Architect not giving my house design CAD files to me

Hey guys,
so long story as short as possible. I had my house designed by an architect and built like 5 years ago and i am looking at making some changes to my house design. However, my builder needs the original design to allocate costs and relative changes to be made to the current house design. I have called my architect and asked her to pass along the CAD files relevant to my house and shes replied back with "It's my personal work and i can't disclose those files to you". So i am at an inflection point where i have not made any decision to question her about the service that i paid for years ago and did not receive the original CAD files from her. So the question is here for people to discuss and weigh up what options i have, i do need those original designs or i will have to get someone else to redraw them up from scratch for a hefty fee.

Comments

  • +159 votes

    Architect here, you are not entitled to CAD, DWG, revit, archicad etc files unless you specifically had it mentioned in your contract. Most architect's will provide you wiht a soft copy of the complete drawings. You are in effect buying a licence to use their drawings to construct what ever was commissioned. You are not purchasing their copyright, their source files etc.

    Some people are reasonable and will just charge you the time to convert the files to cad. Others will think, hey this guy wants me to spend the next hour or two exporting their entire project from 5 years ago to DWG, for them to give my proprietary design to another designer to profit off.

    • -97 votes

      It's my house design, don't think i want anyone to have it. It's interesting though, considering i paid you as a service to provide a design of my place and you can't give me the designs. So exactly what specific contract would you be fulfilling if you don't provide the actual relevant files, that allow the building and commissioning of the house?

      • +72 votes

        You were provided a set of drawings and a license to build off them. That's quite common practise. You were not provided the Intellectual Property of the design itself which remains with the Architect (unless you agreed contractually otherwise).

        As an Engineer, we have this argument with Architects all the time. We don't win.

        Only exception is govt design contracts which all stipulate all IP produced belongs to govt.

        • +1 vote

          That's extremely helpful, we had no contract btw. Just my a list of my wifes design ideas and what she wanted. Don't think i can get the original cad files of her.

          • +25 votes

            @Will Mcdonald: So it's not a "house design" it's a list of requirements

          • +1 vote

            @Will Mcdonald: Depends on the honesty and quality of the architect. We always ask this question up front to make sure they supply the cad files. Not that design work done by a bulk builder might be licensed however if you've commissioned them to build for you, then you've paid for the design. I'm not sure there is much in terms of governing laws you can leverage quickly here. PDF versions should at least be supplied from there could rebuild it in cad pretty fast if you can access someone that knows how. Its a little like portrait photographers. Some think they are high and mighty and will only share JPGs not RAW files as they consider their work "art" enough though its a photo of your family. Always ask upfront, go with the person that make sense to you. Not other architects, such as computer systems or software architects will always share their electronic work with their cluents so as far as I know only an issue with architects in the building industry. Disappointing experience for you, and the ask and reason seems pretty fair.

            • +1 vote

              @paulojr: Nope. U don’t get the software source code just right to use it. Same as a car. T-shirt. iPhone. Or logo. As for a perpetual licence to use not sell it.

          • +11 votes

            @Will Mcdonald: I pray you never hire a photographer.

        • -3 votes

          Its such bullshit, you pay them to do the work and they wont give you the file they made for you which you paid them for their time to do.

          • +9 votes

            @dono2: Do you ask game devs for the source code for the game because you bought their game?

            • +45 votes

              @sghetti: That's a wrong analogy. If I pay a game dev to build MY game (not a game the dev built on their own and I purchased it) the source code definitely belongs to me. The IP is owned by the client, in this case me. The client is free to take the project elsewhere if they wish to.

              • +4 votes

                @alikazi: Agreed

              • +9 votes

                @alikazi: That is definitely not always the case. You can pay someone to build something for you, but if you want to own the IP, in most cases you will pay SIGNIFICANTLY more for the service. If it's something that they can re-use, they will push for the IP rights and in most cases by default will be owned by them unless stipulated in a contract.

                This is especially the case with B2B services.

              • +6 votes

                @alikazi: "the source code definitely belongs to me"

                Under Australian Copyright law, no, it does not.

