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Deborah Saunt: ‘Never use a fee scale for small projects’

DSDHA’s Deborah Saunt and Ben Addy of Moxon shared advice on charging clients for their services at the launch of the annual AJ Small Projects award

Stirling Prize-shortlisted Saunt recommended architects avoid using fee scales and said she always charged architects a ‘retainer’ before carrying out work. She also said it was best to invoice for £2,500 at a time.

Addy said he charged clients a ‘lump sum’ fee upfront for RIBA stages A to C combined.

Their comments were made during an AJ Small Projects panel event at the Building Centre in London last night (26 October).

Saunt explained how a series of ‘intensely stimulating’ small projects kept her 13-year-old practice going in the early days and allowed the company to gain attention of larger clients.

She said: ‘Every project we do – even a loft conversion – has to be seen in the trajectory of the whole practice.’

She explained how the client for a loft conversion project in south London encouraged her to compete to design a local school.

The practice failed to win the job, but landed another education scheme nearby for local authority Lambeth Council which allowed them to break into the sector. The company’s Christ’s College school in Guildford was shortlisted for the Stirling Prize last year.

She also said early press coverage of DSDHA’s Paradise Park Childrens Centre helped the studio gain recognition with clients and win further projects in Soho and Mayfair.

The practice’s triangle-shaped tower for in Stratford, east London, will be the tallest building in the Olympic Athletes’ Village when complete.

‘Working hard at the small scale can lead to rewarding larger scales,’ she said.

Addy explained how landing a place on the 2007 AJ Small Projects shortlist for his Cairngorms National Park footbridge helped Moxon establish itself as a specialist bridge design outfit.

He said: ‘You shouldn’t turn down projects that might otherwise seem to be quite humble.’

‘An engineer saw I was doing this work off my own back and invited me to work with him on a competition for a £1.8 million road bridge in Taunton.’

He added: ‘You can actually bankroll the practice off the back of these serious competitions where you get paid to enter.

‘Having the AJ article in our favour was instrumental.’

All shortlisted entries to the AJ Small Projects Awards are printed in the magazine and will feature in an exhibition at the Building Centre in London.

The awards are run in association with Marley Eternit and are open to unpublished projects with a total contract of £250,000 or under.


Entries will be submitted online via the AJ Buildings Library interface. The entry cost is £50 + VAT and the deadline for entries is 18 November. Please contact Tom Ravenscroft on or 0207 728 4644 for your unique AJBL log in, which you can use to submit your project



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