Architects like to complain about their income. When times were good, we imagined ourselves hard done by in comparison 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 know personally, get all misty eyed once they talk about a supposed golden age of constant commissions and high fees. The days they make reference to are 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, drawn up by professional bodies, that describe just how much each member of that body must charge for confirmed type of job. For instance, all dentists agreeing to charge £50 to remove a tooth, no dentist is permitted to charge any longer or any less. Thus giving the consumer cost certainty, you realize just how much you will be charged and you realize every dentist will charge the exact same, so you visit the dentist you like the most (or dislike the least). The exact same was true for top Boca Raton architects, we all decided 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 came into power, the Monopolies and Mergers Commission started the procedure, 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 now that the Architecture profession began what economists call, a competition to the bottom. We began undercutting one another to win work. Whereas before, a consumer chose an Architect based only on the reputation and the quality of their work, now they could choose based on the cost of the service as well. Only in many cases they do not, they choose based on the cost of the service and nothing else.
Since the first 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. Therefore, they say, has result in Architects losing their financial and social status. Based on these disgruntled designers, the perfect solution is is to re-introduce Mandatory Fee Scales. Obviously this is illegal under UK and EU law, it’s a dead end. For a profession famed for the creativity, this method shows an amazing lack of lateral thinking.
So exactly what do we do to boost our income while also giving the consumer the 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 person in staff or the fee for every type of service. This may give the public a definite notion of just how much they will be charged and it will let others within the profession know where their fees fit in relation to other Architects. At present, the key method for an Architect to gauge just how much to charge is to consult the Mirza and Nacey fees guides. This publication surveys Architects over the UK and publishes the going rate for many main types of work; residential, commercial, education, healthcare etc. It lists the fees charged on sliding scale with the construction costs, the more costly the build the larger the architects fee. The main report for in 2010 costs £195. It tends to be bought by Architects and is not at all something the common 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 achieving this, mixed because clients love it and almost every other Architects are resistant. Discussing fees continues to be something of a taboo on the list of profession and just how much each firm charges for its work is, Within my experience, a closely guarded secret, even from their particular staff. The existing state of affairs does not fully protect the consumer, since it was supposed to. The standard consumer does not have easy and convenient use of fee information and, Within my experience again, most ordinary folks have a greatly inflated notion of the fees charged by a typical architect. Lots of my clients are surprised and delighted at the level of service they receive, relative to the fees I charge.