synonymous.

“User stakeholders” refers to anyone who uses the building following construction. “User stakeholders” refers to those employed by the owner, such as clinical, support, and administrative staff of a hospital, and the public who enter the building.

Advocate Architect

The role of the advocate architect is to provide support for the owner and the user stakeholders within a complex project when there is no direct relationship between the owner and the consulting architect.

In a traditional design-bid-build project, the consulting architect has a contractual relationship and direct communication with the owner. In this situation the services of an advocate architect are redundant. As projects become more complex with new models of project delivery, including public-private partnerships (P3s), integrated project delivery (IPD) and bridging design-build or modified design-build, the relationship between the consulting architect and owner is mediated by other parties, and the responsibilities of the architect to the owner become less clear. This is especially true when complex funding models are introduced to a project, or with complex project management relationships. The advocate architect ensures the user stakeholder requirements are gathered and communicated to the design team when the consulting architect does not have a direct line of communication with the owner.

The advocate architect will often work with the senior leadership of the client organization at the outset of a project before beginning to work directly with the design team and the user stakeholders. It is important for the advocate architect to represent the interests of the organization faithfully and to refrain from interfering in the consulting architect’s design process. The advocate architect may set up the parameters of the design intent, including some illustrations and imagery, but it is the consulting architect’s role to design the project.

Owner’s Project Requirements

Ideally, the advocate architect is engaged by the owner to represent the owner and user stakeholders at the pre-design phase of a project through to post-construction. However, the advocate architect can be brought in at any stage.


Through the pre-design process, the advocate architect will work with the owner and user stakeholders to explore options and create a clearly defined project vision and description known as the owner’s project requirements that link back to the needs expressed in the business case/feasibility analysis for the project. The owner’s project requirements are created through collaboration, critical thinking and timely decision-making. The project vision and description will be a combination of prescriptive and performance requirements specific to the operations and priorities of the user stakeholders. The information in the prescriptive and performance requirements may include common pre-design documents such as building condition assessments, and functional programs with spatial relationship diagrams and detailed room data, but can also include conceptual plans, sections, and elevations, outline specifications, or even product cut sheets. The level of complexity and amount of detail will vary with each project.

Advocate Architect – Scope of Work

Activities of the advocate architect during pre-design include:

  • analysis of client/user group needs;
  • owner and user stakeholder requirements and expectations, assumptions and constraints;
  • functional program development;
  • furnishings, fixtures and equipment (FF&E) inventory and requirements;
  • review of the design and construction program budget and the initial construction cost estimate;
  • review of the construction budget, schedule and project delivery method.

Design Phase Services

During the schematic design and design development phases of the project, the advocate architect works with the consulting architect and design team to ensure the requirements are being met. Through the design process, the advocate architect helps by defining and reviewing details, spaces, and illustrations with guidance from the owner’s project requirements. The advocate architect will provide an independent and unbiased review of the design and construction documents. It is also important for the advocate architect to provide critical and honest advice to the owner about the impact of any changes that occur during design. The advocate architect will identify issues early in the process before they become owner-initiated change orders.

The activities of the advocate architect during the design phase are heavily weighted to schematic design and design development, with less emphasis placed on construction documents.

Activities of the advocate architect during schematic design include:

  • communicating the owner’s requirements to the consulting architect and design team;
  • validating that the consulting architect’s schematic design has captured the project’s requirements;
  • reviewing Class ‘D’ construction cost estimates as prepared for each concept design;
  • reviewing the schematic design documents with the owner;
  • recommending approval or amendments as required prior to proceeding to the design development phase.

Activities of the advocate architect during design development include:

  • validating that the consulting architect’s design development has captured the project’s requirements;
  • reviewing Class ‘C’ construction cost estimates as prepared;
  • reviewing the project schedule for critical path and major project milestones;
  • reviewing the design development documents with the owner and any adjustments to the construction cost estimate;
  • recommending approval or amendments as required prior to proceeding to the construction documents phase.

During the construction documentation stage of the process, the priority of the advocate architect is to review the consulting architect’s drawings for consistency with the owner’s requirements and to identify changes that would cause an owner-initiated change. Quality management of the construction documentation is the responsibility of the consulting architect.

Activities of the advocate architect during the construction documents phase include:

  • reviewing submitted construction documents for consistency with the design development documents;
  • recommending approval or amendments as required prior to proceeding to the bidding/negotiation phase;
  • reviewing the updated project schedule for critical path and major project milestones;
  • reviewing the construction cost estimate.

Construction Phase Services

During the construction phase, it is the advocate architect’s role to provide technical observation of the construction process as well as reviews undertaken by the consulting architect and other consultants. The advocate architect will then provide input as required and report activities to the owner to ensure prompt responses to any questions, reviews or notices.

Activities of the advocate architect during construction include:

  • attending site meetings organized by the consulting architect, constructor and consultants;
  • reviewing and commenting on meeting minutes as required;
  • reviewing and taking appropriate action with reasonable promptness on all constructor and consulting architect documentation as required, including:
    • requests for information (RFIs), contemplated change notices, change orders and change directives, supplemental instructions, submittals, shop drawings, etc.;
  • conducting reviews in addition to the consulting architect’s general review at intervals as appropriate and/or required;
  • evaluating substitutions proposed by the constructor with the consulting architect;
  • reviewing the constructor’s list of outstanding and deficient work with the architect.

