Some of the most frequently asked questions we hear are triggered by the disparities between the insurance coverage available to design professionals and the demands made for coverage by general contractors and their standard contracts.



This is a nuanced area, and you should call your local a/e ProNet broker if you have specific questions. In the meantime, here are a few quick answers to the biggest FAQs concerning this issue:

Is it wise of General Contractors to require professional subconsultants to sign their usual sub-contract form?

No. Contractors that require the use of the same contract form used for construction sub-contractors may unwittingly void the precise coverage they are seeking from their design professional. Professional Liability (Errors & Omissions, or E&O) policies for design professionals typically exclude warranties and guarantees, which are generally an integral part of construction sub-contracts. If the design firm “agrees” to the warranties and guarantees or any other responsibility excluded by their professional liability policy, the design firm will be assuming the defense costs and payment obligations if an award is granted by the courts.

The General Contractor has requested to be named as an “Additional Insured” on my professional liability policy. Can I accommodate this request?

It is not a good idea to name the contractor as an additional insured in the sub-consultant’s design E&O policy, because an “Insured vs Insured” exclusion exists in virtually all design E&O policies. If the contractor believes he has a cause of action against his subconsultant design firm, this exclusion will eliminate coverage for both the contractor and the design firm.

How can the General Contractor protect themselves?

The General Contractor may purchase Contractor’s Professional Liability insurance. This will protect the General Contractor from vicarious liability claims from third parties and also solves the problem of the “Insured vs Insured” exclusion that would apply if the contractor brings an action against the subconsultant design firm, when named as an additional insured. Another benefit is a separate set of insurance limits. The General Contractor would have their own set of insurance limits that would not be subject to dilution or reduction from other claimants against the design professional’s E&O policy covering their general practice.

Why would the General Contractor need Professional Liability coverage?

Several reasons:

The General Contractor has the same “vicarious liability” for the negligent acts, errors or omissions of their professional subconsultants as they do for the non-professional subcontractors.

The General Contractor cannot rely solely on the hold harmless indemnity clause in the contract document. The hold harmless may not be enforceable in certain jurisdictions because of the language of the indemnity clause.

The subconsultant may not have sufficient insurance or their policy limits may be reduced or exhausted from other claims.

The subconsultant’s policies may be cancelled by the carrier giving notice or for non-payment of premiums. The General Contractor is then left with a false sense of security if they rely on the general liability insurance of the subconsultant, which excludes professional design activities and responsibilities.

Meeting halfway, in this case, really involves helping everyone acquire appropriate coverage. If you are a General Contractor in need of Professional Liability (E&O) insurance, or if you are a design professional who needs someone to explain all this to a General Contractor demanding such ill-advised insurance/contract decisions, please don’t hesitate to call on us.

More answers to Frequently Asked Questions can be found on our FAQ page.

The Perspective of the Fire Protection Engineer 

Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) is a collaborative alliance of people, systems, business structures and practices into a process that harnesses the talents and insights of all participants. Its aim is to optimize project results, increase value to the owner, reduce waste and maximize efficiency through all phases of design, fabrication, and construction. The most popular method of IPD is Design-Build, one of the most significant trends in design and construction in the U.S. today.

The Design-Build Team works under a single contract with the project owner to provide design and construction services: one entity, one contract, one unified flow of work from initial concept through completion. It consists of many players, including the General Contractor, Architect, Engineering Consultants, and a variety of sub contractors. Collectively, the team has the knowledge and expertise to complete a project from start to finish and each team member is equally important in the outcome of the project.

The role of the specialty sub-consultant is no different. For example, the Fire Protection Engineer (FPE) is a critical member of the Design-Build Team, and provides comprehensive input and guidance on all aspects of fire and life safety for the project. This includes, but is not limited to, building code analysis, water supply, smoke control, fire department access, exiting, and an analysis of the active and passive fire protection systems.

From an FPE’s perspective, the design-build process can be broken down into four separate and distinct phases: the teaming phase, the pre-proposal phase, post-award phase, and the construction phase.

Teaming Phase

The client should understand the value of the FPE in the teaming phase and that communicating with the key individuals responsible for selecting the team is a priority. Generally, the people responsible for selecting team members are the general contractor’s project manager, project estimator or the project architect. They may or may not be familiar with the value that the FPE provides so it is important to reaffirm the FPE’s role. Other disciplines can contribute to fire protection and life safety, but none of them take the total fire protection and life safety perspective that an FPE does. Continue reading “The Impact of Sub Consultants in the Design Build Process”