Architects want to complain about their income. When times were good, we imagined ourselves hard done by compared to other professions. These days, when every trade and profession is suffering, we’re no longer the solo performer but just another voice in the choir, despairing at reducing fees and vanishing jobs. The older Architects whom I understand personally, get all misty eyed once they speak about a supposed golden age of constant commissions and high fees. The changing times they refer to would be the post-war decades prior to the 1980’s. During this time period, they tell me that Architects (and other professionals) best fee earner was the Mandatory Fee-Scale.
Fee-Scales are lists, used by professional bodies, that describe just how much each member of that body must charge for certain type of job. Like, all dentists agreeing to charge £50 to eliminate a tooth, no dentist is permitted to charge anymore or any less. Thus giving the customer cost certainty, you understand just how much you will be charged and you understand every dentist will charge the same, so you visit the dentist you prefer probably the most (or dislike the least). The exact same was true for Boca Raton architects, all of us decided to charge the same rate for the same work, there was no competition.
, all of us decided to charge the same rate for the same work, there was no competition.
Many Architects blame Margaret Thatcher for abolishing mandatory fee scales but in fact it began in 1977, before she arrived to power, the Monopolies and Mergers Commission started the method, not the Tories. The Office of Fair Trading stuck the boot in around 1986, ruling that Mandatory Fee Scales were anti-competitive. But even before that, in 1982, the RIBA changed the Mandatory Fee Scales to Recommended Fee Scales. It absolutely was around this time around that the Architecture profession began what economists call, a battle to the bottom. We began undercutting each other to win work. Whereas before, a customer chose an Architect based only on the reputation and the caliber of their work, now they can choose on the basis of the cost of the service as well. Only in many cases they do not, they choose on the basis of the cost of the service and nothing else.
Since early 80’s there is a constant chorus of complaint from architects, that ever dwindling fees contributes to poorer buildings and more dis-satisfied clients. As a result, they say, has result in Architects losing their financial and social status. According to these disgruntled designers, the answer is to re-introduce Mandatory Fee Scales. Of course this really is illegal under UK and EU law, it is a dead end. For a profession famed for the creativity, this process shows an extraordinary lack of lateral thinking.
So what can we do to improve our income while also giving the customer the main benefit of choice? I declare that each practise should clearly publish their Architects Fees for standard items of work.
Whether its the hourly rate charged for every single member of staff or the fee for every single type of service. This may give people a clear notion of just how much they’ll be charged and it will let others within the profession know where their fees fit in relation to other Architects. At present, the key way for an Architect to gauge just how much to charge is to consult the Mirza and Nacey fees guides. This publication surveys Architects throughout the UK and publishes the going rate for some main types of work; residential, commercial, education, healthcare etc. It lists the fees charged on sliding scale with the construction costs, the more expensive the build the larger the architects fee. The key report for this year costs £195. It is commonly bought by Architects and is not something the average consumer will purchase.
I publish my fees on my website, I state my hourly rate and I list the fees I charge for a Full Appointment and a Limited Appointment. I’ve had a combined a reaction to doing this, mixed because clients like it and other Architects are resistant. Discussing fees remains something of a taboo among the profession and just how much each firm costs for its work is, In my experience, a carefully guarded secret, even from their own staff. The present state of affairs does not fully protect the customer, because it was supposed to. The ordinary consumer does not need easy and convenient access to fee information and, In my experience again, most ordinary individuals have a greatly inflated notion of the fees charged by way of a typical architect. Lots of my clients are surprised and delighted at the level of service they receive, in accordance with the fees I charge.