the value proposition of design

All of this…demonstrates the tremendous ROI of architectural fees. Indeed, while most clients view fees as an expense that they need to minimize, they should be putting architecture fees on the savings side of the ledger, as an investment that brings a handsome return.

This is a quote from Thomas Fisher, professor and dean of the College of Design at the University of Minnesota, in the article “Value Added” in the March edition of Architect Magazine. This intelligent and succinct article focuses on the part architects have played and will play in saving billions of dollars through reduced energy consumption in buildings as a direct indication of the value added by the architect. Fisher goes on to discuss the ways in which we, as a field, make it difficult for ourselves to associate a clear value with our process and our products. The article ends on a positive note regarding a Minnesota initiative to commit to research and demonstration of the architect’s value proposition.

value_addedThe commitment by this consortium is good news, but it’s also a call to action. As architects, particularly public interest architects, we should all be measuring our impacts and building a resume that not only demonstrates our design skills, but also ties them to concrete examples of value added. Linking architects to energy use savings, improved health (particularly in affordable and senior housing), occupancy rates, increased sales tax revenue, increased property value, and other metrics provides an avenue to answering long-standing questions in the architecture field regarding legitimizing design fees for both public and private projects.