Architectural fees in South Africa

The matter of architectural fees in South Africa is a contentious issue. The range of fees charged by architectural professionals vary greatly. This often leads to confusion among clients and the general public. Often the idea is formed that certain architects charge too much if their fees are compared to others. However, as with many things in life, it is important to compare like with like.  Clients need to understand that a quote, and a design for that matter, should not be judged at face value.

Unfortunately our current economy is in a poor state. The building industry is under pressure and many building professionals (e.g. architects, engineers, quantity surveyors) struggle to keep head above water. As a result the market for architectural services is very competitive. Some professionals will quote on projects at rates that are cut to the bone. Such an offer for services may seem very tempting to clients, however, it carries a risk. Remember that the professional can only allocate a limited number of hours to such a project. It may therefore be that the project does not go through all the normal design developments (i.e. gradual improvements) and quality checks that it should.  This could leave the client in a position where the product is not up to his or her expectations or, even worse, the design process and approvals cannot be completed.

The South African Council for the Architectural Profession distributed the following note to the architectural community in April this year regarding this matter:

SACAP concerned about charging of ‘ridiculously low architectural fees’

Johannesburg, Friday 12 April 2019. The South African Council for the Architectural Profession (SACAP) has today come out strongly against the growing trend of charging ridiculously low and below-the-cost rates for architectural services by some Registered Persons (RPs).

This after numerous complaints that some RPs are either leaving their clients in the lurch with work incomplete or demanding more money for the job as they realize that what they charged was falling way short of covering their costs.

This unsustainable phenomenon has led resulted in an increase in abandoned projects or projects overshooting the client’s budgets due to poor costing.

“As SACAP we are extremely worried about this behaviour by some RPs. These kinds of practices expose the public to an unnecessary financial burden which has not been budgeted for and leads to delays, or even the complete stopping of the implementation of projects – leaving disappointed clients with unfulfilled dreams,”

– acting SACAP Registrar, Advocate Toto Fiduli said.

“We condemn this practice in strongest possible terms, and wish to draw RPs attention to the fact that this practice will not only result in the unsustainability of their business, but has the potential to completely kill the architectural profession,”

– the acting Registrar said.

SACAP has warned that the matter was now the subject of the Code of Conduct investigation and any RPs found guilty of the practice could have their registrations suspended or revoked.

It is the duty of architectural professionals to quote for their services in a responsible manner as to always be able to provide work that is up to standard.  Clients must realize that appointing the cheapest professional may end up costing more in the long run.