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Should the Profession of Architecture Unionize?

167
Justin Turdo

What is your opinion on this?wh

 
Jul 26, 18 12:57 pm

3 Featured Comments

All 36 Comments

joseffischer

Sure, why not.

Jul 26, 18 1:07 pm
senjohnblutarsky

We already have enough money grubbing organizations siphoning off of our measly paychecks.  Why suffer another? 

Unions had their place, a long time ago.  We don't have the conditions in this field that necessitated the creation of those unions. 

Jul 26, 18 1:47 pm
Featured Comment
tduds

Unions don't just fight to improve conditions. They also work to prevent erosion of these earned conditions.

senjohnblutarsky

Now tell me, have you ever seen conditions erode in this industry? There are some standard lousy work hours, chauvinistic environments, and shitty managers. But we're not talking about intolerable conditions here. We're talking about a few people being shitty people. And that is a constant. There are always shitty people. But I can't say I've ever seen an increase in shittiness. The fact that this is a featured comment illustrates a bit of disconnect with the industry and with the conditions that lead to unions in the first place.  The two aren't even close.

People want to whine about long hours and hard work.  I grew up on a farm.  You worked seven days a week.  You don't take long vacations, unless there is someone else who can fill in for you, because the animals can't go that long without you.  You're a slave to the job, for low levels of pay, relative to the retail cost of the product. 

Farmers are just one example.  There are soo many more.  The whining in this industry is laughable and pathetic at times.  Sure, I join in, but it's mostly to poke fun at myself for having joined the industry. 

joseffischer

Architects need to stop whining! See Senjohnblutarsky's comment as a prime example! Until our industry can't get by without illegal labor and $12 billion in govt handouts, clearly our conditions can erode much further. Come back to the forums and complain when you're paid 0.50 per detail on the sheet and have to cover your own healthcare and NO VACATIONS.

Thank you John for setting us straight.

senjohnblutarsky

And yet another disconnect. This idea that every farm runs on illegal labor and handouts is ridiculous. People really don't have a damn clue where the food comes from, or how it's generated. Sure, produce farms are capitalizing on that sort of labor, but I specifically mentioned animals. Very different beast.

tintt

I grew up on a farm. We had a saying, "a bad day on the farm is still better than a good day in the office." :)

SneakyPete

Food comes from factory farms.

wurdan freo

Sneaky is on to something here... Most of the agriculture in the us is from large corporate farms that gobble up the soil and our water and ship their products to china. And then the farmers lobby makes everyone feel sorry for the family farm and they get $20 billion a year in subsidies with an additional $12 billion from the current administration. Supposedly the farm lobby is the most organized in washington. go start an arch lobby instead... seems more lucrative.

tduds

Farmers should unionize.

No way! 

Unionized worker get health care, retirement, vacation days, overtime, mandatory raises, workplace protections, workman's compensation, etc. 

I want maximum profit on underpaid outsourced labor. Do you know how much it costs to maintain a Gulfstream G650?!

Jul 26, 18 2:22 pm
JLC-1

isn't the AIA an architects' union? being worthless is another issue

Jul 26, 18 2:42 pm
sameolddoctor

The AIA. lolol

tduds

I'm always pro-union.

It wouldn't take much to reform the AIA into a more union-like advocate.

Jul 26, 18 2:48 pm
joseffischer

Conceivably it wouldn't take much, except that you'd have to replace all the current leaders who mostly make up Firm owners who directly compete with a unionized workforce.

tduds

Right, first step is re-framing AIA from being an advocate for architects (assuming clients as the other party) to an advocate for workers (assuming ownership as the other party).

randomised

When I work at architecture offices in NL I know my minimum base salary, don't need to arrange retirement, get my automatic raises and lots of paid holidays, it's horrible!

Jul 26, 18 2:50 pm
Xenakis

teamsters United BIM workers union - maybe in New Jersey - never in Ca

Jul 26, 18 2:51 pm
heeroyui

YES! Definitely Unionize! I wouldn't mind volunteering my time to start this.

Jul 26, 18 3:03 pm
Featured Comment

There is an organization trying to be the union for architects. See Architecture Lobby. 

http://architecture-lobby.org/

Metropolis: The Architecture Lobby Stages a Radical Alternative to the AIA Conference on Architecture



Jul 26, 18 3:09 pm
RickB-Astoria

^-------- Yak yak yak, get a job!


Non Sequitur
Nope. 100% against architect unions. Just what we need, some bully lobby group keeping the bottom feeders employed.
Jul 26, 18 3:19 pm
senjohnblutarsky

And doing their best to make sure non-union people aren't employed.

xian

Unionize against who? Firm principals? The general public? I don't see either putting up with it for more than 30 seconds...  

Jul 26, 18 4:46 pm
randomised

You don't unionise against something or someone but FOR something, you've got it all wrong!

xian

You don't understand how unions work. Unions are not about sit ins and protest marches, they are about getting concessions from management. What I'm asking is, who exactly will an architect union expect to grant them concessions?

heeroyui

It's simple, change laws so that architects get overtime. How's that for a start? Force that number on the client and home owners. If your clients don't have the money, push that on the insurance company. What is home insurance for? Has anyone here who owns a home actually flled a claim? They tell you no, architects are not covered.

xian

You think that will encourage more people to hire architects?

randomised

I know exactly what unions are for, don't need to lecture me about the workings and advantages of those ;) living in a social democracy here in the Netherlands. We actually have a union of architects, they negotiate our base salary for example, our generous paid holidays, make sure we have a pension plan, and promotes architecture in general, lobbies with government etc...so what do you need to know about a union for architects xian, I'm sure I can enlighten you :)

xian

I'll ask you again, who is this union negotiating with? Are you sure it's even a union? Here in the states, architects find their own clients and negotiate their own fees. All a union is going to do here is discourage people from hiring architects since they will have to mess with union demands every time.

curtkram

i'm guessing the idea would be employees have collective bargaining with owners/management. someone who owns a framing or roofing company probably isn't a millionaire either. collective bargaining may be able to help architects, especially younger ones, negotiate better terms the same way it helps a framer. for us, this might include money but also possibly better exposure or experience like site visits or something like that.

randomised

​"I'll ask you again, who is this union negotiating with? Are you sure it's even a union? Here in the states, architects find their own clients and negotiate their own fees. All a union is going to do here is discourage people from hiring architects since they will have to mess with union demands every time.​"

I'm talking about salaries and working conditions (holidays/pension) for their employees, not negotiating fees with their clients. I think your idea of unions is a bit distorted by The Sopranos or something :)

How will a Union work for the very small firms in the US? will this make it difficult for those small firms to compete with the big corporate firms? Will we limit unions to firms over 12 people?

archi_dude

The demands they list?


Lowering the standards and experience for getting a license while increasing the costs for services. Sounds like a recipe to be even more avoided on projects than architects already are. 


Looking for alternatives to privately funded projects yet charging based on value added? So creating a communal based project but charging in a very capitalistic way? 


Sounds awesome but lots of holes in implementation. Maybe just take back the CM process?

Jul 26, 18 5:43 pm
Xenakis

if that happens, I can assure you, even more production work would just be outsourced to China, India, Argentina and Mexico - too much is already being outsourced let alone make it worse

Jul 26, 18 5:46 pm
JLC-1

have you ever heard of a professional union? seriously, that's what the "associations" are for; the fact they don't act in your behalf is half to blame on you.

