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Friday25 July 2014

The RIBA must listen to members’ fee concerns

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Nearly two thirds of architects want the institute to bring back fee scales

Amanda Baillieu

Amanda Baillieu — editor in chief

The RIBA’s position on fees is simple: the best ones are those negotiated between the architect and the client. This is despite countless requests from its own membership to bring back fee scales — repeated again following a leading housing association’s decision to offer architects no fee at all.

A BD survey this week reveals nearly two-thirds of architects would like the RIBA to bring back fee scales — so clients like Sanctuary don’t walk all over them.

This, says the RIBA, is impossible.

It points to an EU Competition Directive which forbids all professional bodies to provide recommended — or even “indicative” — fee scales, which the RIBA abandoned in 2003.

But, as we know, Europe is full of directives which need challenging and it’s far from a level playing field. In the rest of Europe, architectural involvement on planning applications is compulsory. So why should the profession be punished twice?

Don’t forget that when the RIBA voted, all those years ago, to abandon mandatory fee scales, it was with a heavy heart. The new form of recom-mended fee scale it finally settled on was a compromise — described then as a “slow death”, rather than the suicide stakes architects find themselves in now.

What’s to be done? Nothing if you are the RIBA. But nothing is not good enough. There are too many architects chasing too few jobs and yet the RIBA has a vested interest in keeping numbers high.

Norman Foster, who in 1975 spoke in favour of abandoning mandatory fees, is the kind of architect the RIBA approves of: very successful, very tough and very talented. But what about the rest?

Liberalising clients from having to pay decent fees has made some architects extremely rich but has had devastating consequences. If fees can no longer be enforced, the RIBA must find another way to help the profession get properly paid.

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Readers' comments (4)

  • Low fees equal low profits, equal low salaries, equal low quality architects, equal poor service, equal low valued imput to the build process, equal low levels of influence with in the industry, equal poor image, equal reduced demand for the services offered, equal reducing work load, equal demise of the profession. What a change for the worse I have seen in the professions status since I qualified in 1975

    John King

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  • The relatively recent indicative fee scales were based on historic data which combined with the competitive realities of practice resulted in a downward ratchet on fees. Not helpful in the slightest.

    Fixed fee scales of the sort that existed prior to this are surely ethically dubious.

    Demand is key to the fee situation architects face and this is where a compulsory requirement for competent persons to be involved in planning applications would obviously bring benefit (without the moral hazard) alongside the wider benefit one would imagines it would engender in the quality of the built environment.

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  • The function of the RIBA should be to promote the value that good architects can bring to the table, and so strengthen their hand in negotiating decent fees - not to give people a lazy percentage to fall back on instead of valuing and justifying what they do.

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  • Unhappy architects mean unhappy designs.

    Catch my drift?

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