Raising a Concern

There are two main contracts that a client will generally enter into when they are carrying out building work with a Registered Architect. Firstly, there is the contract between the client and the Registered Architect. This is known as the Client/Architect Agreement. Secondly, there is the contract between the client and the building contractor which is known as the Building Contract. The Registered Architect is not a party to the Building Contract as it is a contract between the client and the building contractor. However the Registered Architect will generally be appointed to act as the client's representative in the Building Contract.

This page is split into two sections. The first section deals with disputes that may arise between the client and Registered Architect under the Client/Architect Agreement. The second section concerns disputes that may arise between the client and the building contractor under the Building Contract.

Disputes between a client and a Registered Architect

Where issues arise during a building project they should be raised with the Registered Architect as soon as possible, preferably in writing. An account should be kept of all communication.

The RIAI Architects’ Code of Conduct provides that Registered Architects are expected to have a written procedure for the prompt and courteous handling of complaints.

If you are unable to resolve your dispute directly with your Registered Architect, you may wish to consider the RIAI dispute avoidance and mediation service.

Dispute avoidance

If you are experiencing difficulty communicating with your Registered Architect you can contact the RIAI and request that it contact the Registered Architect on your behalf to let them know that you have an issue that you would like to discuss with them. In our experience maintaining communication is the best way of resolving issues and preventing disputes escalating.

RIAI consumer mediation

If you and your Registered Architect are not able to resolve your dispute through negotiation you may benefit from mediation. Mediation is a confidential, facilitative and voluntary process in which parties to a dispute, with the assistance of a mediator, attempt to reach a mutually acceptable agreement to resolve the dispute. The RIAI consumer mediation process provides Registered Architects and their clients with 6 hours of mediation. If the dispute is not resolved within this time period the parties are free to agree terms with the mediator to continue with the mediation.

Notified Alternative Dispute Resolution Entity

The RIAI is a notified alternative dispute resolution entity under the European Union (Alternative Dispute Resolution for Consumer Disputes) Regulations 2015. More information about this can be found on the European Commission ODR website. 

Fitness to practice complaints and the Professional Conduct Committee

If you believe that your Registered Architect has acted unprofessionally or has not met the standards of competence that may be reasonably expected of a Registered Architect, you may wish to make a fitness to practise complaint to the statutory Professional Conduct Committee. Engaging in dispute avoidance or mediation does not prevent a person from making a fitness to practice complaint to the Professional Conduct Committee.

Disputes between a client and a builder/contractor

Construction contracts often have dispute resolution clauses that rely on conciliation, adjudication or arbitration as a dispute resolution procedure. The RIAI maintains lists of Registered Architects who act as conciliators, adjudicators and arbitrators and it is often requested to nominate conciliators, adjudicators and arbitrators to disputes arising from building contracts.


Conciliation is a private, flexible, interests-based approach to dispute resolution. It is similar to mediation, the difference being that if the conciliator is unable to facilitate a settlement between the parties, then they must issue a recommendation based on the legal rights of the parties. The recommendation is binding on the parties unless it is rejected by either of them within a prescribed time period, usually ten days.


Arbitration is a private process where two parties submit a dispute to a neutral third party for determination. Arbitration is generally seen as an alternative to litigation. Its perceived advantages are that of speed, flexibility, and cost efficiency, however this is not always the case.

Arbitration in Ireland is governed by the Arbitration Act 2010. Generally, commercial agreements, such as the RIAI Building Contracts, will contain an arbitration clause in the event of disputes. Where there is no arbitration clause in an agreement, parties may still agree to submit their complaint to arbitration.


Adjudication is a method of settling payment disputes on an interim basis and within a limited time period. An adjudicator uses their own knowledge and investigations together with the evidence presented by the parties, to reach a decision that is legally binding until the dispute is referred to arbitration or litigation, or is settled between the parties themselves. Adjudication was introduced into Ireland in the Construction Contracts Act 2013 and came into force on 25 July 2016. Further information about adjudication is available from the Construction Contracts Adjudication Service.