Jul 26, 18 6:02 pm
jla-x

If firms had to pay half of that they likely wouldn’t hire as much staff. Simple math. It’s not like the banking industry where the ceos are making hundreds of millions. Most of those at the top are broke as shit too.

joseffischer

You act like not hiring as much staff is a bad thing.

SneakyPete

I'm for the benefits, but the unintended consequences would be Contractors and Developers using this as a wedge to lobby for lowering the legal requirements to become a designer of buildings. Red states would lead the charge, possibly with some bullshit "Licensed Building Designer" crap. We'd see a marked drop in requests for services. Perhaps, over time, there would be a rebalancing in which good design floats back to the top and be able to command a premium for "Architects" but in the meantime the opposite effect of the union's goals would be realized. Big companies would design buildings while paying the designers peanuts.

Th left two panels in the graphic are a contradiction yes?

geezertect

It won't ever happen.  Unionization only works when you have a very large number of worker bees performing easily definable tasks for a very small number of employers who themselves have high fixed costs and can't afford the downtime of a labor strike.  That doesn't remotely describe this profession.

The only long term solution is to reduce the supply of architects.  The only thing we as individuals can do toward that end is to spread the word to the little high school kiddies that this profession will break most of their hearts if they go into it.

Jul 26, 18 7:31 pm
joseffischer

I do my part when I can!

We can also keep the mandatory internships and exams to get licensed instead of watering them down and reducing the hours need to finish.

shellarchitect

Wowza,  some of the dumbest articles ever on the arch lobby site, and I'm normally pretty sympathetic to such things

Jul 26, 18 8:57 pm

Maybe start a credit union? That sometimes works out.

Jul 27, 18 1:12 am
jon ammer

.

Jul 27, 18 7:28 am
randomised

(and just look at young Peter Eisenman and Michael Graves being scolded by Mother)

Jul 27, 18 8:29 am
Volunteer

Have architecture schools a accredited by the ABET rather than the NAAB. That alone should close about half the schools. (Looking at you, Ivy League)

If the engineering schools can graduate a structural engineer in four years, architecture schools should be able to do the same with architects (see above)

S - - - can the NCARB. use whatever the engineering profession uses for their members to go from state to state.

Do away with the "master's program" for people with degrees in arcane subjects they thoughtlessly majored in (everybody makes mistakes!). If they want to be an architect have them go for the four-year BS degree with credit for their undergraduate degree courses where possible. Hopefully they can finish in three or less years - at normal undergraduate tuition levels, not the inflated graduate school rates.

The Master's program should be reserved for people with at least five years of work experience.

You're welcome.

Jul 27, 18 9:55 am
Bench

That's ... very reasonable actually.

At the heart of what you're getting at (I think) is the over-supply in the US being the main problem. CAN / UK / AUS have much stricter quotas with smaller class sizes and fewer schools in the architecture programs. They also have a more robust side-system for 2-year drafting/technical programs, which occupy a very necessary place in the profession.

tintt

but then you would have to admit that what we are currently doing is silly and that is NEVER going to happen

Bench

I dont think thats it at all tintt. Rather a raising-of-the-bar, albeit in a somewhat ruthless manner, with the aim of elevating quality in the profession across the board.

SneakyPete

IF exams are the gatekeeper to HSW, then anyone who passes them should be competent, yes? And if NOT, revamp the exams. IF schooling is the gatekeeper to HSW, then there should be competent graduates from every accredited school. And if NOT, then why keep out those with less formal schooling than graduates?

What about an apprentice path to licensure? Used to be 12 years working for a licensed architect made you eligible to sit for exams.

curtkram

there are multiple gates. the exam is only one of them.

b3tadine[sutures]

Over supply? What a joke.

https://www.bak.de/w/files/bak...

SneakyPete

curt, that's true, but the gates as they exist don't do the job they intend to, requiring employers to figure out the good from the bad. If the gates keep out people who have the drive but not the training yet the gates aren't functioning, leading to incompetent people getting through, then what is the point of the gates?

The gates are not designed to separate good and bad. They have an entirely different purpose.

SneakyPete

That's kinda
what I'm getting at.

Xenakis

At the heart of what you're getting at (I think) is the over-supply in the US being the main problem. CAN / UK / AUS have much stricter quotas with smaller class sizes and fewer schools in the architecture programs. They also have a more robust side-system for 2-year drafting/technical programs, which occupy a very necessary place in the profession.

The US will enter a recession in 1 1/2 to 2 years from now, and a major culling is overdue

Jul 27, 18 2:40 pm
JLC-1

hopefully it's not a war

Featured Comment
quizzical

This topic has been discussed in some depth in a number of earlier threads:

    How come we don't have an organized union ? (2005)

    Architects - the worst paid job in the world (2007)

    Union for architects (2008)

    Workers union (2010)

    Architect's union (2011)

There's some pretty good stuff on the subject in each of these threads.


Jul 27, 18 10:08 pm
quizzical

Oh … by the way … there once was a union in the US that attempted to represent the interests of architects … FAECT … see link below:

Federation of Architects, Engineers, Chemists, and Technicians

Jul 27, 18 10:26 pm
RickB-Astoria

Almost sounds like FAKE

Volunteer

If this group wanted to have some fun they could have a mock funeral of the AIA in Washington DC. Before the graveside service a New Orleans jazz style funeral procession could make a few laps around AIA headquarters. Non band members could be carrying signs and wearing T-shirts (black) such as : "I gave Yale $200,000 and all I got was this T-shirt".

Group members could hold a contest for the AIA's epitaph as well: "We told you you were sick". 

Jul 28, 18 3:21 pm

Brilliant.

RickB-Astoria

:)

wynne1architect@gmail.com

yes!

Jul 29, 18 8:28 pm
wurdan freo

unions are dead. No firm in its right mind would unionize. No individual either. Go ahead and form a union and get ready to never work in architecture again. Not to mention the architects union would only be for architects. Draftsmen would have their own union. I think on the trade side they actually are part of the operators union. So go approach them.

Jul 29, 18 8:55 pm
tduds

If unions are dead, they were murdered.

wurdan freo

Nah... suicide.

tduds

Nah... Reagan.

+++ tduds

wurdan freo

​Lift a PBR... and remember those good ole canning lines while listening to the only version of this song worth listening too... https://youtu.be/vbddqXib814

jla-x

It would work with a good Joe Pesci from goodfellas kinda leader...smack the shit out of some starchitects...”pay this intern a fair wage or in the fuckin pizza over you go!”   



Aug 1, 18 9:29 am
jla-x

*oven

Xenakis

Ah hah, your so funny - "Funny? how am I funny?, funny like a clown?, am I here to amush you"

Aug 1, 18 11:41 am

Labor Day 2018 bump.

Sep 3, 18 3:18 pm
newguy

The answer to this question should really only depend on your position.

Are you a worker/laborer?  Then the answer is Yes.

Are you management/principal/ownership?  Then the answer is No.

For whatever reason, architects view themselves as "professionals" and think that the conflict between management and labor does not apply to our profession even though it is conflict that exists in literally every industry in existence.  Architects have such a terrible understanding of labor theory.  The combined output of the production from the worker architects in any office is what creates the value for that firm.  The owners, principals, and management all have a vested interested in keeping salaries for their employees as low as possible so that they can keep the surplus value generated by their labor force for themselves.  This is true in every enterprise, and our industry is no different.

