A Guide to Hotel Design: What are Professional Fees, and how are they paid?

    150 150 Daniel Fountain
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    My grandparents on both sides of my family were farmers. It was drummed into me at an early age that money was earned and that the way to earn it was to work hard. It was also drummed into me that ‘the labourer is worthy of his hire’ and that you ‘don’t get owt for nowt’. In later years as I ordered millions of pounds worth of product for hotels on behalf of our clients I came to realise there is truth in clichés, and that indeed one does get what one pays for – in other words there is a relationship between price and product quality. It is indeed true that there is no such thing as a free lunch and those companies using ‘cheap manufacturing’ in China are finding it is not cheap as their wages and social costs rise and the transport costs leap. UK based companies such as Casegood manufactuirers may well become more competitive, but we and the USA have thrown away much of our manufacturing systems for a short term vision of getting something for next to nothing….So it is with design. A good designer will use their knowledge and experience to save the client money – often saving more than their fee. Certainly the cost of not using an experienced designer can be paid by the operator for years through increase maintenance and staff costs, and difficulty in selling their product. Good Design adds to the bottom line.

    There are a number of patterns of payment for design fees, and I would outline these, with their advantages and disadvantages, below. I would caution all designers to get a written instruction before proceeding with any work, and caution all hotel groups to control line managers so that they do not dishonestly appoint designers to do work with when they don’t have authority to do so. Unfortunately at least two UK hotel groups ‘innocently’ allow junior or regional managers to do this in order to avoid paying for work. Designers should be aware that there are dishonest companies out there and should be formal in their relationships as Terry Addison points out in our ‘Ask the Experts’ columns in the DesignClubto avoid being defrauded.

    Commissioning of design seems to go in cycles with each of the following being favoured over the others at one time or another as each has advantages and disadvantages for the client. The three major ways in which design is commissioned in hotel sector are:-

    1. Design and Build.
    • In this it may well be that the Hotel operator nominates a designer to produce schemes, but chooses to pay them through the building contractor, so that there is only one set of bills. The designer is ‘novated’ to the contractor, which means the contractor is responsible for paying the designer and the designer’s contract is with the builder. Designers generally dislike this because their responsibility is to whom their contract is with, in this case the builder. Thus they may find that the materials they would like to use, or the layout of the space, may be changed for cheaper solutions that contribute to the builder’s bottom line.

    In my experience the major drawback with this approach is that the Client loses a productive relationship with the designer, and has a relationship with the builder instead. The relative benefits depend very much on the qualities of the individuals concerned.

    Advantages are that the process is transparent, professional and controllable by the Client, but only as effective as the Clients experience and management abilities. Weak management can lead to buildings that have operational problems built in, or create conflict between the aims of the designer in serving their paymaster or the Client.

    2. Design and Supply
    • Here the design will be provided by the company supplying the FF&E*, maybe on a ‘turnkey’ basis, i.e. the Client sets a budget and gets a hotel finished with all the FF&E in place so that it can be operated from the moment the keys are handed over and the Client turns them in the lock. Here the supplier provides a professional
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    Daniel Fountain / 28.11.2014

    Editor, Hotel Designs


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