Chapter 2.3


Consultant: One from whom advice is sought. The requirements for licensing vary depending on the professional field of activity (adapted from Carson’s Construction Dictionary). In the specific context of this chapter, a consultant is an individual or firm, either regulated or non-regulated, that provides design services to the architect, whether retained by the architect or the client.

Engineer: A professional skilled in the design, development, and construction of physical works. To practise or hold oneself out to the public as an engineer, the individual must be licensed under provincial or territorial legislation.

Prime Consultant: The consultant that is retained directly by the client for the provision of the main part of professional services; these services usually include management and coordination of subconsultants and other consultants engaged directly by the client or others. 

Design team: In the context of this chapter, the design team refers to all the people and firms involved in the creation of the building and site design, whether retained by the architect acting as prime consultant or as individual firms retained directly by the owner. 

Subconsultant: The consultant that is retained by (or under contract to) the prime consultant.


Architects are required to provide a wide range of services and expertise in the course of designing and coordinating a building project, and they usually do so with the help of consultants. Projects in which the architect is the sole individual responsible for design are rare, with small residential and commercial projects probably the only examples. The size, scope of services, or complexity of the project usually exceeds the architect’s qualifications, skills or ability, making it necessary to seek the expert advice of others. The kind and amount of expertise required will vary with each project. Building type or building classification and the size and scale of the project will determine the types and level of expertise required of the design team.

A significant part of the practice of architecture, therefore, involves the coordination of information, advice and designs provided by consultants who are knowledgeable in various fields. The architect usually provides the leadership, as well as the management and coordination skills, to synthesize the services of various consultants.

Whether acting alone or with numerous consultants, the architect’s goal is to provide seamless service to the client, in addition to well-coordinated construction documents and a smooth execution of the construction or project delivery. Consultants are full participants in the design team.

It is now common for the architect and the consultants to work together in an integrated relationship from the very beginning of a project through an integrated design process (IDP) to achieve the best sustainable design solutions.

Types of Consultants

Most engineering consultants and specialist consultants are professionals licensed under statute. Most must meet rigorous requirements for membership in professional associations (see “Consultant Associations” below), as do architects. Others provide technical services such as CAD drafting or advice on hardware. Still others may be specialists in a particular field such as marketing, interior design or kitchen equipment.

Engineering Consultants

The consultants most often engaged by architects are structural, mechanical and electrical engineers. These engineers could be considered base-building consultants. Architects are usually engaged by the client as prime consultants for most building classifications (building codes classify buildings by major occupancies). The exception is industrial building projects, where the prime consultant is often an engineer.

The majority of architecture firms in Canada are small to medium-sized enterprises that must retain engineering design services through contract with an engineering firm. Large firms, in addition to retaining consultants through contract, may have the qualifications and capability to provide all architecture and engineering design services in-house.

In addition to the “basic” engineering consultants retained by architecture firms, other engineers frequently consulted for building projects include acoustical engineers, civil engineers, engineers who specialize in the science of building envelopes, seismic engineers and traffic engineers. Refer to the extensive list at the end of this chapter.

Geotechnical and environmental remediation engineers, land surveyors, and certain other specialists that provide professional services related to the assessment of existing conditions should be retained directly by the client. The ownership of a capital asset presents the owner with opportunities, such as the increased value resulting from new building, renovation, or change of use. Correspondingly, the owner should also assume the risks associated with ownership, such as designated substances in a building, soil conditions, and legal title. Architects’ professional liability insurance may not provide coverage for the architect if a claim originates from services provided by an architect-retained geotechnical engineer, designated substances consultant, or land surveyor. Just as the architect does not benefit from ownership, neither should the architect assume the transfer of risks associated with ownership. 

Specialist Consultants

Building projects often require specialist consultants, many of whom are members of an association and may be certified to provide specific services. This is typical of specification writers, building envelope consultants, interior designers in certain jurisdictions, code consultants and others. Some consultants gain expertise through years of specialization and experience. Many architects become specialist consultants themselves. See “Appendix A – Types of Consultants on the Design Team” at the end of this chapter.

Agreements with Consultants

The architect should execute a written agreement with all consultants that they engage directly. Before such an agreement is executed, the architect should confirm that each consultant can meet the requirements of both the client and the architect. These include:

  • licensing requirements in the jurisdiction of the project;
  • professional liability insurance requirements;
  • capacity to perform the services;
  • ability to meet the project time schedules and budget.

The use of the Canadian Standard Form of Contract Between Architect and Consultant: RAIC Document Nine is recommended for an agreement with engineering consultants and other design professionals such as other architects, landscape architects, interior designers, and food service consultants.

Document Nine is not a “stand-alone” agreement and it is expected that the prime agreement (RAIC Document Six), or alternatively the relevant portions of the prime agreement, be appended to it. This ensures that the consultants have a full understanding of the expected and required services.