Oh, you think there is no hierarchy in your office?  You think you and your boss are working toward the exact same goal? Try limiting your work-week to exactly 40 hours and refusing to meet unrealistic deadlines and see if you don't get a sit-down conversation with your manager about the meaning of "teamwork" and "professional expectations."

Sep 4, 18 2:36 pm
Non Sequitur

Not every office is structured in such a way. Mine is not. Also, I'd be the first to remove myself if ever there was a suggestion to unionized. My career growth is determined by my skill and experience alone and I will not see my personal efforts help those who care less.

Steeplechase

The offices where I have worked, the sit-down conversations with junior staff are about too often exceeding 40 hours per week.

Non Sequitur

^10% OT is the norm here when work loads are heavy'ish. That's based on 37.5hr weeks.

newguy

Steeple,

That conversation actually falls in line with my observation.  Because junior staff are paid hourly instead of being exempt, the conversation about "not exceeding 40 hours a week" to an hourly employee is about getting over 40 hours worth of work done for only 40 hours of pay.

Non Sequitur

Just move to an office where they cover your OT hours. Rather simple. Work 50hr weeks? Get paid for 50hrs. Kids these days, amiright?

Steeplechase

new guy, nope, it’s about getting 40 hours of work done in 40 hours and trying to figure out why they are struggling.

newguy

No. If you are constantly having that conversation with younger staff, then it is your assumption of what can be done in 40 hours by junior staff that is incorrect, not their production. Afterall, they are junior staff, so their efficiency (or lack-thereof) is the justification for their lesser pay. So expecting them to have the same productive output as someone who makes more (and is therefore more proficient) cuts against the argument justifying their lower base salary to begin with.


Now, obviously, if they are posting all day on archinect rather than producing, then that is a separate issue.  But if this is a trend that you see often enough to bring it up (as you just did), then the issue is more likely an issue of ownership wanting to squeeze more profit out of their workforce, which is an inherent property of all profit-seeking enterprises.

Steeplechase

Who said anything about constant conversations? That is something you made up.

newguy

You said: "The offices where I have worked, the sit-down conversations with junior staff are about too often exceeding 40 hours per week."

The implication being that you've had this conversation multiple times with various staff members.

Steeplechase

You’re still just making stuff up. I didn’t say I was doing anything nor do you know anything about staff sizes or frequency. One person amongst several isn’t a norm.

newguy

Perhaps you personally aren't the person having these conversations, that's probably true. And I'm sure there are poor performers as well, as there are in all offices across all industries. But that doesn't really take away from the point, now does it? The fundamental conflict between those who own production (capital) vs those who produce (labor) still exists. The details as they exist in your particular situation(s) is largely irrelevant when analyzing the competing goals between the bosses and the workforce, which is the only point I'm trying to make.

tuna

get ready to pay heavy union fees. 

Sep 5, 18 3:59 pm
b3tadine[sutures]

Why? What are you comparing this to?

RickB-Astoria

All unions have union fees which union members have to pay. Unions (especially effective ones but even ineffective ones) come with a cost. So in addition to AIA fee(s), NCARB fees, licensing boards fees, it seems like some here still wants to have another leach on their already dismal income. Go figure. How about try keeping your income for yourself guys?

Bench

You literally have no income. And all the fees you just described are typically paid by the firm, not the individual.

Non Sequitur

Now now Bench, collecting welfare is a form of income. is it not?

Bench

Now you mention that, I just realized that as a new American tax payer, I am literally sending money to this guy.

(*Disclaimer: Im actually a supporter of Scandinavian-style higher taxes for social services, including welfare, I just felt the need to get that shot in).

RickB-Astoria

Bench, you say those fees are typically paid by the firm. I don't think so. Some firms, sure. But some of them, it comes out of your paycheck pre-deducted in a form of garnishment that you would have consented to when you signed your employment contract with the employer. There are many firms that simply doesn't pay for these things as they consider that your personal responsibility like your utility bills.

Bench

But you wouldn't know ?

RickB-Astoria

Bench, I'm not collecting welfare. I'm not a woman. I'm not Hispanic, African-American, Asian, or other so-called "Ethnic Minorities". Why even try to collect on welfare?

What's there to collect?

Non Sequitur

Want to revise that post there Ricky? Sounds a little, je ne sais quoi... 

RickB-Astoria

Bench, I know because I talk to architecture firms and also you guys already said so on this forum at least 1000 times this last 5 years. AIA is a voluntary membership so firms don't have to pay your membership fees. Most firms are in business to make a profit and make the firm owners wealth. That is what business owners are in business for. They don't become wealthy by paying for all the things they don't have to like paying for your utility bills. Your license, your AIA membership, your NCARB fees are your responsibility as they are YOUR bills not the employer. They can pay for it, but they would more than likely garnish your pay checks to repay for the fees so they are not out thousands of dollars for each employee.

Non Sequitur

you've talked to... but never worked a day in one. Great credentials you have there Ricky. Looks real good next to your sexist/racist remarks above.

RickB-Astoria

The U.S. Welfare system is discriminatory. I'm just stating the fact that the system prioritizes women and so called "ethnic minorities" because the system doesn't recognize localized ethnic geography composition. For example, I was in a school in Los Angeles area where the total number of white people (adult and students) was less than 10. Even then, I would not be considered an ethnic minority. It basically prioritized as follows: Women of Ethnic Minority, then Men of Ethnic Minority, then Caucasian women then Caucasian men. The system is underfunded and they have too many. It isn't even worth it to even bother to apply for welfare when you would be automatically denied because you are white and a male. I've known people who have literally been denied because they are not of an ethnic minority even when the so-called ethnic minority makes up 95% of the population in the area. When we already outlawed discrimination based on race and gender when it comes to hiring practices and wages/salaries so why is the welfare system using "race" and "gender" in prioritizing who gets funded and who doesn't?

Bench

Not touching this one. I'm out.

eeayeeayo

Rick most firms - at least most that regularly employ people, do pay all of those fees for their employees. Some require the employee to chip in some %, in order to have "skin in the game" - i.e. so they feel some responsibility for maintaining their credentials, actively participating in AIA, etc - but in those cases it's typically the employee paying 20 to 30 percent. Perhaps if you're talking about a sole proprietor who hires production help on a per-project basis or something then they may not offer that benefit - but anybody who wants to retain employees pretty much needs to pick up the tab for those benefits.  I've never heard of a single firm paying memberships and fees for employees and then garnishing them from their paycheck. People on this forum who discuss the value of paying for dues and memberships are usually sole proprietors or firm owners.

Things like AIA memberships are as much, if not more, for the marketing purposes of the firm than they are for the benefit of the employee - and anyway, if the firm wants to maintain its status as an AIA member firm then it has to pay an annual fee for every architect it employs - and that fee is more than double for non AIA member architects, so there's some financial incentive to the firm for ensuring that all licensed staff are members. These are regular costs of employing professionals - the typical outlay of fees in my firm averages about $1100 per year per employee, for AIA, NCARB, LEED, and license renewals.

You need to actually work in some firms before you can tell anybody anything about working in firms. As for your welfare analysis: there is no federal program that determines eligibility that way, and in fact there are plenty of studies showing that white families benefit disproportionately from welfare. There are certain California-specific family programs with case load limits that do work that way - i.e. they prioritize certain demographics because they must satisfy diversity quotas - I think you may be confusing some facts, which is understandable since you were a young child at the time that you were living in CA.

