Increasing land values, funding uncertainty and a move towards more design-and build-procurement has continued to put the squeeze on architects’ fees. But cutting costs dismisses the wider benefits of good design and can compromise the end result.
We spoke to firms across the UK to get their opinion on what developers and contractors should consider when choosing their architect.
Value for money
When budgets are tight, the value of design can be put under the spotlight. However, an investment in high-quality architecture ticks more than just the aesthetics box as Paul Miele from Lewis and Hickey explains:
“Clients must trust their professional team and the architect is no exception. Although competitive fees are often a driving factor in decision making, these are a relatively
small part of an overall development. It is more important to consider how the design will maximise value for money long term rather than just the cheapest price.”
Graham Hickson-Smith of 3DReid agrees:
“Cutting architect’s fees can be a false economy. Saving one or two percent in fees may mean the difference between success and failure through planning or the final quality of the project and the potential rental income or end value.
“Well-designed buildings have greater value and marketability. If the qualitative aspects of a scheme are stripped out to reduce construction costs, schemes will struggle to let or sell as well.”
Another factor impacting design is a focus on volume but this can be at the expense of creativity.
John Tehan from Smallwood Architects, says clients should take a longer-term view.
“Commercial clients need to allow space for imaginative solutions. Too often the focus is on volume to try and maximise returns, but long-term a more imaginative, creative design could prove to be a better investment.”
A good architect will listen to both the client’s design and commercial needs, improving the outcome for both parties, so David Hills from RH Partnership Architects advises clients to look beyond traditional scoring systems:
“While any commercial client needs to carry out due diligence and check compliance matters, scoring systems should be led by the architect’s experience, quality and a focus on the client’s needs.
“Working with the right architect based on these factors will be more rewarding commercially and as a project experience, as the client is more likely to
get a building that meets their specific needs.”
Securing an effective and transparent working relationship from the outset can also help to plan projects more efficiently as Graham Hickson-Smith of 3DReid explains.
“By working in partnership with concept architects we can add value without reducing quality through better planning and reducing the unseen elements of a scheme such as utilities and structure.”
The bigger picture
Design fees will always be scrutinised, but it’s clear that there are many other factors for commercial clients to consider. Investing in architects that are willing to collaborate and that can create creative designs offering value for money will maximise returns in the long run. Ultimately a good architect will always save much more than they cost.
Sarah Reay is Managing Director of Construction Marketing Experts, a specialist marketing consultancy for the built environment.