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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Too Expensive?

Adapted from Architect’s Essentials of Negotiation, 2nd Ed., Ava J. Abramowitz, 2009, John Wiley & Sons Inc. Reprinted with permission of John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

"Ever had a client say you cost too much? How did you react? Did you take it personally and want to hit back? “You have no idea how hard I’ve worked.” “You don’t appreciate my value.” “If you had to put up with a client like you, you would be charging twice as much.” Or maybe you just collapsed under what you perceived as an assault (“Why me?”), and then thought, “If I reduce my fee, will my client like me better?” Maybe you even reduced your fees. But you had another choice: not to personalize and internalize the statement, but to explore your client’s needs directly with them.

Clients change over the course of a project. Before they take it on, they question whether the result and the benefits will exceed the cost of the project. The more serious, the more strategic the business or personal problem they hope the building will solve, the more willing they will be to pay for the resolution. This came home to me in one second flat when I wanted to break through a wall to expand the kitchen. “Go to the Kitchen Guild,” the architect advised, “and ask them to design and cost out two kitchens — one within existing space, the other with expanded space. Then add $50,000 to the cost of the larger kitchen.” Right then and there I knew, and the architect knew, I would live with a small kitchen. I would get no increased strategic value out of the increased cost, which made the project “too expensive.” Had the architect been able to help me understand that current conditions would interfere with my enjoyment and use of the house, then the cost of mitigating those impacts might have receded, and the strategic benefits of remodeling would have shimmered more brightly. In that case, I might have gone for it. Instead, I thanked him mightily for putting me ahead of the project (and his practice) and promptly sent him two referrals... Continue Reading..."

The topic of payment, proposals, and fee's has always interested me as a hopeful future architect. In school we are taught these wonder numbers and contracts but will they be the same 5 or 10 years from now? If BIM and IPD really gain friction how will this process change? If the role of the future architect is to change his/her services and contracts will change as well. Should the adoption of BIM and IPD and the use of programs such as Revit yield a higher commission? Would more or less work have to be done by the architect?

It is no secret that many people take what an architect does for granted. Last time I spoke to Phil Bernstein we talked about the outstanding salary differences between a doctor and architect. A licensed architect with a masters degree, for example, and compare his average salary with that of a family physician. Arguably, they both have the some amount of school and possibly the same amount of experience. Additionally, would you tell a surgeon that he/she is too expensive? Rarely.

A fascinating conundrum. I will be picking up this book soon for sure.