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Architect's Value Includes Cost Control

July 07, 2002

I disagree with "When Choosing an Architect, Nail Down All the Fees First" (June 16), by Katherine Salant.

As a registered architect with more than 20 years' experience in high-end residential homes and remodeling projects, the architect fees are the least a client should worry about. In negotiating to reduce a qualified architect's fee, the client is essentially removing a most valuable experience resource from a process where it is most needed.

Architects are not just used for design and aesthetic considerations. We excel in contract management, guided by forms and agreements from the American Institute of Architects, which clearly stipulate contract tasks and project responsibilities.

Every construction project represents a difficult task to master. From the first meeting to the turnkey completion, this process requires extensive know-how, specific knowledge, able negotiation skills and certain ubiquitous "people application" skills.

Even the simple definition of the "scope of work" demands a keen understanding of what an estimated budget and project should describe.

Certainly all the clients I've been associated with had a fixed budget in mind, as well as a pretty good idea about what they'd like to see in a completed construction project. Unfortunately, these two concepts are at odds with each other. The project always costs more to build, is always more complex and is never exactly like the original vision we first started out with.

Terms such as "cost definition" and "work scope" are often the main cause of communication breakdown between client, contract and architect. Everything in construction is cost-related, so the client should not skimp on fees for the person most in control of those costs.

Limiting architectural contracts to keep the design fees low is doing a disservice to clients' ability to "engage in saving money." You should pay your architect more to ensure that your construction costs remain within certain specifications.

QUENTIN DART PARKER

Pacific Palisades

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