                It does if and only if the developer has explicitly handed that IP to you via an agreement (contract). If that has not been done, then, even though you "paid [the] game dev to build [your] game", the source code is still (under Australian Copyright Law) theirs, not yours.

                We (as a software devs) went through this in 1996 when a court case was lost by someone such as yourself. Within a week everyone where I was working was required to sign an addendum to our Employment Contract stating that any and all IP we created while at work belonged to the company, and not to us.

                There was one incident where they tried (unsuccessfully) to claim code that was created by a very skilled dev outside of work hours as "theirs" - but they soon realised that they were not going to win that one.

                • +6 votes

                  @harrywwc:

                  There was one incident where they tried (unsuccessfully) to claim code that was created by a very skilled dev outside of work hours as "theirs"..

                  Pied piper?

                • +2 votes

                  @harrywwc: I'm myself a Software developer. Yes, if I don't sign a contract with a client that explicitly gives them the IP of the app I built then under Australian law the code belongs to me by default because I wrote the code. But tell me how many people get paid work done without signing any sort of contract? Just to open a business, you generally need to have some sort of contract that you make your clients sign because if you don't you'll easily find yourself in legal battles. Even if I worked as a freelancer and a client found me via freelancer.com I still would agree to rules set by freelancer.com, in which case they would protect the IP from being abused. Nowadays we agree to contracts with every single technology we use including OzBargain and its forums.

            • +3 votes

              @sghetti: If I spent money employing a developer to build a game for me, I probably would be interested in the source yes.

              This isn't "I bought a house based upon your design, give me the original design files" - it's "I employed you for xxx time to design this for me".

              I realise that isn't how it works for house design though. And the levels of design input from the architect/house designer varies significantly, and we can't quantify that in any way from OPs post.

              If OP wanted the source files, that requirement needed to be in (a/the) contract. Likely this may have made the costs higher or meant some architects wouldn't want to do the work. At least everyone would have been clear on what they were and weren't getting.

              • +3 votes

                @Gareth: Oh without a doubt, don't disagree with that at all. My point is that you can't expect that by default. That's just not how it works, if you wanted that, it needed to be known upfront.

                For all this architect knows, you could run off with this design for a friend and they go and get someone to build it again. Again, if you paid for that upfront, no issues.

                I deal with it at work all the time with vendors.

              •  

                @Gareth: Ya'll are conflating employees and contractors. The difference is LARGE.

          •  

            @dono2: They did provide it.

      • +15 votes

        they can print the design to paper and supply them and they've supplied the design. If the raw digital design files weren't in the original contract for supply, you're a bit out of luck.

        If you didn't request it initially, coming back 5 years later and asking for them as if they havent fulfilled the original contract seems unlikely.

        offer to either pay them for their time if they offer, get the new guys to convert from the current drawings to CAD or hire a free lance in India to do it for like 50-100 bucks a page (we do this often for old printed electrical drawings at work)

        • +1 vote

          This sounds like a great idea, where do i search?

          • +7 votes

            @Will Mcdonald: Freelancer.com - which the global downturn plenty of takers

            •  

              @thatonethere: Is there a way to specifically look for people overseas so it’s a lot cheaper?

              • +7 votes

                @Prince K: You don't need to filter, the majority of freelancers are from India and a handful of other countries. When you post your job, the applications will roll in.

                You will, however, need to spend time vetting candidates. Most will give you a terrible copy+paste pitch - so just look out for the posts that actually answer the questions you have and any requirements you possess. Might be worth asking candidates to write a silly word, like "noodles" in your post to confirm they have actually read and comprehend your task.

            • +4 votes

              @thatonethere: I second this. Have done this before. If you have the printed drawings / designs - you can provide to someone on one of these platforms and get it made for quite cheap.

              fiverr.com
              upwork.com
              freelancer.com

              all good options above. Fiverr probably the cheapest (but you get what you pay for).

              • +1 vote

                @ozBFM: I used fiverr with great success. Found some architect students convert my original plans plus my proposed plan (from my drawing) into cad at about 100 bucks

          • +1 vote

            @Will Mcdonald: or AirTasker , plenty of drafters over there.

