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We must fight to preserve the level of architects’ fees

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Research by the Fees Bureau has revealed that hourly rates by sole principals, and the architects’ fees index, have both fallen for the first time in a decade, says Christine Murray

We might have expected the dismal result given the recent reports of fee undercutting, but it is still a shock to read that in real terms, adjusted for inflation, fees are actually lower today than they were 10 years ago.

According to the breakdown by sector, only fees for private housing have continued to grow, while commercial and public fees have fallen back significantly. The results are proof positive that the worth of architects has been eroded by the suicidal bids and low-ball fees that have surfaced in the profession during the past year.

The drop is likely due to supply-and-demand, as architects compete for a dwindling list of clients. But low bids for work are a false economy – good design work comes at a price – and the value of the profession must be preserved at all costs to ensure design quality and business integrity is maintained. A drop in the hourly rate threatens the viability of every architectural business. And when fees go down, it is very hard to get them up again; once a client believes architecture is worth less, it is very difficult to convince them to pay more.

The AJ is passionate about fighting to preserve architects’ fees. Over the coming months, we are planning a number of initiatives to defend the profession on this front. We have our own ideas about how to influence the fees clients are willing to pay, but we would love to hear your most innovative ideas. Please write directly to me at christine.murray@emap.com. What, in your opinion, can the AJ do to help? How can we convince your clients to pay more?

The Fees Bureau fee survey results

The Fees Bureau fee survey results

LDA and DfL cuts

The London Development Agency, and consequently Design for London (DfL), are the latest victims of a devastating budget cut. It is worrying that design agencies and review panels are seen as expendable, as this reinforces the stereotype that design itself is superfluous and profligate.

The greatest irony is that DfL is a model organisation for the delivery of the coalition government’s localism agenda. DfL is currently working with 30 localities in 16 of London’s boroughs on place shaping, and with every borough on public spaces and infrastructure. In advising boroughs, they are an important fixer for architects, particularly small practices, helping them to win work.

It’s all very well to devolve power to local government, but many of these organisations simply don’t know where to start when it comes to public space.  DfL is not a bloated organisation; the agency is small, talented, and an economical way of providing expertise to the boroughs.

The promise of localism and a new planning paradigm may be good for architects, but without bodies such as CABE and DfL, who will preserve architects’ interests while ensuring the safe delivery of the Big Society?

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