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Despite the RIBA guide, one size does not fit all

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I have just received from the RIBA the latest issue of A Client's Guide to Engaging an Architect, which in its new format is suggested for use on projects of all sizes.As the principal of a typical small/medium practice, I found the most tangible benefits provided by our RIBA membership were the Guides to Engaging an Architect: the Small Works (blue) version, the Larger Works (yellow) version and the Historic Buildings (Repairs and Conservation) (maroon) alternative, together with the various Standard Forms of Appointment.

While the wording of the new guide is straightforward, the interests of professional/corporate clients are very different from the typical 'one-off ' client whom we serve, together with the vast majority of registered architects and practices. Most of our work is to existing buildings and while the new works 'range of fees' diagram is still labelled 'Figure 1' in the guide (it is the only figure), the previous Figure 2 (Works to Existing Buildings) has disappeared entirely, and the increased levels of fees associated with work of this nature and with work on historic buildings is referred to only in small bullet points. The average fee line indicated is from Mirza and Nacy survey information covering the previous year.

The impression on most of our clients provided by the new booklet will be that our quoted rates for work on existing buildings are extraordinarily high.

In practice, I suspect that very little information on projects with a value range of £20,000 to £150,000 previously covered by the Small Works guide, or even up to £250,000, has been given to Mirza and Nacy.

Again, the time charge figures resulting from the Mirza and Nacy survey are vastly different from those previously reported in Figure 4 of the old booklet.

They make no allowance for regional variations and the various rates for different levels of complexity are again referred to in a small sub-paragraph.Are we really to believe that time charge rates for a partner, director or equivalent have fallen by 50 per cent and 257 per cent between 1999 and 2003?

I have written to the president of the RIBA and understand the difficulties in meeting the requirements of the Office of Fair Trading. However, I fear that the new 'one size fits all' version of the Client's Guide to Engaging an Architect will do my practice more harm than good. To add insult to injury, we will have to buy new guides each year if the average fee line system is to be kept up to date. What is the legal status of the suffix ARIBA Resigned, I wonder?

E T W Byrne, Tunbridge Wells

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