Fee guideline vital for architects: Institute

SINGAPORE - Last Wednesday's article ("Doctor's charges: How high is too high?") quoted architects as saying they do not have ethical limits on fees.

The industry had a fee scale developed by the Singapore Institute of Architects (primarily for private sector projects) in 1985.

Through the years, the industry evolved further to also having a separate/parallel public sector inter-agency fee scale, developed by the Ministry of Finance and the Building Control Division of the Public Works Department, for public sector projects undertaken by external consultants.

Both were widely implemented until 2004, when the enacted Competition Act required the industry (both private and public sectors) to abolish all fee scales and guidelines.

The Singapore Institute of Architects underscored the importance of having at least a fee benchmark, in the public interest, to determine an acceptable range that architects could charge for work done.

We conducted a self-audit to review the currency of the fee scale with a view of formulating an updated (consumer) guideline, but this initiative was not supported by the Competition Commission of Singapore.

Since then, the industry has witnessed an unprecedented and unhealthy imbalance of fee undercutting.

Compounded with the reality of ever-increasing professional responsibilities, liabilities and increasing demands from consumers, service standards (especially arising from manpower resource allocation) have generally been compromised, leading to unhappy scenarios for architects and clients alike.

It is our considered opinion that the suggested benchmark-guideline approach stands independent and has no influence on competitive free-market forces. And we continue to strongly advocate that such guidelines serve the public interest.

A guideline gives much-needed checks and balances to the recent issue of an ethical maximum (and conversely, an ethical minimum) for professional fees charged.

It will empower consumers to make reasonable decisions on whether architects are overcharging (or undercharging).

It should be dynamic and regularly updated based on the collective opinion of a fair-minded normative body on what is (ethically) fair value for money.

We firmly believe that in the long run, an optimal balance between fees charged and consultancy services provided will evolve from the re-implementation of a guideline, leading to a sustainable and healthy industry, benefiting both architects and consumers.

We strongly urge the relevant authorities to reinstate the guideline approach.

Theodore Chan

President

Singapore Institute of Architects


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