This links in with a lot of the recent threads on this forum, so here's one more. The naked architect , a small South African archiblog, talks about the perils of fee discounting. The guy (or gal) was dismayed to find a flyer in his letterbox, presumably from an architect, touting "house plans at reduced prices". His main two beefs were that it is an insult to equate an architects' services with, "someone who draws up plans", and that they would dare to pubically undercut other architects. He notes,
"These reductionists are perhaps more hazardous than we think. They have websites with comparisons of normal architectural fees juxtaposed with their reduced fees. The fees are so low that one cannot even buy a roll of paper for a plotter with this sum."
This is something I haven't seen yet in Australia, except for some building designers' website discussed on this web forum in a foul thread from 2004 that has been closed as was causing me grief: butterpaper forum June 2004 . Oh dear I just read it again, have to relax for a moment with a cup of tea...
The difference between drawing up plans, and what an architect does, seems to be very difficult for many punters to understand or tolerate. The thread about the Essential Baby forum is a case in point. The Difference is difficult for us to sell as it is intangible and varies with the project. Magazine and awards coverage usually doesn't help as it focusses on high end work that can make the "difference" look like a fashionable exatravagance.
Rather than define how an architect is different from a building designer, which other posts in this forum discuss, I thought I'd look at methods various architects are using to reduce their core services and core fees to get work, keep work, and stay in business :
Removing profit. Deliberately make a loss, buy the job for the turnover, profiles, and contacts it may give you. Big firms are notorious for doing this on houses. New practices do this by restricting their diets to potatoes.
Removing CD and CA. Reducing scope to the front end "valued added" part of the service - ie sketch design only.
Removing customisation. Selling ready-made plans (refer recent blog post).
Strictly limiting scope. Avoiding scope drift and lowering initial fee by charging extra for many things previously included in the service. (e.g. visits to client, phonecalls, measure ups, kitchens, joinery...)
Keeping quiet when the cost of work increases. Not charging adjustments to previous % fees when project estimates rise.
Removing work from CD. The requirements of Contract documentation grow but the fees don't follow. Some push the detailed end of documentation into Contract admin, which can be charged on an hourly basis. Some just don't do the details.
Removing planning from DD. Almost goes without saying these days, but it still sits there under Developed Design in the RAIA Client Architect agreement. This is usually now an extra service outside the core fee due to increased complexity and uncertainty.
Outsourcing CD. Renowned architectural practices often outsource the doumentation stage to specialised drafties on a fixed fee.
Outsourcing olden day core services. Insisting on external consultants for simple structural designs or cost estimates or land surveys.
Doing less design. Rather than doing what you think is required, stop when the fee clock stops ticking.
Design and construct. The architect's fee is swallowed into the building cost.
Refusing subconsultants. Making the client employ them all directly, lowering risks and responsibilities.
Charging disbursements with a multiplier. Rather than charging everything at cost, a multiplier of 10 to 15% can often be justified due to the handling and financial costs to an office.