RickB-Astoria

"You need to actually work in some firms before you can tell anybody anything about working in firms." Bullshit. All I need is testimony which all of you have testified on this forum.

Feel free to provide links to the source material Rick.

kjdt

I haven't seen people post on this forum about employers who don't pay professional fees and dues. I've seen lots of people post about the cost of those things - but usually they're either a principal in a firm, or they're somebody who is a consultant or currently unemployed or something like that asking whether they should keep up those memberships and certifications on their own dime. I've never heard of firms paying things for employees and then taking it out of their pay - can you find any example of someone saying that's the practice in any architecture firm? Sure there are restaurant and gas station chains that charge their employees for things like uniforms and take those costs out of their checks, because the turnover is expected to be so quick that those employers feel it's not a good investment to provide them free, but that's not the mindset of most architecture firms or how they typically operate.

RickB-Astoria

Let me make it clear, the people who own and run architecture firms don't need workers. Workers need employers willing to hire them. You are just a replaceable elbow and ass. The employers can do the work themselves. While their total firm income may reduce due to less work but guess what, they can make and keep the income themselves. Employees are just for convenience. You are in a more dire need to work for employers at what they are willing to pay you than they need to hire you. With that in mind, why would any employer pay for your AIA membership. Why don't they pay for your rent, your utility bills, and everything else without deducting it from your salary or wage? They don't. 

If they aren't going to pay your rent or your utility bills out of the kindness of their heart, then they aren't going to pay for your AIA membership, your NCARB fees, or anything else because that is YOUR responsibility. They pay you because you work and perform. If you slack, you're fired and replaced by someone else like a replaceable cog. Now get back to work... slacker!!!! :-P 

AIA has been ineffective at everything for decades. They had been neutered by the DOJ by having their balls and pecker removed in the antitrust lawsuits. They don't have any meaningful purpose. Guess what, if I were your employer, I would be garnishing your wages and salaries for making sure your personal expenses are paid on time. In turn, it will come out of your pay. You will not be getting the gross salary. There would be chunks withheld or garnished for expenses I would be paying on your behalf like AIA membership, and everything else. Why wouldn't any other employer do the same thing? 

It is your personal choice and personal responsibility. It is your responsibility to pay your rent, utility bills, and anything else that is personal of yours. The business owner(s) are only responsible for paying you for labor per agreed wage & salary and pay the bills on the office, business license, etc. of the business and their own personal expenses. If you are too lazy to write a check or go online and pay your renewal then it is your own damn fault and deserve the consequences. Unless you become a co-owner of the firm and hold ownership stake, you are just a replaceable hirable & firable at will component of the corporate system.

RickB-Astoria

kjdt, if you are an employee, you are ALWAYS at risk of being fired any day. You are always a replaceable cog. Turn over is irrelevant. If you are a partner or ownership stake in the firm making you practically impossible to be fired or otherwise removed from the firm without dissolving the firm, you are irreplaceable but an employee.... you pay for your own personal expenses. If the firm pays, you reimburse the firm. That is done through deduction from future payments (garnishing). It's not the lingo used but then most firms just don't pay for your personal expenses. Otherwise, you are paying it as a loan with interest rate. AIA is of no benefit to any business. They haven't been able to be beneficial to require a firm membership in decades. If the firm isn't going to pay your rent and utilities then why would they pay things like AIA membership fees?

Non Sequitur

Ricky. Like always, you're speaking crazies. Come back to this nonsense once you've actually held a real job. Not going to bother helping you out here seeing as you're so far removed from reality.

kjdt

Rick I'm a principal in my firm. We pay license dues for the states in which we regularly do work (though some staff do have licenses in other states where we do not ordinarily pursue projects, and they do pay those out of pocket if they wish to retain them), we also pay NCARB certification dues, AIA dues, LEED and CSI certification renewals, and we reimburse the fees for passed exams. These are pretty standard benefits - we're not unusual in covering them. We do not deduct any of these from salaries, and do not grab them back if the employee leaves the firm. Turnover in professional firms is not typically so quick that investing a few hundred dollars per year per employee is unreasonable, and all of those certifications and memberships are part of those employees' resumes so they're part of what gets us work. As many of us have told you numerous times: you would benefit from actually working in a firm.  Imagine actually knowing what you're talking about! This is the best hiring climate in architecture in the last 20 years - why don't you get yourself a job somewhere and check out a firm from the inside?

RickB-Astoria

Alright. I know I'm a bit of a distance from the location of where most architectural employers and I don't have places in Portland (closest big city area) that I can go to to rent. It's a bit of a logistical pain in the rear. It isn't like I live in Portland. Where I am at, architects don't hire because of the market size is too small. It's a small town and the other towns in the immediate area are even smaller. I would have to kind of work remotely from the main office of the firms which is where things get a bit more troubling.

RickB-Astoria

Just want to make clear that the answer is not a 'no' but not quite a 'yes'. There is logistical challenges of relocating or moving be it 10, 20, 100, or 1000+ miles. It is both money related and the simple fact that I don't have connections in Portland to be able to rent at an affordable level in a reasonable location to reliably get to places of work via the public transit system.

Rick, does your local community college offer business courses? You might consider taking a few so you can get a better idea of how to be an employer. Ultimately, it doesn't really matter as you will probably never have an employee, and no one takes you seriously on the forum when to talk about being an employer.

RickB-Astoria

EverydayArchitect, yeah there are some business courses at the community college. Keep in mind that kjdt is a principal of a firm hence a business co-owner (informally, a business partner). He has ownership stake in that firm. I can see the firm covering his AIA membership and professional licenses where the business operates. I don't think that would be something provided to every employee especially new hires.

Most companies in ANY occupation doesn't pay for employees membership in any association, or other personal expenses. That is paid by the employee from the money he or she earns from working. 

Most businesses just don't do that because employees are replaceable regardless of turn-over. Sure, some businesses, turn over is weeks to months. Some are a number of years. It doesn't matter. 


kjdt

Rick I thought I made this explicitly clear, but let me try again: we cover FOR ALL FULL TIME EMPLOYEES INCLUDING NEW HIRES AND ALL LEVELS OF PROFESSIONAL STAFF and pro-rated for part-timers: license dues for the states in which we regularly do work (though some staff do have licenses in other states where we do not ordinarily pursue projects, and they do pay those out of pocket if they wish to retain them), we also pay NCARB certification dues, AIA dues, LEED and CSI certification renewals, and we reimburse the fees for passed exams. These are pretty standard benefits - we're not unusual in covering them. Most firms of any size larger than a 1 or 2 person shop do offer this, or at least cover 70% of all of these things. 

It was not my intent to turn this into yet another thread about the minutiae of your personal circumstances and why you can or cannot get a job. Do whatever you're going to do, or not.  My primary point was: you're ludicrously off base with many of your assumptions about employment and practices in architecture firms, and you're doing a disservice to people who visit this firm for insight into the profession. It's irresponsible and immature - especially since you've been told how off base you are by so many of us so many times. EITHER get a job in a firm so you can talk about real life experience OR don't get a job in a firm, in which case STOP dispensing suppositions, generalizations and craziness.

