Examination Of the professional practice characteristics of architectural firms in Nigeria
A key factor in architecture is that it is a professional service. The profession revolves around providing value for the customer. Providing such value has come to mean creating structures that last longer and using energy more efficiently to create structures that are cost efficient to owners (Jaiyeoba, 2002). Fitzsimmons and Fitzsimmons (2004), defined service as a time-perishable, intangible experience performed for a customer acting in the role of co-producer.
Kotler, Armstrong, Saunder and Wong (1999), on the other hand, defined it as any activity or benefit that one party can offer to another which is essentially intangible and does not result in the ownership of anything. Its production may or may not be tied to a physical product. The special nature of professional services is seen in the special nature of what is sold -expertise-, as well as the fee and time basis most often involved in charging for it. Architecture is one of such services with characteristics such as direct customer interaction, intangibility, and perishability (Davis and Heineke, 2003, Fitzsimmons and Fitzsimmons, 2004, Palmer, 2001, and Forsyth 2003).
However, Blau, (1984) suggested that architecture differs from other professional services in a number of ways. It is more involved with the technocrat and corporate elite than other professions and thus enjoys less legal protection than other professions like medicine. The integral importance of architectural practice to the general public is also low, as the regular middle class man hires shelter from the elite, who is the one in contact with the architect. Architects provide services, which includes feasibility studies, planning, designs, construction, conservation, and development. Architectural firms design a multitude of different structures for all sectors of the market. Office and apartment buildings, schools, military installations, churches, factories, hospitals, houses, and airport terminals are but a few of the facilities that they design for private individual clients, as well as commercial, government, and private nonprofit organizations.
Blau (1984) noted that while some firms specialize in serving one niche or a few segments of the market, others are highly diversified and offer a variety of architectural services to all types of clients. Over the years, Architecture has generated specializations such as structural design, urban design, city planning, landscape architecture and interior architecture. Retrofitting of buildings, architectural conservation, and construction management have also lately emerged as specializations. Each of these compliments and supports each other.