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RIBA report highlights delivery problems with many practices

by on September 10, 2015

A report by RIBA has highlighted client frustrations over the divide between architectural practices with vision and those that can deliver post planning.

The conclusions of the report, ‘Client & Architect: Developing the essential relationship’, are described as “both daunting and exciting” and suggests the profession needs to “adapt to prosper”.

RIBA’s research claims that architects who can design a building from concept through to delivery are so rare that clients claim they are often forced to replace the original practice once planning permission is received.

Many clients said while they would prefer to hire only one firm it was often considered too risky to leave the concept architect in charge of the technical aspects of delivery.

The report claims clients would rather appoint a single practice to take forward the vision from concept to completion. However, RIBA’s research found that clients regard the profession as falling into two broad and separate categories: the concept architect and the technical architect.

It added: “Some clients struggle to find practices that are strong in both categories and commonly feel they have to replace the concept architects with a ‘safer’ pair of hands after stage three.”

“This is based on the perception that the creative flair that makes a good concept architect is an unacceptable risk during technical delivery. In other words, it is a compromise in the face of fear that the value gained with planning permission will be lost through inefficiencies, inaccuracies and waste.”

The 44-page report quoted is the result of a two-year project led by outgoing RIBA president Stephen Hodder. The research involved one-to-one interviews and roundtable discussions with hundreds of clients from many sectors.

Read more on the RIBA website

Roger Milne

  1. Scott permalink

    I am surprised by this. I could see potential problems with a sole practioner who doesn’t necessarily have the depth of knowledge or a team of other professionals backing them up, but one would have thought that most firms with more than a handful of staff would have some depth; i.e. other Architects/Technologists in house who pick up the scheme after Stage 3 and complete the technical design and manage the project through onto site?
    Like I say, I am very surprised clients feel the need effectively let their Architects go after stage 3 as part of risk management! Does this suggest clients are concerned that Architects can’t manage their ego and act in the clients best interest if difficult decisions regarding the scheme and finance have to be made? Or is it more the case that technical and contract management skills are somehow seen as of lesser importance in the profession?

  2. Tony permalink

    As a small-scale residential property developer, I’m afraid this problem is all too common. I might use an architect to get planning and do construction drawings, but I have only once found a firm – a one man band – with the confidence or inclination to say “by the way, we could project manage this build through to completion too for you”. I am forced to rely on my chosen principal contractor builder to implement the drawings, calling on the architect if the plans are hard to interpret, or I employ a QS who also acts as project manager working with sub-contractors, validating each step of the build to confirm we shouldn’t hit any problems with the building inspector or NHBC/PG.

    I’m not concerned about architects’ egos, and I certainly don’t regard technical and contract management skills as less important – in fact, I value them more than the often fairly predictable inflll designs that we can get past conservative and unwilling-to-help planning officers, who are worried about the houses “fitting in” their often nondescript surroundings. Having worked with a number of different architects, I regret I lack confidence in their experience in actual on-site delivery, even working on a straightforward job, and I certainly don’t trust their ability to manage costs and build in the most cost-efficient way. Time and again, I find myself pressing them to think about the actual build process when they come to me with designs, but it can be very hard when they are in “planning” mode also to think about what the construction drawings will look like and plan ahead.

    Are architects even trained in the practical realities of construction and cost management? It seems to me these are skills that architectural technologists and quantity surveyors are better at, or have learned to become better at, and it is a shame that these skills are not on display in practices from Day One, to complement “getting it through Planning”. Architectural practices would win far more follow-on business from the likes of me if they showed they were genuine one-stop shops and really interested in helping the developer-builder construct well-designed, efficiently-built, cost-effective quality housing.

  3. James Roberts permalink

    The reason we lose post planning work to others is not due to our lack of technical expertise but because too many clients are looking for the cheapest service and there are too many practices out there desperate for work and are offering unsustainable fees. Clients may well want the architect to see the project through but too often they opt for those offering bargain basement fees at rates we know would not make us any profit.

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