Leading Architecture & Design December/January 2019
At around the time we were going to press with this issue of the magazine, I received a summary of the findings of the SAIA survey into the state of the architecture profession in South Africa. The survey results paint a pretty bleak picture, especially when it comes to the way the profession as a whole deals with fees and finances. Particularly concerning was the revelation that “in 2017, architects were charging fees roughly 40% less than the last Guideline Fee Scale published in 2015 by the South African Council for the Architectural Profession”. The survey found that the “average profit margin is 12% and one in five practices reported a loss. A similar recent survey in the UK showed an average profit margin of 17% - over 40% higher.” It also revealed that “69% of practices undertook work at risk and of that, 55% of projects worked on at risk led to fee-earning work”. It’s clear that, for various reasons, discounting and working on risk have become prevalent in the architectural profession in South Africa. Architect Simmy Peerutin, who is Chair of the Practice Committee of the South African Institute of Architects, a Practice Committee member of the International Union of Architects and a member of the SACAP Fees Committee, has written and spoken about the results of the survey in some detail. In an opinion piece he wrote, which was published on the Leading Architecture & Design website, he spelled out some of the implications of this trend. “The main consequence of fees too low to cover a full and proper service is increased risk to clients, delays and errors on sites, and inferior buildings that aggregate into inferior environments,” he wrote. The way architects operate is compromising their ability to deliver real value. It’s clear that something has to be done; what is less clear is exactly how this self-destructive professional climate is to be remedied. But at least now, for the first time, we have an accurate picture of the state of the architectural profession from which to start.