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Speculative work ‘endemic’ to the profession

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Architects are reporting an ‘endemic’ rise in speculative, developer-led bids that see practices work for free with payment conditional on the winning of planning approval

Iain Johnston of Bisset Adams said more architects were likely to ‘get their fingers burned’ by risk sharing, effectively working for free or at ‘cost price’.

‘People who were not willing to do speculative work three years ago are now doing it. The risk is this will be the norm when the good times start again,’ he said.

Jo Wright, managing director of AJ100 practice Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, believes risk sharing is a commercial reality. She said: ‘People will take advantage – you need to play hard ball in the same way that a developer would.’

Alan Dunlop of Alan Dunlop Architects blamed the custom for placing an ‘unfair burden of risk’ on architects. He said architects were ‘cutting each others’ throats’ for speculative commercial developments which have ‘no hope of being built in the near future’.

RIBA Professional Services executive director Richard Brindley said the institute did not condone risk sharing, but added: ‘It’s a commercial decision. Do make sure it’s a very clear contract and it if does get planning, you get more of a fee to cover the ones that don’t.’

Liz Peace, chief executive of the British Property Federation, said: ‘Individual contracts are a matter for the client and the architect. However, we would observe that market conditions are extremely tough and across all sectors businesses are looking to drive down costs where they can.’

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Readers' comments (1)

  • John Kellett

    Like many micro-practices, and others without a private income, I simply cannot afford to work for free, or even 'at cost'.
    To do so would mean hiring a student to work for free (which is illegal).
    Also, a fact conveniently ignored by 'clients', the risk is higher for architects than for developers since the developer's profit on successful projects is substantial, whereas that for architects is mediocre at best. I would happily take the risk if I had the developer role. Particularly if I could get all the hard work done for free :-)
    When will the profession wake up to reality? The only people who benefit from our working for free are the developers / clients, not us.

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