        • +1 vote

          For architectural drawings, it is not that straight forward. Indians do not understand Australian standards. Apparently, things change with pen thickness. I found out the hard way, when I paid for someone in India to do the job, but their work was not usable because they did not understand pen thickness changed the wall thickness. The draught person needs to be aware of the Australian building regulations to understand the material, dimensions etc in the drawings.

      •  

        If you have the pdf files you can import them into Autocad and stitch together the layout. This will only work if the files are in the correct format but worth a shot.
        From here anyone with reasonable cad experience could pretty easily put it together

        Best of luck

      • -9 votes

        It's my house design

        Karen,

        Do you also demand the chef for the exact recipe for every dish in the buffet, because "IT'S MY FOOD AND I PAID FOR IT BLAH BLAH"?!

        The design was given to you as drawings. Unless you provided the architecture firm with the CAD designs yourself, and then they improved upon those, you have absolutely no right to lay claim on their intellectual properties. The only exception is where you've made an explicit written contract with the architecture firm.

        •  

          I actually thought this was the most helpful analogy yet. Don't know why it's negged.

          If you pay a chef to make you a dish, you don't automatically get the recipe.

          But.. the builder should be fine with whatever you've got.. they don't need the cad. Drawings are fine.

          •  

            @Niko123456: Because it's an awful analogy…

            The correct food based analogy is hiring a chef to design a bespoke dish for your personal chef to make for you. The architect isn't building the house.

            Which doesn't even work because that would require the recipe to be given to you anyway.

            •  

              @callum9999: Exactly @callum9999,

              The chef providing you a meal is a poor analogy

              In a restaurant, you pick a non bespoke item from a list which they provide identically in large quantities to others

              The better analogy, as you suggest, would be if you asked chef to design you a special custom dish, that you could potentially the take to any other restaurant to have custom made for you. In that scenario it would be ridiculous if they didn’t provide you with the recipe but instead only provided to with their drawing of what the dish should look like.

      • +10 votes

        Actually, what are you doing on OZB whilst you have the $$ to hire an architect and create a bespoke house design?

        • +6 votes

          Ahem, being on OZB is precisely how they could afford it.

          • +4 votes

            @iDroid: Pfft.

            There's sure to be a free Udemy course on achitecture artytechire house stuff at any moment now.

            How hard is it anyway, even preschoolers can draw houses. And in colour too.

            •  

              @D C: Apparently all you need is ms paint.
              So really all of us at OzB are actually architecturists house drawing experts.

        • +4 votes

          Most "bargains" on OzBargain just encourage you to spend more, buy more, but feel like you're getting your money's worth out of it. It's an established part of the capitalist system, appeals to a psychological market niche. Most deals here, you gotta spend money to save money, and way beyond my limited means. If you feel a $2000 laptop is a bargain, no matter what it cost originally, you're doing extremely well. It is what it is. This guy hired an architect and he really wants his money's worth out of them.

        •  

          Because money is better in ones pocket than someone elses?

      • +4 votes

        You paid to get the drawing, not the source code. Ask ea or ubisoft to gives you their game source code then

        • +14 votes

          If I paid a game designer to design a game for me, I'd expect to own the source code.

          • +1 vote

            @Yawhae: If that's the agreement and contract, sure. Many games and apps are published by the developer on behalf of companies. They contract to get an app written & published but don't own the code themselves.

            • +5 votes

              @Hybroid: These are two different things. Are you buying plans for a house (buying a game) or are you paying for a house to be designed (paying to have a game designed).

              Those are two very different things, and if I paid someone to design something to my specification I'd expect the code behind it.

              • +1 vote

                @Yawhae: Your analogy doesn't quite work as 'buying a game' doesn't mean you own it either. You get a 'license' to play it only. Just like OP got a 'license' to build his house.

                At the end of the day, it all comes down to the contract agreement of which there isn't a formal one. There's certainly a premium to be paid if you asked for someone to design you a house and get to keep the CAD files.

