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Thursday, June 30, 2011

AIA fee deregulation and the future of BIM

Wow, what started out as an idea in my head really gave me a lot to think about. I got a call today from the office manager of a architecture firm client of ours. About 2 years ago they needed to get 10 people trained. Of course, they didn't want to stop production and train them all in one shot which posed the problem of how many $5000 batches of custom training they could afford. Of course, one was the answer. So, I made them a deal. I told them if they gave me the $4000 up front, they could send their ten students a few at a time to our regular monthly classes at our office.

It worked out really well for us and them, but she called today and asked if they had any credit left on the group plan. They actually added more people back then and I added additional blocks of 4 people for $2500 for them. She asked if the price was still $625. I told her what the normal price was and she wasn't happy about that.

Well, that started making me think about what happened to the architectural industry where you guys never have any money to invest in technology and training. How exactly are you supposed to pay rent, payroll, computers, software, subscription and all of the other things you need and stay in business, especially with the way things are.

I remembrer someone telling me that the Department of Justice made architects stop charging set fees for work. With no set fees, competition started to make you lower your prices and it's been a downward spiral ever since. Now, with people desperate for work, it seems that some people are designing for free, not for fee.

That led me to an interesting post, http://archinect.com/forum/thread/29395/aia-fee-deregulation, about the deregulation that you may want to look at:

here's always going to be another architect who will quote the work for less ... we each have to make a better case that we're providing the value inherent in the fees that we quote ... until we do that in such a way that the client can see, and appreciate, that value, we will not enperience higher fees

-- remember this issue is with FEES not salaries... ..Architecture firms are never going to be viable entities if we are trying to undercut fees yet be 'in line' with salary increases..
Well, that makes a little sense why someone would try to drag down the price for training, but as a BIM consulting firm who specializes in the BIM workflow, it's hard to negotiate when there are so few people who can get you up to speed quickly in the CAD to BIM conversion. I feel the worst for the CAD Manager who is trying to become a BIM Manager. You have no idea what you're in for with that one.

Which brings me to two final points. One is, how the hell do you get your fees higher with BIM? If you can model a building in Revit faster than in AutoCAD, does that mean you need to lower your fee, or raise it since the quality should be higher and there would be fewer problems in getting the building built. You have a lot of issues to work out with your clients and I wish you good luck growing a spline and standing up to owners trying to negotiate your fees lower and lower. I for one, really want you to be making more money so you don't bitch about me getting my piece of it for software and BIM consulting. I want you to make lots of money so you don't complain about that.

You can buy a shirt made out of polyester, cotton or silk. They could all look the same in the window, but the look and feel and quality are all different. Of course, that silk shirt needs to be dry-cleaned and that will keep on costing you money for years, just like subscription, but damn, don't you look good in that outfit.

So, my final thought is this, in my search I came across an section on the AIA website about Antitrust Compliance Guideline. How much trust and antitrust do they contractors, owners and architects have for eachother? Is trust BIM and antitrust CAD? Just a thought as we ponder how to pay for all of the BIM architects and engineers that will be replacing CAD operators as BIM, LEED, IPD, VDC and FM all require people with lots of experience and technological prowess.
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Anonymous,  July 1, 2011 at 7:33 AM  

Great post, though BIM should not cost any more when your trained or have gefficient staff to do BIM. On another note I am glad the architects now have to feel the same thing they have put construction companies through for years. They have made us hard bid projects telling the owner that is the best way to get the lowest price. This takes all the value out of the construction team and makes them just a commodity that can only build and provide no additional value. This takes all the cola oration out of the project and does not allow for the efficient use of the BIM tools the teams deploy.

Anonymous,  July 21, 2011 at 5:52 PM  

At the end of the day, the client/owner _usually_ just wants a building that won't fall down, and they won't freeze in. Architects want to make art. Well, unfortunately, people don't want to pay for art. (and by "art", I mean unnecessarily complex designs that require a lot of coordination). They want a functional box, and want to get on with whatever business or enterprise they are focused on. In the rare case of the building really needing to be a show piece (museum, theater, etc), I think you need a handful of specialists. Everybody does a wide range of bldgs/clients, but you've got hugely different demands from an office building vs. a science museum, for example. The other thing I think is inevitable is the move to mostly "design-build". Commercial clients want "commditized" buildings.

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