Proper fee levels and a stable profession are among the most important interrelated issues facing architects today. Without one you can't get the other. Practices must be able to charge reasonable fees so that they are stable and viable. Only then will we be able to offer staff reasonable salaries, benefits and a work/life balance that other professions can afford. Cut-price fees are draining the profession of its lifeblood; how can we have any chance of delivering our services and looking after our staff if the profession is slowly going bust?
Independent researcher Plimsoll has released figures indicating that 18 per cent of practices will be unable to meet next year's average salary increase of 6 per cent. A total of 156 companies are 'displaying symptoms of company failure' and 87 are now in financial danger.
So what can practices do about this? We must stop charging ludicrously low fees. Assael often comes last in 'fee tendering' as many practices are prepared to work for 30 per cent of the fees indicated in the RIBA's guidance on fees. I'm sceptical that these practices are model employers looking after their staff and students, properly sustained by a stable financial structure.
Standard 2 in the ARB Code of Conduct states that: 'Architects should only undertake professional work for which they are able to provide. . . financial. . . resources.' Even Guidance Note 2 in the RIBA's Code of Professional Conduct acknowledges the need for the appropriate 'resources to meet the requirements of the work for which [practices] are bidding'.
Perhaps the ARB and the RIBA should consider dealing with complaints from members like me against architects who are clearly breaking the code. Without proper fees we can't deliver architecture or look after our staff. Time to act.
John Assael, Assael Architecture