5839

NCARB's surveys always find that the % of firms that pay AIA dues and license upkeep are reported to be slightly lower by emerging professionals than by firm principals - but both are typically in the >60% range for all firms of all sizes, and >80% for medium and large firms. I disagree with Rick's assertion that it's not customary in most fields for employers to pay for professional licenses. There are debates about this in many professions, and not all employers do pay, but the majority do, and most business/employment authorities recommend that they do so, because any fees that are for upkeep of credentials or memberships that are customary in a profession ultimately benefit the company so the company should provide them. Besides, they're cheap benefits that are easy for the companies to provide and create good will and longer retention of employees, and they're tax deductions for the companies.

RickB-Astoria

You are just one firm. There are about 10,000 to 20,000 architecture firms in the U.S. http://www.4specs.com/s2a/news/1509_firms.html

With that many firms, I'd be doubtful that they all or a majority of them do this for all employees. Considering they are paid $40K or more a year. Don't you think they can pay their own licenses and membership fees? Don't you think a majority of the 10,000 to 20,000+ firms out there would keep their cost overhead low by paying as little as they can because architecture isn't that great of an income generating occupation.

RickB-Astoria

"NCARB's surveys always find that the % of firms that pay AIA dues and license upkeep are reported to be slightly lower by emerging professionals than by firm principals - but both are typically in the >60% range for all firms of all sizes, and >80% for medium and large firms. I disagree with Rick's assertion that it's not customary in most fields for employers to pay for professional licenses. There are debates about this in many professions, and not all employers do pay, but the majority do, and most business/employment authorities recommend that they do so, because any fees that are for upkeep of credentials or memberships that are customary in a profession ultimately benefit the company so the company should provide them. Besides, they're cheap benefits that are easy for the companies to provide and create good will and longer retention of employees, and they're tax deductions for the companies."

After what Trump has done to the IRS code, I don't know if AIA membership would be one of the recognized business deduction. Why don't we recognize AIBD, and NCBDC, NCARB, and just about any other organization as tax deductions.

5839

Per our tax accountant: professional dues are still deductible in the new tax code by employers as long as the membership can be shown to help the employee to carry out the duties of his job. That's an easy one with AIA and CSI, since membership provides access to industry-standard documents, as well as state-mandated continuing ed, etc.

And we do recognize all the others you've mentioned as tax deductible, except NCBDC perhaps (because it's considered a vanity credential with no professional value) - why would you think they aren't?

As others have requested: please don't post your assumptions as if they were fact. If you don't know it from first-hand experience don't post it at all.

RickB-Astoria

CSI certification is not a legally required credential so its argued as a vanity credential so if CSI credential is recognized from the tax code point of view, so would NCBDC certification (CPBD credential) from what I can guess. NCBDC certification has continuing education requirement and continuing education program. From the IRS point of view, what do they specifically require. NCBDC (CPBD) certification might be deductible in the same way as CSI certification, LEED credentials, etc. for purpose of IRS tax code as tax deductible as Job Related expenses similarly in other parts of the IRS code. When a credential is not legally required by laws of the state or federal government, it can be argued as vanity by some and some people don't bother with the credentials because they aren't required by law to have the credential.

5839

Rick I don't have NCBDC certification, nor does anyone in our office or anyone I know, so I haven't investigated that one. If it pertains to you I'd suggest consulting your own tax person. LEED is legally required by the state and local governments for much of the work that my firm does, so there's no question that USGBC membership and LEED accreditation help in our jobs. CSI is the industry standard for specifications and document organization, and widely referenced by contract documents - so having that membership and CSI credentials is easily demonstrated as helpful. The tax code now allows deduction of memberships and credentials only if they help the employee in doing their job - and for all of the ones we're deducting it's easy for us to show that they do help in doing the job. If you can show that for NCBDC then great - I'm skeptical but not saying it's impossible.  It's not one that I could see an architecture firm wanting to pay for, as it's viewed by most architects as a vanity thing for residential contractors. Most architecture firms probably wouldn't see any practical use in having their employees get that certification - but maybe if you were working for a residential contractor.

RickB-Astoria

It has been awhile but I recall hearing about the NCBDC certification as being able to be deducted under the IRS code. For example: Qualifying Work-Related Education. 

https://www.irs.gov/publications/p970#en_US_2017_publink1000178638 ) [ Chapter 12: https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p970.pdf ]. 

As I read through this, I would argue that at least some of the NCBDC certification and on-going maintaining of the "CPBD" certification status are potentially tax deductible. For tax purposes, the IRS code matters here as well as individual states which I am not enumerating. 

5839, I haven't read your last reply when writing the above!

RickB-Astoria

5839 wrote:

Rick I don't have NCBDC certification, nor does anyone in our office or anyone I know, so I haven't investigated that one. If it pertains to you I'd suggest consulting your own tax person. LEED is legally required by the state and local governments for much of the work that my firm does, so there's no question that USGBC membership and LEED accreditation help in our jobs. CSI is the industry standard for specifications and document organization, and widely referenced by contract documents - so having that membership and CSI credentials is easily demonstrated as helpful. The tax code now allows deduction of memberships and credentials only if they help the employee in doing their job - and for all of the ones we're deducting it's easy for us to show that they do help in doing the job. If you can show that for NCBDC then great - I'm skeptical but not saying it's impossible.  It's not one that I could see an architecture firm wanting to pay for, as it's viewed by most architects as a vanity thing for residential contractors. Most architecture firms probably wouldn't see any practical use in having their employees get that certification - but maybe if you were working for a residential contractor.

---

RickB-Astoria

As far as I recall, LEED is not required by statutes but required by contracts or terms and conditions of funding capital. I don't think they codified it in any statutes because it isn't a government program or operated by one but operated by a private 501(c)(3) organization so if the organization were to dissolve or is discontinued, it would be more complicated administratively to change the language of statutes keep up with those changes. That's venturing off point. It isn't like the architect license or that of a doctor or structural engineer or other occupations where there are actual licensing requirements by the states or the federal government (where they may exist). 

I would agree with you that most architectural firms that focuses on commercial and large projects would likely pay for it but if they work on SFRs and similar projects, they might as it may benefit a residential contractor, it may benefit a firm that works on SFRs and small commercial projects where a license isn't explicitly required. This would assume architects and building designers working in the same firm. This is something I suspect is rare.

smh - only Rick could take a 7 word comment about paying union dues and make it into this massive inline thread that devolves based on him not having a job (or a clue) and ends up considering the (non)value of the NCBDC/CPBD and LEED for exempt projects.

https://i.giphy.com/media/l41l...

Non Sequitur

^EA, but think about it... if there would be a union, there is a chance it ends up supporting Balkins and others like him.

RickB-Astoria

At least it is kept in an in-line thread instead of scattered all over the thread and other threads. However, I think a union in the architecture profession may be a bad idea because it would typically be something the employers would outright make sure they garnish from employees salaries or if they don't garnish but pay it, they oppress your salary so it don't go up as it used to and new hires would not be offered the same $/hour or salary as before in order to not be paying as much. 

Such a new architecture Labor unions won't have the clout it has in other occupations so there would be considerable push back by employers. Historic labor unions or long-standing unions like the longshoremen unions had mafia/mob that would use physical force, threat of bodily harm or otherwise to pressure employers. This isn't exactly how a more civil union like the teacher's union or a new architecture union would have to pressure employers to bend to their whim. The reason these old unions were effective is they literally put the employer at gun point, knife point or the employer's family members at such danger to effectively coerce the employer to yield to the demands. This would be felony charges these days and a court order disbanding of such unions. The government would literally shut such a union down. We live in a different world despite some throwback by people like Donald Trump. 

