Architecture and interior design fees are always something that you readers here at The Midnight Lunch seem to enjoy – and recently I’ve been reading some great stuff about architectural fees written by other people which I thought worth talking about and sharing with you – and then you can share it with all of your friends. (Also check out previous The Midnight Lunch reader favourite The art (or is that science) of architecture and interior design fees)
Whilst we may get together and grumble about fees amongst colleagues and our friends working for competitors, how often is it that an architect speaks out more publicly about fees – to both the client organisation and to the competing architectural community – not very often in my experience. The way architectural fees are going, maybe it is something we need to see more of if we are all to actually stay in business and earn a living. Whilst many firms thought they could cost cut during bad times and raise the fees again later this has not been the reality. I’d say fees now in 2014 are comparable to 2004 – and I know that nothing else is.
Recently, this wonderful email written by Stephen Malone of MCA Architects was forwarded onto me (and I thank Stephen for allowing me to share it with all of you). I’ve removed the name of the client and some other identifying references related to them, but you will certainly get the idea. I’ve also highlighted in bold a section which I think is particular of interest.
Madness, isn’t it. We are driving our own profession into decline, by the practice – which if we were selling goods – would be known as dumping, and in many jurisdictions would be illegal! (See a discussion of ‘dumping’ in the comments in this post on Entrepreneur Architect) But here in Australia, many government clients (at all levels) are positively encouraging it – to the detriment of those now and in the future that occupy the buildings and spaces procured this way.
So how can we encourage our clients that this process of selecting the cheapest will not result in value for money? We all have to educate them, and we all have to resist the urge to undercut our competitors. For a great blog post explaining in simple terms why architects charge different levels of fees, check out this post from Di Mase Architects – perhaps this should be essential reading for all clients.
At the end of the day, we all need to also remember that fees = salaries. Do you want to be working for free? Recently spotted on Twitter – “It’s amazing how creative you can be when your have interns working for free” (Tweeted by the great parody account @RoyalAusINSArch). This one is certainly pretty close to the truth in a lot of practices – but its not just the interns working for free. If you look at the latest DIA salary survey, design salaries are at minimum wage levels or less, and I have seen UK surveys that have indicated architects salaries are static.
I applaud Stephen for his stand, and for communicating such a well considered email, as well as the fact that he sent it both to the client and to the other architects working with this client. Its interesting to me that back in the 70’s price fixing for architecture was removed as a consumer protection – but now we are in a situation where we as architects and designers seem to be needing protection from the consumers, and that the consumers seem to need protection from themselves – as Stephen points out, you don’t get great architecture for free.
PS. Come and see me at RTC Melbourne where I am presenting “Get your Groupon” at 2.30pm on Saturday 31 May. Soon after I’m off to the USA where my alter ego Stuart (the girl) BIMimion is presenting as part of BIMx at RTC Chicago. Follow the BIMinions on twitter throughout both RTCs – @BIMinions.