I am one of the many sole practictitioners that I understand now make up a large percentage of the riba membership. Getting work has never been easy, but over the years I have gradually made myself known to the South East Region branch of the riba and, having paid my subs to be included in the list of architects in the Clients Advisory Service, find that when a potential client contacts the branch to ask to be put in touch with a suitable architect, they are from time to time given my name along with others. I then have a chance to make my bid for the work. This is in fact crucial to my survival.
I have however recently heard that moves are afoot to do away with the regional cas in favour of a centralised web site.
Whereas I am sure this will be a powerful way of getting a name across in future years, especially if you have a sizeable firm, it is not the same as the direct personal 'networking' that has been built up over the years. Even if this is now seen to be in decline, I would challenge anyone to show that it does not continue to prove to be a successful way of putting clients and architects together.
For instance, the 'girls' at the riba in Tunbridge Wells who beaver away on our behalf, take calls from prospective clients and, after reassuring them that architects are quite normal professionals who are happy to talk over their problems and are not going to charge unreasonable fees, put forward names of architects from their list. If they detect that the client is of the 'hard-nosed' variety, they give names of suitable architects with a degree of 'street cred' or, if they sound unduly worried with their problem, they find others who are more likely to give them 'a cuddle'.
I do not see how a web site could offer this type of service and, were the cas to be withdrawn, I find myself asking whether in fact the riba would retain anything that remained of use to me as a sole practitioner. I could in fact remain an architect with arb without continuing as an riba member, thereby saving my riba fees.
I do, however, think that, whatever happens, the cas will remain something that fulfils a client's needs in future years, and do doubt there will be someone who sets up a replacement service.
I do understand that the riba is currently into modernising the way it operates and I see that making cuts has become a 'creative' activity and can be thus praised for the resultant savings, but there will become a point when persons like myself say 'enough is enough' and elect to pay our allegiances only to arb.
Any other views on this before a final decision is taken?
Tunbridge Wells, Kent