The question is, do you want some mafia led and ran union representing you? They will collect their fees whether from your employer or from you the employee or worse, from both of you by some contrived system of double charging like charging you an outrageous amount and then charging the employer a matching amount that is outrageous. 

Unions don't necessarily result in a better net pay nor is it an outright path to prosperity. I would suggest to be mindful of the consequences. Unions are not the magic solution. Lack of consequential thinking that is in vogue these recent years is why we have Donald Trump as the POTUS. This is why we need to be smarter and think things out. Yes, it may hurt the brain of those who let it become a flabby wuss. We need to THINK and research the consequences before making a decision. This is no different.


5839

Rick: for the type and size of projects I do, in my state, LEED is in fact required by state statute. This is not an isolated situation - there are many project types in several states for which this is the case. Once again, your "as far as I recall" is not the same thing as first hand experience. As for your thoughts on union dues: first of all, you need to learn the difference between employer deductions and garnishments. Employers can never garnish for union dues. Garnishment requires a court order. Employers can only deduct for union dues if the employee authorizes that deduction, though in a non right-to-work state an employer can deduct union fees (not dues) from non-union members.

RickB-Astoria

Can you cite me a state statutory law that explicitly requires LEED? Do you know the difference between statutes, administrative rules, regulations, and policies?

RickB-Astoria

I'm not against LEED. It would seem to be an antitrust law violation to by requiring public buildings (and public money) to meet a private organization's standards. 

This is why even ICC is dubious.

5839

I would rather not tell you what I work on or where, so here is one from another state:

Conn. Gen. Stat. § 16a-38k: new state buildings of $5,000,000 or more, and renovations of state facilities in excess of $2,000,000, must meet or exceed a LEED silver rating or a two-globe rating under Green Globes. This has been amended several times since it was first adopted more than a decade ago, to now also include new school projects and several other types of projects and thresholds, and some requirements in excess of LEED Silver minimums.

I know of at least 5 other states with similar statutes. Some of them allow "equivalent" systems other than LEED, and some do not.  In the case of the projects that I work on, LEED Silver or better is required by state statute. 

RickB-Astoria

They adopted LEED at around the same time frame when there was this big push on the LEED credential requirement. There had been rulings against use of public money to sponsor or promote a private entity for decades. For the most part, even police cars have emblems and other branding removed so as to strip promotion of a private entity. This is something that has been a practice for decades. In a way it would cause public employees to effectively violate state equivalence of 5 C.F.R. § 2635.702. Public policy of public entities such as federal, state, county, municipal, public agency or department of any governmental entity in any way or form that would be endorsing a private entity's product, services, etc.

Since you aren't the government employee at your firm, you'd probably just do whatever to comply with the government requirements whether it is legal or not. That is for lawsuits, courts, and lawyers to sort out. 

Most States don't require them statutorily but may require it under administrative rules, or a regulatory code and so forth but they usually don't want to be specific to one private interest but be open to others with equivalent or better performance to meeting a state requirement.


RickB-Astoria

Personally, I would prefer the requirements to be built on a scientific performance based criterion and whether LEED or any other program meets the performance criterion is determined on state performance criteria benchmarks and if the LEED certification can document meeting the scientific based performance criteria, then it can be approved by meeting the performance criteria. This is why I would support of performance criteria that is scientifically grounded and has to be proven by the design professional.

5839

I understand your thought train, but nonetheless LEED has been adopted by STATUTE for many types of projects in several states. Whether or not that should have happened is not the point. The fact is that it has happened, and is in those statutes, so if I work on those projects in those states then I need to know LEED, so LEED accreditation and USGBC membership are helpful for doing my job, so they are tax deductible. See? It's not that difficult.  It shouldn't require all this arguing from you, about something that you don't know much about because you lack real world experience. I cited an example of a statute, and you're still arguing. I'm tired of this thread. Good night.

RickB-Astoria

Alright, fair enough. I'm not saying LEED shouldn't be tax deductible. Whether or not states should or should not require LEED is a separate issue. Whether it would be something that is helpful in doing your job, that's fine. To an extent even being CPBD certified is helpful in doing your job as is the architect license. The continuing education required of them would be maintained would be tax deductible. While CPBD isn't a government mandated requirement, the process of meeting the CPBD certification serves to A) identify what you know and don't know and B) help you to learn what you don't know and to an extent improve what you do know. C) To maintain a standard of competence, continuing education is required to continue that understanding. The legal minimum requirement is what? Being of age to engage contractually? 

Why be certified by as a CPBD? 

This pretty much says it well enough: 

https://ncbdc.com/why-be-certified

I think this is universally true for licensing and any respectable certification such as CSI but for their respective occupational work. CSI and building design are separate but related. 


archinine
The problem isn’t architects as employers but architects as a group allowing the degrdation of scope of services and fees. Just consider how many various ‘consultants’ are present and collecting checks for any given project, all of whose tasks in another era were performed by (and subsequent fees collected by) the architect. That’s why your entry level PA pay blows. Reclaim the positions of owners reps and CMs. Stop racing to the bottom for fees. Learn to use excel and create budgets. If a union could tackle any of those (which I doubt) the profession as a whole would be in much better standing and may even see a reduction in the serious brain drain currently felt.
Sep 6, 18 1:50 pm
betonbrut

I couldn't agree with this more! The issue with the profession isn't employers taking advantage of their employees... which is largely what unionizing is to combat... It is a fundamentally failed business model by and large for the reasons you mention above.

newguy

Any "race toward the bottom" comes at the expense of the workers, though. Without upward pressure from a workforce demanding equitable benefits and pay, employers have no incentive to demand higher fees from their clients, which means that developers/land owners/rent-seekers and other owners of capital can force employers to negatively compete with one another for a job. This reduction of fee comes at the expense of the laborers within an organization who are then asked to provide more service (i.e, value) for less pay. Employers have no obligation to demand higher fee because an unorganized workforce beneath them absorbs the impact. This is the reality of all capitalist enterprises, and architecture is no different.

betonbrut

In general, yes, a race to the bottom comes at the expense of the workers... however, in a professional setting, it comes at the expense of everyone in the company, including owners. What you are really advocating for is a minimum wage so to speak for the profession. I don't see how that is even realistic.

newguy

I'm advocating for bottom-up bargaining on behalf of workers rights. What you are advocating for (benevolent owners acting on behalf of the firm) is the logic used by those who support trickle-down economics.  I am simply acknowledging the conflict that exists in the workplace between owners and laborers.  The economic interests of the workers do not align evenly with the economic interests of the owners

betonbrut

What other professional organization, aside from public school teachers, has a union? Unions in this country are almost exclusively reserved for labor. You are also assuming the owners of architecture firms are somehow getting rich off the backs of their employees. That has certainly not been my experience.

What other professional organization, aside from public school teachers, has a union? Unions in this country are almost exclusively reserved for labor. 

Define professional organization. Define labor. 

