Architects were the first professionals to be hit by the recession, with new projects drying up due to the downturn in construction. According to estimates by their own institute, the RIAI, 42 per cent of those employed during the economic boom are now redundant. Most architectural practices have been forced to shed staff, in many cases by well over 50 per cent, while those who remain have had to take huge pay cuts – with a 20 per cent reduction in salaries for employees not uncommon and double that for partners seeking to save their firms.
Derek Tynan, partner in DTA Architects, said that’s why they took “huge offence” over remarks made by Tánaiste Mary Coughlan in July that architects were among the professionals who had yet to feel the “chill winds of economic reality” – and cut their fees accordingly. “She was talking about people who have lost half their work, let go more than half their staff and taken huge cuts in their salaries,” he said, adding that the old days of charging a 6 per cent standard fee had “gone since the mid-1990s”, at the very outset of the boom.
In any case, with building tenders down by as much as 30 per cent from their peak in 2006, architects’ fees have been reduced correspondingly. On top of that, by Government direction, they have had to take a further 8 per cent cut for all public sector projects. Most architectural practices have suffered a slump in revenue of 40 per cent or more over the past two years.