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  • Writer's pictureJeff Root

Financial Responsibility for the project lies where?

In the world of architecture, there’s always a lot of discussion about the Architect – Client

relationship circling around, and whilst the list of key drivers in that relationship is relatively short, it is quite critical to the success of the relationship, and ultimately the project.

  • Trust

  • Confidence

  • Transparency

  • Honesty

  • Communicative

To be fair they are the same traits we look for in many of our relationships, but the architect - client one is somewhat special. You are designing dreams. You are being handed the emotions of the client to deal with, along with their wants and needs for the project, and you are being handed the cheque book.

At the top of the list is TRUST.

One of the fundamentals of building trust is to deliver what you’ve committed to doing. The fear of saying no is rampant in the industry, especially when the market is down and work may be thin. But in the long run, when you’ve promised something and the client then finds out they can’t have it……TRUST is gone.

Yes, there is an expectation for the Architect to be creative, and push the boundaries,

be innovative, and stretch the dollar, but the Architect still has to be Financially Responsible.

Many clients will have unrealistic expectations around what they want for the dollar they have, and they will drive the Architect for more.

The biggest risk, however, in the Architect - Client relationship comes when the financial aspect of the project is side lined in favour of the pretty stuff, perhaps a bit of grandeur, or even the desire to “just push” it a bit further.

The problem with this is……….. at some point you have to talk COST.

Show conviction and maintain integrity in your professional expertise. TRUST is built on it.

Be upfront with your client and explain right from the start that, “you are not qualified to price a project, and therefore cannot be expected to do so”. “This is the job of another professional in my project team” --- The Quantity Surveyor.

You don’t give advice on stability of land, that’s the Geotech’s job. Why then would you have a “best guess” at what the project costs are?

How many times do we hear of a project being canned at Building Consent stage because the Builder has finally priced it, and the project is found to be significantly over budget? All too often.

At that point, the Client has spent a significant sum of money with the Architect on the basis of their understanding that he / she can deliver the project for the budget discussed initially. Their TRUST is gone, the relationship is fractured, and in a lot of cases there is no turning around. The project is dead, and like it or not, the responsibility sits with the Architect.

Why risk the client relationship, and losing your INTEGRITY by avoiding the subject of COST until it is too late?

The best projects run well when everything is on the table, including COST.

The project is commenced with a budget stipulation in play. The project is costed at CONCEPT PLAN stage to confirm the budget is being adhered to, or the need to pivot is required. The project is costed again at DEVELOPED DESIGN to ensure everything is on track before detailed design and consent submission is undertaken. This costing can then be used to compare the builders submission and identify any anomalies in pricing.

Because construction is such a costly endeavour, costing hundred of thousands or millions of dollars, it is a huge responsibility for Architects to be the steward of that kind of money. It is on your shoulders.


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