Other Advocate Architect Services

Throughout the project there may be other opportunities to support the owner if they do not have internal staff with capital asset project experience or expertise. These might include post-construction or post-occupancy activities. Other tasks include project management-focused activities, including project phasing, change management and funding reconciliation, as well as last-minute events requiring proactive risk management.

Advocate Architect Fees

Fees for the advocate architect are typically billed at a fixed or hourly rate. Pre-design and other services are typically hourly, while design and construction phase services may be fixed. For a fixed fee, the advocate architect can base their estimate on a multiplier of the construction budget. Depending on the size of the project and level of involvement, the multiplier can range between 0.6% and 1.2%.

Advocate Architect Phased Activities

The activities for the advocate architect are heavily weighted towards the beginning of the project to ensure the user stakeholders’ requirements are included in the early stages of design to have the greatest impact. Once the project has completed design development, opportunity to affect changes reduces substantially. (See the MacLeamy Curve in Chapter 6.1 – Pre-Design). During the construction phase, the advocate architect observes the constructor, consulting architect and design team consultants, but also aids the owner in decision-making to keep the project on schedule.

TABLE 1 Typical distribution of fees for consulting design team


TABLE 2 Typical distribution of fees for advocate architect


TABLE 3 Example fee and activity breakdown for advocate architect

The above table illustrates the potential fee for a project with a $10,000,000 construction budget using a fee scale of 0.75% of construction estimate/construction cost. Pre-design and other services are in addition to the 0.75%.

The Evolving Role of the Advocate Architect: Compliance Architect

The introduction of alternate funding plan (AFP) procurement methods and public-private partnerships (P3) has expanded the traditional role of advocate architect in the practice of architecture. Increasingly, firms are involved in P3 projects filling roles on the “compliance” team. The compliance team is comprised of architects, engineers, interior designers, and other specialists who support the owner through pre-design and early design phases until a proponent is selected to undertake the complete design, construction and operation of a facility. The compliance team on a P3 project provides services like those of the advocate architect, but the scale of the services is often greatly expanded. These services may include the preparation of an extensive project brief including conceptual design of all building systems, operating specifications, and proponent evaluation services. Evaluation services may involve viewing evolving conceptual schemes prepared by multiple proponents competing for the project, and evaluation of submissions using a comprehensive assessment rubric.

The advocate architect’s role may be further supplemented by the role and responsibilities of a design manager (see below), which may be part of the P3 procurement models sometimes used to deliver more complex building types, such as hospitals. Such projects may require several sophisticated contractual deliverables in addition to design briefs and programs. As such, the advocate architect’s role may be rolled into that of the compliance architect.

The Development of the Contract Document: Output Specifications

The main deliverable created by the compliance team of architects, engineers and specialist consultants for a P3 procurement process is the output specifications (OS). This document generally contains the planning, design, construction, facilities management and operating requirements for the specific project. The OS generally forms part of the request for proposal (RFP), and is given to the proponent teams who will use the information to create their proposals. With such a large volume of information required to bid on these projects, and information which is primarily words and not drawings, the role and responsibility of the compliance architect challenges the traditional notion of the advocate architect and moves the responsibilities towards those associated with knowledge transfer and information management.

That said, there is still an important role for the compliance architect in the creation of the OS when standard design information (i.e., codes, standards and guidelines) are not available to match a design problem (e.g., new workplace environments). These design problems may require the compliance architect to undertake design research (see below) to document requirements which must then be translated into written requirements. As these requirements are not guided by standard design information, the wording and approach to procurement (particularly on the Open RFP Period) require the compliance architect to be fully engaged in the review and reporting during the Open Period and after Financial Close.

Evaluation and the Role of Conformance

Another major role of the compliance architect (in fact, where the title comes from) is the role and responsibilities during the Open Period, after RFP Close, and after Financial Close to evaluate proponents’ designs against the requirements of the OS as well as to advise how well each design performs against the evaluation criteria that support the project’s goals and objectives.

Design Manager

The role of the design manager is distinctly defined and distinctly different from that of the project architect. This role is emerging primarily from the evolution of procurement models (i.e., P3, D-B). The design manager’s role is to monitor and report on the performance of a design to achieve project goals and objectives. Unlike a project manager – who is primarily focused on performance according to traditional project management goals and objectives (i.e., on time, on budget, on scope) and on ensuring a project is well managed – the design manager is focused on reporting on the performance of the design. Reporting is based on evaluation criteria established early in the project and continuous improvements throughout the project.

The role and responsibilities of a design manager are generally to ensure the project’s goals and objectives can evolve into measurable outcomes and clear inputs into the design process.

It is still the responsibility of the compliance architect to develop project goals and objectives; the design manager’s role is to monitor and report on the agreed-to outcome measures.

Design Research

Design research is an emerging trend that is increasingly referenced in requests for proposals (RFP), as organizations strive to improve their performance based on research in their field, such as workplace and performance strategies. Design research is also occurring on an industry level in a collaborative manner as the industry responds to social issues like climate change. Design research is a process to investigate a design solution where there is limited or no guidance to a solution from existing codes, standards or guidelines. Architects who respond to a request for design research, and clients who request design research, should ensure they understand the work effort, resources and evaluation criteria to successfully undertake design research.