“Architects are so expensive!”… Is it true what they say about architecture fees?

Posted by on Sep 7, 2015 in Blog, How to/ Tips, Opinion | No Comments

I hear the words – “Architects are so expensive” far too often. This architect has had enough! It’s time to set the record straight.

This notion arrived from somewhere, and in my experience is widely believed. So how and where did it come from? And more importantly – is it true what they say about architecture fees?

Whilst I’ve heard many utter these words, I know it does not necessarily imply a lack of appreciation for what architects create. I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all spent time daydreaming of our own perfect house, when suddenly reality slams the solid oak door in our face, as we come to the  realisation, we can’t afford it. This is where I believe the confusion starts, and the finger gets pointed at architects. Houses of any standard, even the cheapest available cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to build – it’s expensive, architect designed or not! I hate the fact it is, but houses are huge, complicated things to build.

Money house by DN Architecture

Do people feel architects charge too much for their services? I visited the Australian Bureau of Statistics website (oh the fun) to find out how much architects are paid. It only states the earnings of the top twenty professions, architects don’t make it into the top 20! Those stats or lack of are pretty damning, but I know that’s not going to be enough to convince the naysayers. There is something else I see that isn’t considered and therefore not appreciated – the time it takes an architect to design a house. At the bottom of my fee proposals is the total fee for my services; it looks like a large sum of money, until you consider that it takes me on average 3 months of full time work to design a house. Think of your hourly rate, multiply it by 520 hours – a 40 hour work week times three months. Now you understand the context for that sum of money at the bottom of an architect’s fee proposal. I am charging for months of work, where most professionals charge for hours of their time. It’s not expensive, is just a huge amount of time/work!

There’s still another opening in the sashless sliding window that people are going to crawl into and pull me up on – houses designed by architects costs more than houses that are not. This is true and no doubt a big part of the reason that only 3% of houses in Australia are designed by architects! That’s not a typo, three percent! Who designs the rest? Those with little to no design training like a draftsperson or a building company, and it’s why most Australian houses are so terribly designed (that’s a whole other rant/blog).

Architects put months of work/time into the design of their creations. A draftsman or building designer will spend just weeks. The quality, flair and high level of detail that’s inherent in an architecturally designed home is directly proportional to the extra work involved to build such a home. Like a beautiful car or item of clothing made of the highest quality materials by highly skilled hands, it costs more to produce. Architects don’t design houses with the agenda of making them more expensive, they try their hardest to keep their designs as cost effective as possible, but it is a one-off creation, designed specifically for you like a tailored suit – not a cheap mass produced item. Architects cop the blame for their houses being expensive, and I think that is where much of the confusion and where this notion of “architects are so expensive” comes from. It’s not the architect that’s expensive, it’s the added time and cost to build such incredible spaces, that is.

You always get what you pay for. Build something cheaply, and it will cost you more in the end. The cheapest homes – not designed by architects, will not be treasured, restored and renovated in 100 years time like the century old heritage homes we still admire and cherish today. They will likely be torn down within 50 years as they were so badly designed to begin with, and so poorly built, that to fix them will be more costly than starting again. In the long run that costs so much more; not just to those fooled into thinking cheap will be as good or last, but to the environment – the shear waste of materials and energy to replace houses so readily and quickly. In this disposable world, houses should not be another thing we throw out because there are now better ones available. Build the better ones now!

Architects are not expensive. Building cheap houses is.

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