Good News for Design-Build Contractors: Design-Build Contracts do not Have to Identify a Licensed Architect
Reading Time: 3 minutes
In Florida, design-build contracts do not need to identify a licensed architect. This rule was clarified in the recent case of first impression, Diaz & Russell Corporation, et al. v. Dept. of Business and Professional Regulation, 2014 Fla. App. LEXIS 8113, No. 3D13-1764 (Fla. 3d DCA May 28, 2014). An exception in Section 481.229(3), Florida Statutes, allows contractors to “negotiate” design-build contracts, so long as the negotiating contractor is neither offering to render, nor actually rendering, the architectural services of the project.
In Diaz & Russell Corp., the Board of Architecture and Interior Design (the “Board”) filed a complaint with Florida’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation (“DBPR”) against a contractor for practicing architecture without a license. The basis for the complaint was the contractor’s design-build contract to construct a tenant-partition wall in a commercial building for $5,900. The contract did not identify a specific licensed architect. It was the Board’s and DBPR’s position that Sections 481.219 and 481.223, Florida Statutes require a design-build contract to state the identity of the licensed architect that will perform the design portion of the contract; otherwise the contractor faces civil and criminal liability under Section 481.223, Florida Statutes. The administrative law judge agreed, fining the contractor $10,000 and assessing $6,867.53 in costs against him.
The ruling was reversed on appeal. The appellate court held that the design-build exception of Section 481.229(3) was satisfied in this case. The contractor was a licensed contractor that negotiated a design-build contract, and then hired a licensed architect to perform the design work. The drawings submitted to the building department were prepared and signed by the licensed architect, which was sufficient.
The appellate court went on to clarify that the architect does not have to be identified, or even selected, until after the contract is executed. “As long as the negotiating contractor is neither offering to render, nor actually rendering, architectural services related to such design-build contracts, the exemption’s requirements are met.” Id. A contractor offering design-build services should study the holding of this case carefully to enjoy the benefits of not identifying the designer in the contract and to ensure the contractors offering does not violate Florida Statute.
 Florida Statutes and Professional Regulations do not require identification of a licensed architect in the design-build proposal or contract. However, as is often the case, a contractor may be required by the owner to identify the design team and/or design concept as part of the negotiation. The rule discussed in this blog applies in cases where the owner does not require the designer be identified during the negotiation or contracting process.