Firefighters, paramedics, registered nurses, government employees (federal, state, county, municipal), postal workers, actors, musicians, film and television writers, professional athletes (NFL players association, MLB players association, MLS players union), air traffic controllers, pilots, etc.

betonbrut

I think you can understand (with a little help from Wikipedia even) what 'labor' means in the context of the origins of unions in the US. I fail to see how those jobs or careers you mentioned above relate to the practice of architecture as it pertains to unionizing. Why don’t doctors and lawyers unionize? My original point is that I don't see how the current state of the Architectural profession in the US would ever be able to unionize and further, I don't see how that would bring wages up as you are suggesting. This is not to say that I am personally anti-union. I love unions and think they play a vital role in the US economy; mainly the protection of employees as much as it is their compensation.

newguy

Just because you don't swing a hammer doesn't mean the output of your work isn't defined as labor. In basic economic terms, the workplace is broken into two groups:

1) Those who control the means of production (the bosses)
2) Those who rent out their labor (the workers)

The profits realized in any enterprise (architecture included) is the value that is created by the workers.  Any surplus is value created does not necessarily go to the worker, but to the bosses, who then get to decide how much (if any) to distribute back down to the workers.  Any increase in worker productivity, which in our industry usually manifests itself as more work done in a tight deadline (i.e, those all-nighters we all know and love) is best understood as added value that is created by the workers, even though their salaries are often fixed.

beton, I'm not understanding your point. You asked about other professional organizations that have unionized aside from teachers (implication was current unions), but then you complain that those careers and professions don't relate to architecture and the origins (historically) of unions in the US has been around labor. First, is your argument about the historical origins of unions, or about current unions? Second, are there certain career characteristics that you view as necessary for any comparison to architecture (ie. tight deadlines, long hours, creative process, unique product rather than mass-produced, licensure required, etc.)? Earlier you offered two qualifications 1) professional organization and 2) not labor. I think I offered plenty of examples that work for those, so you'll need to clarify or give a more detailed rebuttal.

To your other question, lawyers have certainly entertained the idea of unionizing, and it has been discussed with regards to doctors as well. Your guess would be as good as mine as to why they haven't unionized. It think the articles I linked offer some explanations, but they don't definitively state it shouldn't or couldn't happen. 

I'm not sure if I would be pro- or anti-union at this point (can I be union apathetic?), I'm just trying to understand what point you're trying to make here.

betonbrut

The business model of architecture is flawed. Unionizing the labor won't fix that.

It actually might if collective labor demands would force systemic change in order for the business model to still be profitable. If not, then unionizing certainly wouldn't hurt the current business model.

5839

I don't know.  My experience with unions is all from teaching, and there the unions ensure a lot of good conditions and protections, and it's definitely worth the less than one percent of my teaching salaries that I pay in dues, and those hundreds of dollars in annual dues are not a hardship and more than pay for themselves in negotiated benefits.  BUT: sometimes there are unintended losses in flexibility/creativity of working situations built into the union-negotiated agreements.  The intentions are good, but for instance I can't choose to teach more credits per semester than the collective bargaining agreements allow, or as a lecturer I can't opt to take on additional duties (even well-compensated duties) that are supposed to be assigned to tenured staff, or I can't be a temporary adjunct for more than two semesters even if I want to be (because it allows more flexibility of my schedule), etc.  I would be concerned that an architecture union might result in some similar inadvertent limitations, that are results of well-intended protections for most architects, but can have the end results of defining all architects' roles for them in ways that might not best fit every architect.

Sep 6, 18 3:58 pm
citizen

Very good points.

archi_dude

In my experience, it didn’t seem like principals really made that much money. Even if you made it so they were only making about 10% more than PM’s and all that money was spread out between the “workers” everyone would get maybe...$900 or so more a year? And if there’s shareholders getting a meager payout after years of service, never sounded like that was much of a stash to raid either...

Sep 6, 18 11:52 pm
Steeplechase

But Marx says you’re being exploited!

newguy

The majority of exploitation in the architecture industry comes in the form of time. There's also the issue of underpaid (or un-paid) internships, as well as competition work that is given away for free. Working 60+ hours a week is the same as wage suppression, because you are being asked to increase your output without a corresponding increase in compensation. This allows clients (developers / landowners / literal capitalists) to undercut the value of our service, because without organized labor agitating for workers concerns, they can demand more production without increasing pay. I mean, think about it. How many architectural employees work long hours designing luxury housing projects that they can never afford to live in? They are essentially being poorly paid to increase the value of land that they are being priced out of.

Steeplechase

Don’t be stupid and work for free.

Non Sequitur

newguy... you're on a dangerous balkins level path of ridicule here. How long have you been out in the working world?

archi_dude

New guy, 1) No one is forcing you to work in a place like that. I averaged 42-45hr weeks and remained on the high side of the compensation curve. 2) The reason the fees are so low is because most clients just want plans and permits to build but many architects make an exorbitant amount of extra work for themselves modeling the surrounding neighborhood in sketchup for rendering or using sketchup up to DD then remaking everything in Revit for CD’s ect. Ect. The fees make sense it’s the firms with broken business models that don’t. Also for a union to be successful you need to be necessary and control output on something, Long Beach longshoreman are a great example. Architects that create art and ignore CA, not that valuable.

newguy

Steeple, wonderful advice. I'll store that bit of lovely insight right next to my bootstraps and rugged individualism, thank you. Archi_dude, if your firm is rendering services (such as 3D modeling context) and not collecting fee on it, then that means that there are people in your office being asked to work on something without compensation. But for the record, I've never worked in an office that doesn't model context. It's an essential part of the design process. Your suggestion that we cut down these steps for efficiencies sake undermines the value of design, which is the very service that we provide. We don't just arrive at a final set of drawings, we work up to them. And how do we not control output? The buildings we design are what generates the vast amounts of wealth for the owners of those buildings in the first place. The buildings we design are the vehicles that are used to collect the rents of tenants and/or the extraction of labor from employees. Without those buildings, that wealth cannot be generated/extracted/funneled upward. The real obstacle we face is not one of controlling output, it's one of building solidarity.

archi_dude

90% of Clients want permits and coordinated drawings sets. They don’t care about arriving at a genious design. How would striking on a service that no one
cares about have an effect?

Non Sequitur

"buildings we design are what generates the vast amounts of wealth" Really? Well... if you're so damn certain that your killer design skills are magical goldmines, why not set up your own shop and charge what you think you're worth? Nothing's stopping you.

newguy

archi_, they don't want "coordinated drawing sets." They want a functional building that gives them guaranteed long term recurring profit in the form of equity/rent that they can extract from their tenants. The property they own begins generating value once a building is placed on it and they can charge tenants to use the space. If there is no building on the property, then that property doesn't generate the wealth they desire

Non Sequitur

and you can guarantee that wealth?I think the owner/client, in your very specific example, also plays a role there. It's almost like you've never worked in the field before.

In general the point is correct. Rent extraction (in every conceivable form) is the
foundation of capitalism.

RickB-Astoria

newguy, Architecture as with most professional "personal" service type business operating on a professional-client model doesn't generate that great of wealth. Your service for any project is for one customer called the client. Your project or product of your service is not mass produced and sold to the masses. While a single client would likely pay substantially more for that project than say a copy of a video game. The video game industry and most software business is like the stock house plans business. 

I can't sell stock house plans per order of sets of plans as I would be able to charge for custom house design services. I doubt anyone else could, either. However, if the house plan was popular enough, it could yield more income than any custom home design ever would. The problem is, we are only talking maye 10s or 100s or 1000s of "copies" (which I'm meaning the whole order package of 2 or 3 sets of drawings) a year. 

