Architects and their fees
A short while ago we submitted a proposal for a fairly large, two building flex-office space complex. A simple project, not much if any design work but the kind of project a firm would do to generate cash flow and keep the company pro-forma in the black.
Our proposal was to include the fee of the consulting structural engineer. Like most of us we work with consultants we’ve used before and work with each other to see that the work is procured. In conjunction with our consultant and after much hand wringing we submitted a fee proposal that was lean but one which, if we were efficient at our tasks could make a small, emphasis in “small”, profit. I was a little uncomfortable with the fee because I felt it was at the low end of what I would consider to be an acceptable fee range for this type of work. Call me old school but I have no desire to be the low bidder on any project. Rather, in my fantasy world the fee is but one component the client uses in determining the best team for the project.
We we’re notified this morning that we did not get the job. Miraculously, the fee which I thought “to low” was somehow 20% higher than the low bid. The client, a developer, took the low bid.
Some quick back-off-the-envelope calculations show that the “winning” bid is about 1.5% of the estimated cost of construction, including the consulting engineer.
What are we doing to ourselves!
These are not sustainable fees. Doesn’t the profession see the bigger picture in play here? The next time it’s 1%, than 1/2% than what, free? Nobody wins in the race to the bottom. Conversely, we all lose. No one likes to see red ink on their pro-forma. But low balling fees to keep busy is insanity. And it continues to devalue the role of the architect.
We don’t respect each other.
Why should potential clients?
Robert Vecchione is an architect/designer and principal of the multidisciplinary firm Cobrooke Ideas-Architecture-Design (www.cobrooke.com)