Thursday, 31 July 2008

Universe expansion delays

Readers of this blog might know we have been planning on extending our house. Yes, we insist in taking our time paying our mortgage back.
In order to extend we have three possible courses of action. The first one is irrelevant: do a self building course and do the extension on our own; some people actually do it but we would like our house to stand for more than two minutes. The second is to employ the services of a builder, but there we will be compromised by our ignorance which would allow the builder to sell us whatever they want to sell us. The third option is meant to overcome that hurdle: employ an architect to design the work and then supervise the builders.
Being that an extension would cost us more than a yearly income, we've decided to go by the book and utilize that third option. Since we're not exactly mates with architects, we've decided to use the services of Archicentre - a company that offers an interface for liaising with hundreds of architects registered with them to perform all sorts of architecture jobs. We've actually used them quite successfully to inspect our house before we bought it, so we thought we'd give them a second go.
Alas, so far things didn't turn out well. As you can see in the complaint letter I've been drafting, we've received a rather lackluster service from Archicentre. When, eventually, they did manage to match us with an architect, that architect ran away the minute we've started questioning him. It appears architects suffer from the Prima Donna syndrome: they are so up with themselves they cannot think of anyone not taking their word and actually questioning them.
Anyway, here's an edited version of the draft letter I have so far. My recommendation? Choose an architect you know in person.

Re: Delivery issues with Home Design Consultation

We are currently investigating extending our home. In order to ensure we do as good a job as possible with our extension project we have decided to use Archicentre's services and conduct a Home Design Consultation. Based on Archicentre's literature, our understanding was that we would be matched with an architect familiar with the area we live in, the style of our house, and experienced in similar projects to ours.
Initially we were contacted by SM, our appointed Archicentre architect. Contact was made via a rather laconic email that told us SM is an architect and that he can only meet us during very specific business hour times. This contradicted our specified need to meet with the architect out of business ours, following Archicentre's own recommendation to conduct the consultation at a time in which all stakeholders are available.
We therefore contacted Archicentre again and asked for the architect to be replaced with one we can actually meet with.
We were then contacted by PW, the newly appointed architect, who met with us and delivered the documentation that comes with the consultation. However, while we were discussing PW's proposal for taking on the extension work with us, PW has notified us hat he is no longer able to attend to us as he was awarded with a large commission. He offered to provide us the contact numbers of alternate architects and suggested we look for architects in the Yellow Pages.
At this point in time we find ourselves extremely disappointed with the services provided to us through Archicentre. The primary reason for us contacting Archicentre in the first place was its promise to put us in touch with an architect matching our needs, yet Archicentre has so far been unable to achieve that. While we did get the documentation deliverables out of the Home Design Consultation, that documentation did not provide us with anything we did not know before and served mainly as the starting point for our connection with the architect. We certainly did not get in touch with Archicentre in order to end up looking for an architect in the phone book!
We therefore feel as if we did not get the promised value for money out of the hefty sum we paid for the Design Consultation and that we have wasted precious months with Archicentre. We would appreciate it if Archicentre gets its act together and actually delivers on its promises to put us in touch with a matching architect that is capable and actually willing to work with us on our extension project.

6 comments:

Moshe Reuveni said...

The post's letter was the initial draft. The letter we actually sent is better drafted, and for the record here it is:


Dear sir/madam,


During May 2008 we have booked a Home Design Consultation with Archicentre. In our opinion, Archicentre has failed to deliver us the consultation's intended deliverables. The purpose of this letter is to explain our problems with the services provided to us by Archicentre.


1. Background:

We are currently investigating extending our home. In order to ensure we do as good a job as possible with our extension project we have decided to use Archicentre's services and conduct a Home Design Consultation.

Based on what Archicentre has told us, we would be getting two things out of this Home Design engagement:

First, we would receive a written overview of our current status and the target status. We were not particularly interested in this written overview, as we already acquired similar documentation from several builders who gave us free quotes.

Second, and more importantly, Archicentre promised we would be matched with an architect familiar with the area we live in, familiar with the style of our house, experienced in similar projects to ours, and willing to take our project on. As having such an architect on our side would greatly reduce our project's risks we booked the Archicentre Home Design Consultation on 26 May 2008.


2. First architect engagement:

On 27 May 2008 we were contacted by SM, our appointed Archicentre architect. Contact was made via a rather laconic email that told us SM is an architect and that he can only meet us during business hours Monday to Friday. This contradicted our specified need to meet with the architect out of business hours and Archicentre's own recommendation to conduct the consultation at a time in which all stakeholders are available. We therefore contacted Archicentre again; Archicentre has agreed with us and arranged to engage us with an alternative architect.


3. Second architect engagement:

On 2 June 2008 we were contacted by PW, the newly appointed architect. PW met with us and delivered the documentation that is a part of the Home Consultation deliverables, and also gave us a proposal for engaging his services throughout our home extension project. However, while in the process of discussing the details of PW's proposal with him, PW has notified us on 28 July 2008 that he is no longer able to attend to us as he was awarded with a large commission. PW offered to provide us the contact numbers of alternate architects and suggested we look for architects in the Yellow Pages.


4. Complaint summary:

At this point in time we find ourselves extremely disappointed with the services provided to us through Archicentre. The primary reason for us contacting Archicentre in the first place was its promise to put us in touch with an architect matching our needs, yet Archicentre has so far been unable to achieve that. While we did get the Home Design Consultation's documented deliverables, that documentation did not provide us with anything we did not know before and was meant to serve mainly as the starting point for our connection with the architect. However, we have not been delivered with an architect willing to engage us on our project. We certainly did not get in touch with Archicentre in order to end up looking for such an architect in the phone book!

Note our issue is not with the individual architects we had engaged with, but rather with Archicentre inability to match us with an architect.

We therefore feel as if we did not get the promised value for money out of the $535.50 we paid for the Design Consultation and that we have wasted precious months with Archicentre. We would appreciate it if Archicentre gets its act together and actually delivers on its promises to put us in touch with a matching architect that is actually willing to work with us on our extension project.

Moshe Reuveni said...

For the record, the letter helped. A day after we posted it Archicentre called us to appoint a new architect that will go through the same ritual with us again.
That said, I still thing going through Archicentre did not give us any advantage in the first place. The architects they've been appointing us are no different to the architects we could have found on the Yellow Pages, and to pay some $600 for someone to browse the Yellow Pages for me is a bit on the excessive side of things.

Uri said...

Is mail that fast down under?

Moshe Reuveni said...

Post boxes are emptied at 18:00, and mail sent from inside a capital city to the same capital city are delivered the next day.

Robin said...

Slightly different matter but I also would advise anyone not to use the Archicentre - in this case for your pest inspection. They are the most expensive guys around but do substandard work. In our case they did not notice excessive termite damage in several “accessible areas” as they say themselves are included in their inspection. One example was excessive damage to the top walls in the roof area, which according to an independent pest inspector was hard to miss given the mudtracks all over the place – makes you wonder if they even looked in there…... They boast a so-called “timber gurantee” and make you fill out a complaint form – but at the end of the day do anything not to compensate for their mistakes and hide behind their extensive terms and conditions. Just an arrogant and client unfriendly bunch of architects in my experience. Regards, Robin

Moshe Reuveni said...

By now our Archicentre experience indicates they're not much more than a Yellow Pages type service that engages between you and an architect they have listed in their books. Fee wise, their appointed architect gets a small fraction of their rather gigantic fees.
That said, we used Archicentre to survey our house before we bought it, and we were quite satisfied with the results. Everything the guy said turned out to be accurate, and he did notice a lot.