Can Architect’s Fees be Totally Transparent?

The other day I was telling my sister about our business and I said something like …….

We are building a brand based on honesty: there are no hidden commissions, no posturing….we don’t pretend to be who we are not or make exaggerated claims about what we have done or can do, and…….. we are totally transparent about our fees

She said “Architects can’t be totally transparent about their fees. There was an article in the Financial Times about it”.

So………….., sniffing an opportunity to write a keyword rich blog post, I have looked out the article. It’s by Sandy Mitchel. Here’s the link. For some reason you cant link directly to the article but you can find it if you search in Google. It was published on 5th October and is titled “How to see through the smoke and mirrors of architect’s and designer’s fees”.

It’s a good article He writes well. It’s also informative. I recommend you read it.

I also think that Mr Mitchel needs to use us for his next project because there are a few things about how we operate that he will find very refreshing.

He’s right building projects often end up costing more than expected. With Eco Vida Homes, when this happens, it is because our client has specifically requested it. Here’s the point. Our clients make all the decisions: not us.

Before they get started we will have shown them some other finished projects with costs so they are well orientated regarding costs. They should have a good idea, on a simple spreadsheet, about what the costs will be, what quality they get for their money, what retaining walls and site preparation might cost and, crucially, where the uncertainties lie, before they start. In fact we do this along with planning consultancy at no charge before they buy the plot.

In many cases we go to considerable trouble to cost up different options so the client can make informed decisions, and stay on budget if they choose to. In no sense does the budget “run away”. It is strictly controlled by our clients assisted by us.

Secondly all our projects are sent out to a transparent and competitive tender. This is the only way our clients can be sure the offer is the most keenly competitive.

We ourselves compete in this tender. The other offers, sourced independently from us, go straight to the client so the client sees them before us. Our clients can compare each item line by line and ask questions and, if they can, negotiate a price reduction. Again, the client makes the decision about which contractor to use. (If you call me I’ll tell you why all our clients choose us in the end, and why we have successfully combined the best of Design and Build and Design-bid-Build).

Change orders, at least some, are inevitable during the construction. This is how we handle them. Due to the fact that we have produced a highly detailed specification and exact bill of quantities, cost changes are straightforward. The old cost comes out, and the new cost, which can be independently verified, goes in. It is an accounting procedure not a negotiation.

And another thing………..our Terms & Conditions are very specific about what is included and excluded, why we charge what we charge, and where their money goes.

Finally yes our fees are higher for a more expensive project. You would expect this. There is more work to do!

Author: John Wolfendale
Bio: John is a founder of Eco Vida Homes and is passionate about bringing modern design and construction practices to Spain. He believes a home which is warm in winter and cool in summer is largely a matter of design and selective use of materials. He is British and a Chartered Surveyor with over 24 years experience living and working in Spain.

Eco Vida Homes is a team of Architects, Technical Architects, Builders, an Engineer, and a Chartered Surveyor. We help people design and build beautiful energy efficient home, designed for Mediterranean living, in Marbella and Southern Spain. There are two things that make us stand out: a sharp focus on our clients’ needs and everything we build is comfortable and energy efficiency………..It’s like Grand Designs………… only without the drama.

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