                • -3 votes

                  @Hybroid: Regardless of if you get a licence or not is not a factor in the difference between buying a game and paying for one to be designed.

                  Its like saying you don't own the materials that make up your house because it was built with the knowledge and skills of the trades that built it. You just have a licence to live in the house…

                  This is how ridiculous IP and copyright law is.

              • +1 vote

                @Yawhae: When you get a contractor, if you didn't put it in the contract, they own the IP in most jurisdictions.

                So you may expect it, but that doesn't count for much. Just ask Karen.

          •  

            @Yawhae: Why would a game designer give you game source code?

      • +1 vote

        I agree with you, seems sort of silly that by default the IP remains with the architect, if it's a fully custom commission, i.e. not based off a standard design provided by them. And even if it is, the unique parts / modifications IP portion ought to belong to the client. I would surely stipulate that IP belongs to me if I'm ever paying an architect to draw me something.

      • +1 vote

        The local council must have a copy

      • +3 votes

        I am going to stick my neck out and say, this is very harsh for the OzBargain community to give 74 negative votes on something which is very commonly misunderstood, unless of course I don't see the point which others saw.

        I learned from my personal experience. No one said that they will not give their CAD files, which I am fine with. But then no one tells you that you will not be able to do much unless you have the CAD/DWG files. My issue is not that the professionals are wanting to protect their work. My issue is, the industry knows that they are dealing with people who are not aware of these issues, and they do have an obligation to make their customers reasonable aware. It is not like everyday people build houses for themselves.

        My original architectural firm gave me a licence in perpetuity to use his drawing to build and use my house and he and gave up any further rights to the drawnings he made for me. I was surprised that he was very open to do that. Then, I had to pay another architect firm to covert the original drawings into dwg to then make the working drawings. The change was required due to the builder comfortable in working with their own team.

    • +7 votes

      Add to that there could be IP embedded in the CAD files. Blocks, linetypes, other workflow information that gives you a competitive advantage.

      Source: Designer and PM for 20 years.

    • +3 votes

      I'm working on guidelines with local and state government currently to make 3D model/CAD file delivery mandatory for major development's. Soon architects and building designers will need to hand over the files to be granted permits and occupancy certificates in our local council and other councils will be following suit soon after (if they haven't already). Allowing the government access to them is a little different to handing then to a client for home renovations, but something to be aware of if you are an architect working on large scale developments (anything 4 storeys and above). I've requested them to maintain our digital twins and get the same schpeel from architect's all the time which is part of the reason local and state govt is pushing for changes

  • +10 votes

    Was it in your contract to have those provided? If not, pony up.

    • -1 vote

      No contract, just a quote

      • +10 votes

        Hi Will. Unfortunately this is worse for you. Copyright subsists in the author (i.e. architect) by default. Assignment of copyright can only be evidenced in writing.

  • +2 votes

    ^ plus the architect probably wants $.
    If architect is still not giving you the files even after offering $, they probably lost it.

    •  

      That's what i believe, the actual builder of the designs found a lot of mistakes in the original architectural design and made her remedy them. Don't think i would give her the business again considering that aspect of getting the designs.

      • +6 votes

        hahaha no

        A builder is not an Architect and an Architect is not a builder…

        You seem to be blindly looking for ways to get angry at the Architect for your own failings and lack of knowledge

        A builder almost always make changes to the original design

      • +1 vote

        This being said, do you even want these drawings if there are so many mistakes? It's quite dangerous not mention lazy not remeasure and recheck another designer's drawings. Are you sure your designer was an actual registered architect not a draftsperson?

  • +4 votes

    Cad files contain more than just the drawing elements, they contain a lot of an architect's IP. As such its uncommon for an architect to simply hand over this data unless agreed prior, by inclusion in their contract for engagement.

    Further, the design and work to produce the design is copyright to the architect. As the proponent, you merely have an implied license to use the commissioned design for its intended purpose.

    Is it worth discussing the new project with the architect? If you don't hire them for the full services, they may be able to help with the drafting or some other aspect of the project.

