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Tuesday29 July 2014

Pressure mounts on client to drop 'zero fees' demand

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Brady to speak to Sanctuary boss today as consultant distances itself from row

RIBA president Angela Brady is speaking to the ‘zero fees’ housing association later today in an attempt to get it to drop the idea.

Last week BD revealed that Sanctuary Housing Association had told architects interested in getting on a framework that it wouldn’t pay fees if planning permission was not awarded or Sanctuary binned a scheme before it went to planning.

Now Sanctuary is coming under even more pressure to perform a U-turn after the consultant on the framework told BD it did not advise the firm to introduce its zero fees clauses. A Faithful & Gould spokesman said: “F&G does not advise its clients on policies relating to zero fees.”

RIBA president Angela Brady

RIBA president Angela Brady

Brady has called on practices to boycott the firm and will be telling Ian McDermott, the chief operating officer of parent company, Sanctuary Group, to drop the demand.

“It’s absolutely disgraceful and should be stopped in its tracks,” she said. “We want our members not to work with them under these conditions.”

Under the terms of the framework – which is known as Scape and operated by six local authorities – architects will have to pay a further 8% of their total fees to F&G. Fees for schemes that do go ahead will be 1.9% – 0.9% for RIBA stages A-H and the remainder for stages J-L.

Sanctuary development director Stephen Oxley, who joined the group earlier this year after nearly 30 years at F&G, said: “The levy payable for use of this framework will amount to 8% of your total fee and will be deducted from your fee by F&G.”

Condemnation of Sanctuary’s proposals has extended to former employees with the last head of its in-house architecture team calling them “immoral”.

Richard Evans, who left in 1998 when the firm wound down the team, said: “I’m totally opposed to it. It’s immoral. What are architects meant to live on?”

And Dickon Robinson, who was a development director at social housing group Peabody Trust until 2004 and is now chair or RIBA think-tank Building Futures, said: “No architect worth its salt should be willing to sign up to a framework like that. Is his [Oxley’s] salary going to be docked every time he fails to get planning permission through his consultants? How would he feel about that?”

In an earlier statement, Oxley said: “In this difficult economic climate, we have a responsibility to be as cost effective as possible.”

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Readers' comments (12)

  • Sanctuary were a Client of mine in the 1990's when I was Managing Partner of a Bradford based practice.

    There was none of this sheer nonsense then. It was a relationship not managed by a QS practice, but a direct appointment to the Client for several projects. Fees were reasonable, and paid on time. There were no disputes, no contractual claims, and no problems with the projects whatsoever.

    If F&G like many such organisations are increasingly taking over framework procurement agreements then our profession is at fault for lack of commercialism and Client management.

    The fees shown are ludicrous. The payment of part of these to F&G is an absolute insult and the whole thing is a shambles.

    I wouldn't get involved in any of this type of agreement or service basis and if any of the profession do, then it's tantamount to giving in and accepting that working for free is the way forward.

    In reality its a totally retrograde step and will have only detrimental effects upon the profession's financial stability, public perception, and our own sense of worth.

    After all time and effort it takes to train to join the profession, the huge liabilities that we carry in terms of PI, our duties of care to Clients and the long hours we have to put in to service project requirements, what really is the point of being an Architect any longer if this type of appointment becomes more widespread?

    Before ARB jump on me for hinting that I may be an Architect, I'm not any longer - I gave up the title 5+ years ago.

    This was a very difficult decision personally as I was a 3rd generation Architect with much pride in that.

    I now practice as a Property, Planning & Architectural Consultant, maintain full PI, have a burgeoning workload through repeat business and recommendations, avoid framework agreements, avoid large QS practices,

    I provide Clients with a commercially aware proper professional service as Lead Consultant - as things used to be!

    As I'm no longer a member I can't join any RIBA campaign against Scape type agreements (or agreements where the Architect takes the role of Scapegoat), but I totally support any such action.

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  • Good luck with that, AB.

    The HA have alternative architectural services providers, as capable as architects, as professional, and recognised as such by the industry. They have to be brought on board as well.

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  • Mike Duriez

    It would seem obvious that at these fee levels you would expect to get low-grade buildings which make poor use of their sites, a low success rate at planning as well as a high frequency of insolvency of the architectural practices involved. Perhaps this is another government plan to pretend to be increasing social housing supply while actually stopping any expenditure on expensive building projects.

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  • 0,9% fee for Stages A-H on a housing scheme is an outrage - as much as the no-planning, no-fee clause. Anyone can do the sums on an envelope for a medium-sized scheme and see that it is impossible to have the time to do anything more than take a pre-existing house type and copy-paste it onto a new site, jiggling around for an afternoon until the site's maxxed out and everyone can get to their garage. By any measurable metric, quality cannot be delivered.
    But as long it looks like architects are wingeing in their corner alone for their vested interests, it will be difficult to change this kind of attitude. There has to be real top-down pressure from government. Since Housing associations get at least 40% of their capital from central government, the HCO has a lot of skin in the game. It is their responsibility not only to see that affordable housing is built, but that the frameworks in place to deliver it contain mechanisms to guarantee quality outcomes. It is actually the HCO's job to hold the feet of folk like this to the fire and tell them they won't get their grant money with such an dreadful procurement procedure. This is how quality is guaranteed in other European countries in analogous situations.
    The fact that such an absurd situation can happen at all is the result not only of a rogue housing association, but a housing policy which measure success only in numbers delivered rather than quality.

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  • Architects are slaves and will continue to be used and abused until they blow a fuse and go ape

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  • We are quite fortunately a cash rich office who does not always take on a project. We effectively pick and choose the jobs we do. If we don't like the client or the job carries to high a risk we put in a huge fee. Everyone on our office has a good wage, a good standard of living. Comes to work with a smile on their face and goes home with a smile on there face. We would not be happy to deal with a client like Sanctuary

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  • james francis

    Wow, googling "Sanctuary Housing Association" brought up an intersting result! Try it yourself.

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  • We are a small practice in Leeds and was delighted when we got the opportunity to get appointed by the mighty sanctuary group!
    September 2011. - we were told we would be straight into planning by November 2012. 3 schemes later and a long time still no fees- they refuse to even engage in a discussion with us.

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  • Not sure why you are giving these people the valuable time complaining move on seek work where you are valued and appreciated.
    Anthony Doody MCIAT
    Chartered Architectural Technologist

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  • Just read this online... sums it up really. Raking in money, exploiting tenants and professionals at every turn. Why can't we just have well planned, well built council houses anymore?

    "Sanctuary Housing Association is an “exempt” registered charity who often lie, cheat, and bully people, including their own staff. Some services are very poor. Largely funded by the taxpayer (housing benefit, the government), Sanctuary tenants include some of the most vulnerable, disadvantaged and poor people in Britain. Sanctuary Group (fingers in many pies) made £24.7 million profit during 20010-11, the Chief Executive is on over £280,000."

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