A new survey of clients of architecture firms released reveals what clients look for in an architect.

The Stronger Insights for Stronger Practices – 2021 Client Feedback Report is a collaboration with the Royal Institute of British Architects, and follows a similar report released in the UK in 2016.

Institute CEO Julia Cambage said the report would provide architects with a valuable resource, especially at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic continues to negatively impact practice.

The Australian Institute of Architects

“Growth comes from the ability to foster a culture of continual improvement; however, practices are reporting hesitancy from clients in providing robust feedback within a one-on-one setting,” she said. “By facilitating this body of work on behalf of the profession we are able to bypass this concern.”

Among the findings of the survey were that three-quarters of clients think architectural services represent good value, and 61 percent of clients believed that a fixed price agreement was the preferred form of fee structure.

Effective communication was the most sought-after quality in an architecture firm, with almost 80 percent of respondents calling communication “extremely important.”

Next on the list of desirable attributes, extremely important to around 70 percent of clients, was the ability to “respond well to my needs, anticipate well, and pre-empt problems well (including outside of their immediate brief and scope).”

Also highly valued were architects that were “strong team players” with effective budget, program and risk management skills, who are “innovative and bring new ideas to the table.”

Sixty percent of survey respondents said that they expect, and value architects that act ethically and challenge them if a project’s objectives are not maintained.

The survey also asked about factors influencing a client’s decision to invest in sustainable design. Affordability and operational efficiency were found to be the most important factors, with reputation benefits, PR opportunities and alignment with company philosophy seen as less important.

“The framework and questions within the report could also be used as a guide for practices who would like to do a deeper dive on key areas with their own client database,” said Cambage. “It is pleasing to see such positive feedback about the profession identified within this report. The report identifies opportunities for business development improvement, new service provision and for the first time data which can be used by architectural practices to help ensure sustainable design becomes built form.”

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