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Question DetailsAsked on 8/12/2013

How much does an architect charge?

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5 Answers

Voted Best Answer
3
Votes

Assuming this is new single family residential

makes the answer more simple.

Small towns = small fees and ability to trunkate the voulme of plans required to insure a good job. It's from this perspective I'll attempt to corral these wild horses, answers architect have given prior.


Always attempt to get a by-the-hour rate, never a $/sf - they know how to play the game better than you in the latter and the former honesty is guaranteed by their state license board.


Never accept draftsmen to be placed in charge of your project, regardless of architect, engineer, surveyor, etc. even though rates may be charged lower, the product quality is even less than these charges with plenty of errors/omissions/oversights in planning when the licensed overseeer gets busy on other projects.


If you like the projects produced, obtain favorable references, then the hourly rate should be $60-120/hr small town. No, you don't associate cost vs quality. Look at overhead, employees ... if pronounced, then your fees go to pay for all these = less money/time devoted to your project.

Source: Residential Architect since 1984, designer prior to that

Answered 5 years ago by tgivaughn

0
Votes

This is a pretty wide open area of pricing, so you see everything from about 5% of building construction cost to 25%. In major cities it is rare to see less than about 15%.

While it may seem unfair to charge on % rather than on the actuall work to be done, and it is, most people want a fixed cost up front, so a percentage of construction cost is something that can be estimated from previous jobs. Generally, paying by the hour will cost a lot less, but leaves the amount open-ended and does have the potential for "milking" the account in the office.

Generally, architectural consultation on layout and functionality, alternative plan renderings and sketches, and consultation on interior design will run about 3-5%; basic construction blueprints and building permit documentation will run about 5-7%; and construction management and inspection and structural and geotechnical engineering (either in-house or subcontracted) will run about 5% - totalling about 15%. Over 15%, to 25%, usually means intensive economic analysis, city planning and land use and zoning board interface (particularly on waivers or exemptions), environmental studies or assessments, public hearings, physical or computerized models, or intensive total-property design including detailed landscaping, etc - or gouging, which does happen, particularly on high-end and government/corporate jobs.

Personally, my practice has been to pay by pre-established hourly rates plus reimburseable expenses like travel. If you see more than 10% for a pre-settled layout, or 15% if the architect (and his interior designer) works with you to a substantial extent on planning layout, arrangement, and landscaping, then unless for a "mansion" if would look elsewhere.

Answered 7 years ago by LCD

0
Votes

Good points by tgivaughn about making sure the architect (or engineer on engineering work) is actually the "design lead" on the project - not a designer or draftsman or intern or unlicensed junior engineer/draftsman, who may be putting in the most manhours on the job but should be reporting to and under the DIRECT supervision of the licensed professional.


As I previously stated, I am not so sure as he is about the hourly rate being cheaper or the licensing board keeping hours under control - I have dealt with a LOT of architects and two things almost always stood out - poor time management (leading to higher cost) whe on hourly rate, and the problem that vexes most professional design firms - perfectionism, or always wanting to spend just a fewmore hours to get it perfect - which can lead to destruction of the estimate, especially with junior staff who havenot had their leash jerked tight a few times for running over budget.


Of course, you need to exerciser discipline too - because regardless of how you are paying, changing plans in mid-stream WILL cost you in additional manhour costs and change orders, so it is VITAL to tie down all elements of the job in the initial scoping and conceptual design phase, then assume any change from then on will cost you for rework on the plans and specs.

Answered 5 years ago by LCD

2
Votes

I believe LCD & I agree on most things and our long terms of experiences will put on track those items over which we might have friction.


By-the-hour was selected as best for all worlds. after trying ALL other means of compensation to be fair to both sides; e.g. the most objectionable practice is that of draftsmen quoting $/SF prices.

1) They know how to play this profit game daily & have survived in business protecting that profit even if it means cutting services or product ... where the novice client in unaware ... until too late on-the-job. How often do you win at Vegas? They set the rules and do this every day to tourists.

2) Are clients aware that an hourly timesheet is being recorded on these "$/sf" projects? Once the profit gets threatened by paying the draftsmen/helpers by-the-hour or the owner figures being behind on hours that need to pay the electric bills ... the client gets presented with the news ... "your project scope of work has changed so much, we can no longer honor our $/SF deal; in order to finish, you'll be paying by-the-hour" ... "How much is that?" ... Draftsmen then go seek what the local architect is charging = same rate as he.

