On reading Ed Dorrell's report on the Office of Fair Trading forcing the RIBA to shelve its Recommended Fees Guidance (AJ 4.12.03), I recalled a conversation that I had with someone at the RIBA practice department a year or two ago.
When faced with yet another lost fee tender by a bid well under half the RIBA recommended level, I telephoned the RIBA to see if it had a view on this. I was told that the majority of the complaints it receives from architects are that the fee scale is 'too low'. I asked whether that meant that practices are charging above the fee scale and after a reply in the positive, I enquired as to which planet these architects inhabit. Is this just the London factor?
Most of our work is in the public sector and the level of fee we are operating at within this sector has been well below the RIBA recommended level for many years. We pride ourselves on our consistent endeavour to provide a high-quality professional service to our clients, and as a result our profit margins become very tight or worse.
The evidence of our experience seems now to be confirmed by the RIBA's market research, putting the previous advice received in some doubt, wouldn't you say?
Is it not about time that the RIBA began a real and concerted campaign to educate clients and architects about the value of what we do. We find it hard to see how such a standard of service can be delivered at rates of less that 50 per cent of the old scales and, frankly, neither architect nor client can really benefit in the long term from this approach.
As for hourly rates, don't make me laugh. A competitive bid process on hourly rates a year or so ago resulted in winning bids of between £35 and £40 an hour. I read in another journal a complaint that the new system would result in an inability to charge more than £70 an hour. Well, £70 an hour would do me nicely, thank you.
Alan Wilkinson, RIBA WPP Architects, Suffolk