    If you just want the cad files they are well within their rights to charge a licensing fee.

    •  

      We had no contract, just a quote for a job based upon a list of requirements, bathrooms, room specifics, kitchen design etc.

      • +11 votes

        Sadly this is very common.. In the absence of a contract you've really got no recourse to demand they hand over anything..

        I'd suggest just asking them nicely how much it might cost to get something you can work from. Then you can decide if its worth it vs surveying the house.

        For future reference, the AIA publish a standard form client-architect agreement that you can/should use for any future engagements that will cover off all the essentials. Adding delivery of cad files as a special condition is always an option through that document.

  • +3 votes

    We get this all the time from designers, I don't agree, particularly when it is a custom job that will most likely never be replicated, but they are right. If you didn't clarify it in the quote it is their intellectual property. However what do you need this for? If it is a house most of the information can be obtained from your PDF version of the drawings and likewise any specific information can be gathered rather inexpensively from a site survey or site inspection, it seems like overkill. The easiest way to understand this would be a volume builder and their package home designs. It's your house but their design, so you cannot claim this.

    •  

      The house is two levels and some of the internal walls are brick, while others are not. We could manually re-measure everything, but its just a waste of time. Considering the architect has a copy of the design of our home, she will never own the actual property and we plan on making changes to her design to improve our quality of living. A can't see the benefit of her keeping our home design, i understand she put her intellectual property in designing our idea but the idea and home will always be ours.

      • +32 votes

        i would just re measure it and draw it again. and experienced person will take no more than a day to do that

        just because its drawn a certain way doesn't mean it got built that way. the drawing may say a length of wall is 3500mm long but in actual fact be 3400mm or 3450mm.
        builders don't build exactly straight either. if you planning on renovating, i would just remeasure it for peace of mind.

        • +1 vote

          This.

        •  

          This is the key point that makes all the arguments about whether or not the architect should or shouldn't had over the CAD files irrelevant.

          The drawings you really need are the "as-built" or "as-constructed" drawings.

          If reliable ones weren't produced as part of the house construction, then you need a site survey (measurements) instead.

  • +5 votes

    It's akin to you a client, asking me to write you an app based on your requirements… then coming back in 5 years to ask me for the code.

    • +5 votes

      It's worse. If you contract someone to write an app generally you'll have something saying that you own the source code / IP and therefore are probably entitled to it. Here, the contract was for a set of drawings, which were supplied as PDFs. The native design files are fully out of scope

    • +1 vote

      Or asking a professional photographer for the image files

      • +5 votes

        I have learnt my lessons around this over 20 years ago with a photographer. Now anything like this I demand up front that that RAW images/files/plans/CAD etc are all turned over to me at the end of the engagement and are included in the price. don't like it then I take my business elsewhere.

    • +1 vote

      To which my reply would be "yeah it's still on the github page, here's the link again"…

    • -7 votes

      One of the guys pointed it out, but she doesn't own the CAD software therefore none of her work is recognised as her own because of the actual proprietary owner of the CAD software.

      • +1 vote

        Crap!

        I had toast for breakfast today and then went to work! Now I’m going to have to pay vegemite a licence fee because I used their product in order to make a living!

      •  

        I'm gonna throw it out there that CAD would never get a single client if they licenced their software in such a way. Usually if you use a piece of software for monetary gain you pay the software company either a subscription or initial purchase.

      •  

        If you retaining the code was part of our user agreement than you would be more than welcome to it.

      • +1 vote

        Haha is that a joke? So any book written in Microsoft Word is the property of Microsoft?
        Houses built with a dewalt drill the property of dewalt??

    • +1 vote

      If it's a .pdf set of drawings, it should be okay for them to provide - since you'd normally get a copy back then and it's much harder to recreate (to that quality). It's understandable with CAD files however, as it's very easy to modify and plagiarise.

      I'm not understanding how the architect can claim it's their personal property.

      As said by foolsgold above;
      "You are in effect buying a licence to use their drawings to construct what ever was commissioned. You are not purchasing their copyright, their source files etc."

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