3) Tried the by-the-hour oral agreement BUT with maximum cap. This worked OK to sooth novice fears until the news reached the long ears of rich, combative wolf clients. These will easily push their service hours over the max. + demand tight deadlines (even through holidays) + extra services not normally offered (e.g. combating City ordinances, even Codes).

4) Flat fees were attempted but these suit only the jaded clients that build often, know/predict rates on the button and the architect knows exactly what's the scope of work, often with the time consuming design well in place or at least manageable.

5) By-the-hour has always been a team effort to get to the goal line without leaving important life tailoring nuances behind due to design fee concerns, as it should be. Client will leave petty argument out of the meetings and bring firmer decisions to the design phases to save money. The mature architect rarely wants to spend more time than required fiddling or allowing vacillation with a single plan when so many others need attention and the idea of golf/etc. looms as a reward at the finish line. A residential specialist mature architect has few "fiddle to perfection" hurtles to waste time, as he has many other work around plays to employ to reach the finish line. This is the arrangement preferred by those clients experienced in designed a new/remodel/addition, as it gives them exact services/$$, they get what they pay for w/o profit fluff wasted and they end up with exactly what they want on paper, complete enough to defend against on-the-job "confusion", disappointments. By-the-hour extends to inspections and other services, if needed to clarify intentions, debunk sales pitches or grease the wheels.

Answered 5 years ago by tgivaughn

1
Vote

tgivaughn has made a point in several responses that I think bears emphasizing - in many states, almost anyone can "design" a single family residence, and in some states even 2 or 4 unit buildings not over 2 stories high. Ditto to contractors in many states.



Therefore, there are "draftsmen" and contractors who advertise that they can design your project. With a lot of experience under their belt, they might get most of it right if there are no unusual features - but in very few cases are they trained in design or structural analysis or WHY the building code addresses certain things certain ways - that is why there are architects and civil/structural engineers (and related specialists) to address building code requirements, your project requirements, design criteria and design loads, then prepare the plans and specifications detailing the foundation, structure, utilities, energy, water barrier (siding/roof/foundation), and interior finishes.


The other thing a professional design gives you that the draftsman or contractor rarely can is legal weight to the plans - since they are prepared by a design professional they will (unless seriously flawed) stand up as contract scope of work, to permit reviewers and inspector scrutiny, and as the "record" of how the work should have been built in the event of a dispute. The draftsman is not in a position to back up his work and generally will not have E&O (Errors and Omissions) insurance other if the plans have problems, and arguing with the contractor about whether he built the project to plans he did - well, that is a lost cause.


This is NOT to say that having a contractor get plans for a fairly straight-forward remodel revision like say changing a header to widen a window or opening up a wall is not acceptable, as long as he goes to an architect or engineer for them rather than preparing them himself.

Answered 5 years ago by LCD

1
Vote

Some last thoughts to complete the scope of this large question:

An experienced architect by-the-hour often produces

a larger quantity of superior drawings to that of a draftsman @ $/sf,

for same/less total cost .....local builders report almost every time. The client may also receive architect insider guidance on all the "next steps" leading them to actual construction as well + options of on site inspections, support/opinions, et al.

Some builders will steer clients away from architects:

> fear of someone knowledgeable looking over their shoulder with loose lips

> Building Officials may prevent changes from his/her Plans, especially in structural matters w/o the architect’s change order signed/sealed

> having a shop full of alternate options outside of builder presented options when out of stock or no longer produced items/other arise

> too many cooks ...... This also applies to interior decorators, landscape architects, any one not on their direct payroll, under their hush thumb .... (the best builders welcome this team effort b/c it brings errors/omissions to the lowest levels, client satisfaction to the highest = free "ad" satisfied referrals)

 

One way to cut design fees is to establish an architect-builder design/build relationship early on.

The client may pay the retainer fee to architect to establish a vested interest, while the builder pays for the remaining fees as a client loan ... To be reimbursed by Owner, either through his building loan (included in cost of house) or paid directly should client walk out on bid &/or seek others to build.

Most of this savings is via owner-builder meetings. After the initial meeting, the architect is excused and works from distilled builder notes on an accelerated priority project status. Remainder of this savings is from the builder filtering owner choices in many matters to either SOPs, easy to do/obtain options, cheaper ways/products, other time saving or headache avoiding paths for the builder to enjoy, w/o architect "world vision" of what could be. This is the yin yang of that but superior to simple finding a new house sold & asking builder for "one of that, please" w/o any licensed designer on board.

Source: over 30 years as residential Architect/I.D.

Answered 5 years ago by tgivaughn




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