Trust, Fees and Experience

Richard Choy , 15 December 2014

Short, sharp – Richard Choy argues that architecture needs to clearly value its professional skills and expertise, and to invest in the young.

John Held’s paper provides a clear summary of the challenges and opportunities facing the profession. Two further thoughts that have been around for decades, but which are still very relevant, are as follows. 

Firstly, the elephant in the room.

If architects continue to underbid each other on price they will continue to promote the concept that architecture is a commodity. All professions need to educate their clients on the value of trust and experience as well as how they assist to align the project outcomes with the clients expectations and risk profile. How does each architecture firm differentiate itself from its competitors? If there is no differentiation then you are a commodity. The architect’s fees are miniscule compared to the life-cycle cost of a building. Yet, the architect’s decisions have massive design, function, maintenance, finance and marketing implications from project inception through to adaptive reuse of the building. How many architects can clearly articulate the value of an architect? The competition is greatest from non-architects.

Secondly, architecture is not just form and function. 

The foundation for architecture is ‘master builder’ and the knowledge of how the building is put together including engineering. If architecture firms fail to give young architects time on site they will continue to need to correct inappropriate design and poor detailing. The architect also requires skills in contracts, critical path, people management, philosophy, psychology, marketing, finance etc. These skills cannot be all taught at university but requires the profession to invest in its young.

Richard Choy is Chief Executive Officer of NATSPEC. This piece was written in response to John Held’s position paper “Deskilling and Reskilling Architects”. 

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