South Australian Architects Stuck in a Race to the Bottom

Monday, May 2nd, 2016
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A comprehensive study of the architecture sector in South Australia indicates that members of the profession continue to struggle with low salaries and shrinking fees as well as rising levels of risk.

The recently completed Association of Consulting Architects Australia (ACA) SA State of the Profession research report provides an in-depth assessment of architecture practices and industry conditions across South Australia based on information provided by survey respondents.

According to the report the profession faces a number of major challenges in South Australia, chief amongst them a “race to the bottom” amongst practitioners as they cut their fees in order to compete.

Shrinking fees are in turn reducing remuneration levels for architecture staff, and are making it difficult for the South Australian architecture profession to draw the “best and brightest” talent within the state.

Net fee income levels are particularly weak for sole practitioners and small practices, who comprise the dominant form of practice within South Australia. In a significant number of cases, practices have proved willing to provide their services to potential or established clients free of compensation, usually in the form of speculative work.

Other major challenges faced by members of the South Australia architecture profession included the greater risk levels they’re expected to bear, as well as higher levels of competition.

Survey respondents indicated that existing professional organisations are not doing an adequate job of meeting their needs, while also calling for a better sense of combined action.

In addition to highlighting the difficulties confronting South Australian architects, the report also notes that the statewide sector remains traditional in a number of aspects, including procurement methods and work practices. The majority of South Australian architects are employed full-time, with few enjoying flexible work or part-time arrangements.

While South Australian architectural practices frequently collaborate amongst each other, few operate outside the state or are affiliated with practices in other parts of the country.

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