The architect should prepare a separate agreement for other consultants, such as those with a limited role, who may not carry professional liability insurance and who may not be design professionals. This agreement should clearly outline the services required as well as the fees for these services, and may include clarification on the ownership of the copyright. The architect should ensure that the copyright on the limited consulting services provided for an architectural project is assigned in writing to the architect. Note that an architect bears liability for the consultants that they hire, whether or not those consultants have their own professional liability insurance. The prudent architect will ensure that all firms they retain provide a certificate of professional liability insurance.

Managing and Coordinating Consultants

One of the architect’s important roles is to manage and coordinate the work of consultants, whether they are retained directly by the architect or separately by the client. It is important to start the design team development process early and obtain input from the consultants through structured team building. The integrated design process (IDP) provides a specific approach, among others, to managing the design team. It is important to involve key consultants in project planning and budgeting prior to commencing design work. Consultants usually work as independent professionals with a significant degree of freedom; however, during the entire course of the project, the architect is responsible for the work of the whole team. In summary, the project architect’s role includes:

  • identifying and validating design project objectives, including scope, cost, schedule, and stakeholder satisfaction;
  • establishing the quality standards for the project, including:
    • identifying client, user-stakeholder, and design team requirements and expectations; 
    • setting standard formats for documentation (primarily working drawings and specifications);
  • working collaboratively with the design team to achieve those objectives;
  • managing the consultants on the design team through:
    • monitoring consultants’ performance;
    • ensuring consultants’ ongoing commitment to the project;
    • motivating consultants;
    • providing recognition to consultants;
  • developing and executing the project’s communications and risk management plans.

Refer to “Checklist for the Management of the Design Project” in Chapter 5.1 – Management of the Project for a list of tasks required to coordinate and manage consultants at each phase of the project.

Consultant Associations

Most of the specialists an architect consults with are organized into professional, paraprofessional or technical associations. Because of the large number of such associations in Canada, this Handbook will outline only those associations which participate on the Construction Industry Consultative Committee (CICC) and the Canadian Construction Documents Committee (CCDC). These four associations are:

  • Association of Consulting Engineering Companies Canada (ACEC);
  • Canadian Construction Association (CCA);
  • Construction Specifications Canada (CSC);
  • Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC).

See Chapter 2.1 – The Construction Industry for the composition and role of the CICC and the CCDC, as well as for a description of the Canadian Construction Association (CCA).

See Chapter 1.6 – The Organization of the Profession in Canada for a description of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC).

The ACEC and the CSC are discussed below.

Association of Consulting Engineering Companies (ACEC|Canada)

Founded in 1925, the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies|Canada (ACEC) is the national association of consulting firms that provide engineering and other technology-based intellectual services to the built and natural environment. Member companies offer professional engineering services worldwide to private sector and government clients. ACEC’s mission is to promote and safeguard the business and professional interests of the Canadian consulting engineering industry in Canada and abroad.

The Association’s membership consists of independent consulting engineering firms and the 11 provincial and territorial member organizations. Members range in size from single-person operations to multinational companies.

See “Appendix B – Selected National Associations of Consultants,” located at the end of this chapter, for the ACEC’s address and website.

Construction Specifications Canada (CSC)

Construction Specifications Canada (CSC) is a national multi-disciplinary, non-profit association with chapters across Canada. CSC is committed to ongoing development and delivery of quality education programs, publications and services for the betterment of the construction community.

Construction Specifications Canada  liaises with its sister U.S. organization, the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI), and works with the CSI to develop and maintain the MasterFormat™ system.

Construction Specifications Canada  publishes Construction Canada magazine and the TEK-AID series of reference documents, which can assist architects in developing specifications. CSC also offers a variety of certification programs, including:

  • the Certified Construction Contract Administrator (CCCA);
  • the Certified Technical Representative (CTR);
  • the Registered Specification Writer (RSW).

See “Appendix B – Selected National Associations of Consultants,” located at the end of this chapter, for the CSC’s address and website.

Testing Agencies and Inspection Services

During the construction administration phase of a project, architects occasionally require owner-retained expertise to test components of the construction (such as the compaction of sub-soils and concrete samples) or to conduct detailed inspections (for roofing systems, welds, piping, etc.). This expertise is discussed in Chapter 6.6 – Construction Contract Administration – Office and Field Functions.

See also Chapter 2.5 – Standards Organizations, Certification and Testing Agencies, and Trade Associations.


Carson, John C. Carson’s Construction Dictionary: Law and Usage in Canada. Willowdale, ON: Toronto Construction Association, 1989. 

Royal Architectural Institute of Canada. “Canadian Standard Form of Contract Between Architect and Consultant – Document Nine 2018 Edition”, Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC),, accessed April 21, 2020.

Royal Institute of British Architects. Assembling a Collaborative Project Team. London, RIBA Publishing, 2013.