In the video game industry, I might get only $5 to $100 per copy of the video game (traditional model). However, if popular enough, the game would sell in the millions of copies. That video game might take me a year of full-time work to maybe a team of 5 individuals a year of work. lets assume our workers were gross labor cost for each employee was averaging $100,000. That's $500,000. So assuming half a million dollars of expense. Then some marketing costs would put my project cost in about $1 to $1.5 Million easily. At which point, a game like that sold for $59.99 (yielding about $50 per copy when you take out the cost of packaging and the physical media). 

I would have to sell at least 30,000 copies to break even but in this business, we would want to at least sell 100,000 copies with a goal of selling closer to 300,000 to 500,000 copies. What does it mean for me at the volume of sales.... greater contribution margin because the labor cost (R&D, etc.) would get paid off and every sale beyond break even point is the base line marketing and basic manufacturing costs which is greatly reduced in a pay per download scheme. Instead of packaging expense, there would be an expense of server costs and things like that. There is always a cost factor. 

There is this thing called contribution margin or dollar(s) of contribution per unit of sales. Be it custom architectural project services or house plans in a stock house plan which may include 2-3 printed copies of a house plan but that is one unit of sale when it is part of the discrete packaged product sold. On a professional service, your project's contribution margin is the invoiced proceed that you bill for the services rendered for the project minus the total project expenses. It will always be some percentage less than 100%. Typically, architects charges around 2.5x to 3.5x their labor costs but when you count your printing expenses and such, it would typically be about 2.5x to 3.0x their costs. This means the contribution margin is about 40% to maybe 66.667%. Typically, it would in reality fall in to about 40%. When you figure in about 35%-45% contribution margin, that is considerable less than the 90% or greater contribution margin of the video game selling 300,000 copies. 

If efficient in marketing.... say... not spending more than fifty thousand dollars and lots of "free advertisement", and the ability of the product to sell itself, it could easily yield sales in the hundreds of thousands of people world-wide on the right platforms for public awareness. lets assume $550K in expenses of labor and marketing. I can still yield over 80% contribution margin.... like 89%. 

The business model of architecture as a one-off designs for each client does have systematic and market related constraints on how much potential yield. How much people are willing to spend on architectural fees for architectural design services is generally set and somewhat fixed.... a price ceiling. The price ceiling easily drops but difficult to lift because consumers get used to lower prices when they get them before by your competitors. As said earlier, the race to the bottom, hurts the profession as a whole. People in business serving clients when they should be either working as an employee or should have left the profession to something else is another problem. The supply of people in the business of architecture is high for the demand. The amount of demand each year is on a long-term slow down compared to the rapid increase in demand when the housing boom happened in the 1950s and 60s. While we are experience a great increase in housing demand since the great recession began ~10 years ago.... this is still a far cry from the 1950s and 60s level of housing production. 

U.S. isn't increasing in its population like it did in the 1890s to 1930. The housing boom of the 1950s is partly the result of a long term housing slow down from the great depression all the way throughout World War II.... a good 15-20 year slow period.... and then the GI Bill and returning soldiers returning home from WW II had this big insurgence of housing demand and also responsible for many college institutions forming including a big part of the growth of community college system. I don't think we are exactly living in those kind of times. 

Architecture was never a profession that typically resulted in architects becoming rich like Rockefeller or Carnegie. Most of the rich architects did things like designing furniture and selling them like hot cakes to clients. Of course, that meant their asset worth was sizable but their free financial worth weren't always super rich. Well to do, yeah but not Rockefeller rich. You just can't get that rich by practicing as an architect. It isn't that kind of a business. Lawyers might become millionaires but not billionaires by practicing law. Your income potential is theoretically similar to lawyers. In practice, not quite .

archinine
New guy has completely missed the point. As others have noted it is the business model that has failed / eroded. Unionizing won’t help anyone squeeze water from a rock.

I’ve seen plenty of firm owners, principals etc working tedious hours of overtime right along side junior staff. Sometimes said owners even kick the younger ones out, feeling as though by being the owner, the buck stops with them and they ought to be the last ones out. Of course not every owner is that way, but don’t kid yourself into thinking that principal architects are raking it in because they aren’t.

Check the AIA salary calculator or Glassdoor at various large firms to see owner/principal pay. Compare those salaries to the higher ups at the big owners rep and project management firms. Even if it’s only a 5-10% difference, multiple that over the lifetime of a career and add in all the unpaid overtime, abysmal benefits packages, lack of bonuses etc, and you’ll start to understand why the brain drain continues.

Always follow the money, that’s usually where the answer is.
Sep 7, 18 10:30 pm
RickB-Astoria

Good point. We can elaborate all the issues and symptoms causing the problem but you have a good point on the business model not working well. Why? That's a long list. I elaborated on a few symptoms but a part of it is there is too many 'architects'. There is too many cooks and not enough customers going to the restaurant to eat.

newguy

New guy has completely missed the point. As others have noted it
is the business model that has failed / eroded. Unionizing won’t help
anyone squeeze water from a rock....Always follow the money, that’s usually where the answer is.  

Your point seems to be that the money supply only comes from Principles or firm owners, and that is only a part of the equation.  Owners of firms are competing for work from a class of land-owners, speculators, and developers who have no incentive to pay more fee if they don't have to, because that would dip into their profit models.  Well, if the owners of a firm cannot demand more fee, they will simply adjust by asking their employees to render more services for free.  Some of the more generous owners may even pick up some of this work themselves so as to not push this burden down on their workforce (although I think this habit varies wildly from person to person more so than office to office.  I've personally experienced both types).  Regardless, the end result is that a pool of architectural designers in any given office is asked to output more work in the week than they are contracted for.  User "archi_dude" above indicated that he only averaged 42-45 hours a week as if that is some sort of personal accomplishment.  So let's use his example and do the math:  

1) By his own admission, he is working around 100-260 hours a year for free.  Multiply that by his hourly rate, and that is how much of his free labor his firm is offering their clients. 

2) Now let's assume that his entire office is structured that way (and that his underlings aren't picking up the extra hours necessary to complete any given job).  In an office of 10-20 people, that is roughly 1,000-5,200 hours of work that are given away every year for free.  Multiply that by the average billing rate per staff member, and you can see just how much money is being gifted to developers. 

3) Now let's multiply these numbers across the entire industry, and you can begin to imagine just how much architects on the whole are being played like chumps.  

So who eats this massive discount that is just given away year after year after year?   Is it the clients, developers, and land owners who force architecture firms to negatively compete and underbid one another?  Is it the firm owners who have the means of controlling their staff size if and when work dries up?  Or is it the employees who are working hours without compensation, effectively reducing their wages and living precariously in fluctuating markets completely at the mercy of capitalist land owners? 

You tell me that the business model has eroded.  So tell me.  Cui bono?

Sep 14, 18 6:36 pm
archi_dude

Well I only averaged those extra hours at a firm where there was a generous bonus package directly tied to keeping the firm lean and mean. The last firm I worked straight 40 hours but the work was boring and the pay was crap to compensate for the culture of giving nothing more than average. Since we are in a free capitalistic society, I was able to freely switch jobs to something that once again, has some fast paced deadlines with expected overtime but ownership rewards it with some SERIOUS bonuses and salary bumps. So basically I still don’t work that outrageous hours but I’m compensated for it. I’d rather just stand up for myself and get a good job then sit back whine and try to bring everyone down to my lame level with a Union. But I get what your saying about pushing back on the evil landowners. That would be BA, however, Globalism. I would fear most production jobs would be outsourced. Same situation the McDonalds workers found themselves in when LA implemented 15$/hr. The self serve kiosks moved in.

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