Frequently Asked Questions
Paul, you call yourself a ‘Freelance Architect’. What does that mean?
This means that my clients include other architects – I often assist other practices when they are busy and need a little extra help, or when they require my specialist skills and experience to assist with a particular task that lies outside their normal capability.
Architecture Prime is a small company. Am I not better off with a larger firm?
Firstly, today’s BIM technology allows a single appropriately skilled architect to address projects that historically would have required a team. Dealing with a small company also offers considerable benefit for the client – you know you are always getting the top person assigned to your job for starters, and you are not affected by the inevitable large firm inefficiencies, overheads and staff churn.
With a large firm, the practice principals you deal with in meetings are seldom the ones actually doing the work. To sustain their larger overheads (and salaries), they must delegate most work to more junior staff. This delegation adds an extra layer of internal office communication, and with many projects to address, a large practice typically also needs to move staff from project to project as required to address other projects with more critical deadlines, each time creating a break in continuity and each time adding more ‘getting up to speed’ overhead as the next person picks up the reigns of your job.
Beyond a certain scale and complexity however, some projects will definitely benefit from the resources a larger company can offer – we can have a frank discussion about our ‘fit’ for your project at our first meeting, and if necessary suggest other suitable practices where this makes better sense.
What is ‘Professional Indemnity Insurance’, and do you need it?
PI insurance provides financial and legal assistance to the architect in the unlikely event of a claim for negligence. This is a somewhat double edged sword from the perspective of the clients who ultimately pay for it; it provides a kind of surety in the form of a known pool of money for an aggrieved client to potentially claim against, but also pays for expensive lawyers to minimize the chances that any claim against the architect (and thus the insurer) will actually succeed.
Architecture Prime would much rather avoid being sued in the first place through superior quality of work, attention to detail, and good communication, than through insurance products and lawyers. We do not normally use PI insurance unless a client specifically requires us to. If you do prefer we have it, no problem – please just ask.
Either way we are highly motivated to ensure our work is good and our clients are happy – We are committed to ensuring no client will ever have cause to accuse us of negligence!
What is the difference between an architect, architectural designer and draftsman?
There is certainly a difference, and though sadly there is also a level of resentment and misdirection by some who prefer that the public are not aware of the difference.
In a nutshell anyone claiming to be an ’architect’ by law must be registered, and must demonstrate a high level of knowledge, training, skill and care in order to use and retain the title. Those who do not meet this standard must use other titles to describe what they offer; typically using ‘architectural designer’, or less often now ‘draftsman’.
While some architectural designers can be very good at what they do (particularly those who have years of training under an architect), most who do get that good simply register as architects themselves.
if you hear someone claiming to be ‘just as good’, or ‘more or less the same’ as an architect, but who never quite got around to applying for registration as an architect, it might pay to keep this in mind.
Nowadays anyone selling design services direct to the public must at least be a ‘licensed building practitioner’ – which standard sets minimum competencies corresponding to design of basic building types – however skills and talents (and costs) at this end of the market do vary tremendously.
Unsurprisingly, for any given build budget, minimizing design cost is strongly associated with minimizing training, skill and design and documentation quality.
Without an Architect you should generally expect less imaginative, attractive or efficient solutions, more problems on site, and lower resale value – but lower up front design cost.
Why are architects so expensive?
A common assumption, but quite simply, we aren’t expensive when you compare the alternatives.
Unfortunately for everyone concerned, the extra costs of not using an architect are hidden up front, and are too often overlooked by inexperienced clients when selecting a design professional.
Despite the higher level of expertise, care and initial time input required, architect fees generally represent the best value overall. We can say this with confidence because the fees you spend on an architect are typically more than offset by the increased valuation (resale or rental return) of the building resulting from architect-quality design and documentation; increased efficiency, desirability and amenity in operation, and as studies show, substantially less cost during construction from reduced mistakes and delays on site. It is fair to say that every dollar saved up front on professional fees probably costs you many more dollars in the end.
Some else is offering to work for 2% less than you, so why should I use Architecture Prime ?
If someone else appears to be cheaper, there is probably a very good reason for this (or bad reason, depending on your viewpoint!) .
The market is crowded with designers of all kinds, and is very competitive. This means practices are forced to price keenly in relation to what it costs them to provide the service, and the costs faced by any practice typically relate to the level of efficiency, the specific services, the level of skill and the level of care being offered.
Certainly, operating at the forefront of technology, and without large practice overheads to carry, the efficiency at Architecture Prime is already far better than most, so you already get more for every dollar spent.
This leaves only three ways to undercut Architecture Prime, all of which involve added risk for you:
1 Provide reduced service, i.e. by omitting key outcomes or processes that Prime has included in the price (quite possibly making up the difference later via a bunch of unexpected ‘extra’ costs as the need for these tasks becomes apparent to you) .
2 Provide less skill than Prime offers, typically by using or delegating to cheaper less qualified, or experienced staff.
3 Provide less care than Prime insists upon providing. Cutting corners and not allowing for the time required for good thorough work.
Whatever you do, and whoever you finally use, please make sure the fees you compare really are an ‘apples for apples’ comparison.
Finally, I cannot reiterate strongly enough that every dollar saved on fees upfront will likely cost you far more by the end.