Architects like to complain about their income. When times were good, we imagined ourselves hard done by compared to other professions. Nowadays, when every trade and profession is suffering, we are no longer the solo performer but yet 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 talk about a supposed golden age of endless commissions and high fees. The times they refer to will be the post-war decades leading up to the 1980’s. During this 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 this body must charge for confirmed kind of job. For instance, all dentists agreeing to charge £50 to eliminate a tooth, no dentist is allowed to charge anymore or any less. This gives the buyer cost certainty, you realize simply how much you will undoubtedly be charged and you realize every dentist will charge exactly the same, so you visit the dentist you like probably the most (or dislike the least). Exactly the same was true for Architects, we all decided to charge exactly the same rate for exactly the same work, there was no competition.
Many Architects blame Margaret Thatcher for abolishing mandatory fee scales however 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 competition to the bottom. We began undercutting one another to win work. Whereas before, a client chose an Architect based only on their reputation and the grade of their work, now they are able to choose based on the cost of the service as well. Only in many cases they don’t really, 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 results in poorer buildings and more dis-satisfied clients. Therefore, they say, has result in Architects losing their financial and social status. According to these disgruntled designers, the solution is always to re-introduce Mandatory Fee Scales. Of course that is illegal under UK and EU law, it’s a dead end. For a profession famed because of its creativity, this method shows an extraordinary not enough lateral thinking.
So so what can we do to enhance our income while also giving the buyer the 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 single person in staff or the fee for every single kind of service. This may give the general public an obvious notion of simply how much they will be charged and it will let others within the profession know where their fees fit in terms of other Architects. At present, the key way for an Architect to gauge simply how much to charge is always to consult the Mirza and Nacey fees guides. This publication surveys top Boca Raton architects across the UK and publishes the going rate for most main forms of work; residential, commercial, education, healthcare etc. It lists the fees charged on sliding scale with the construction costs, the higher priced the build the larger the architects fee. The main report for this year costs £195. It is commonly bought by Architects and is not 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 reaction to achieving this, mixed in that clients love it and 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, In my experience, a carefully guarded secret, even from their own staff. The present state of affairs doesn’t fully protect the buyer, because it was supposed to. The normal consumer does not need easy and convenient use of fee information and, In my experience again, most ordinary folks have a significantly inflated notion of the fees charged by way of a typical architect. Many of my clients are surprised and delighted at the degree of service they receive, relative to the fees I charge.