Architects love to complain about their income. When times were good, we imagined ourselves hard done by when compared with other professions. These days, when every trade and profession is suffering, we’re no further the solo performer but merely another voice in the choir, despairing at reducing fees and vanishing jobs. The older Architects whom I am aware personally, get all misty eyed if they discuss a supposed golden age of endless commissions and high fees. The occasions they make reference to would be the post-war decades leading up 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 simply how much each member of the body must charge for confirmed kind of job. For example, all dentists agreeing to charge £50 to remove a tooth, no dentist is allowed to charge anymore or any less. This provides the buyer cost certainty, you know simply how much you is likely to be charged and you know every dentist will charge the exact same, so you go to the dentist you like the most (or dislike the least). Exactly the same was true for Architects, most of us consented to charge the exact same rate for the exact 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 was around this time around that the Architecture profession began what economists call, a competition to the bottom. We began undercutting each other to win work. Whereas before, a customer chose an Architect based only on their reputation and the caliber of their work, now they are able to choose based on the cost of the service as well. Only oftentimes they don’t, they choose based on the cost of the service and nothing else.
Since early 80’s there has been a constant chorus of complaint from architects, that ever dwindling fees contributes to poorer buildings and more dis-satisfied clients. This in turn, they say, has result in Palm Beach architects losing their financial and social status. Based on these disgruntled designers, the answer would be to re-introduce Mandatory Fee Scales. Obviously this really is illegal under UK and EU law, it’s a dead end. For a profession famed for its creativity, this method shows an amazing insufficient lateral thinking.
So exactly what do we do to boost our income while also giving the buyer the main benefit of choice? I suggest that each practise should clearly publish their Architects Fees for standard items of work.
Whether its the hourly rate charged for every member of staff or the fee for every kind of service. This may give the public an obvious notion of simply how much they’ll be charged and it’ll let others within the profession know where their fees fit in terms of other Architects. At present, the key means for an Architect to gauge simply how much to charge would be to consult the Mirza and Nacey fees guides. This publication surveys Architects across the UK and publishes the going rate for some main kinds of work; residential, commercial, education, healthcare etc. It lists the fees charged on sliding scale with the construction costs, the higher priced the build greater the architects fee. The key report for this season costs £195. It is commonly bought by Architects and is not at all something the typical 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 mixed a reaction to doing this, mixed for the reason that clients like it and almost every other Architects are resistant. Discussing fees remains something of a taboo one of the profession and simply how much each firm costs for its work is, Within my experience, a closely guarded secret, even from their own staff. The current state of affairs doesn’t fully protect the buyer, since it was supposed to. The ordinary consumer does not need easy and convenient usage of fee information and, Within my experience again, most ordinary folks have a significantly inflated notion of the fees charged by way of a typical architect. A lot of my clients are surprised and delighted at the degree of service they receive, relative to the fees I charge.