Architectural Design Fees

Professional Architectural Design Fees

There used to be fixed fee scales laid down by the RIBA and associated professional bodies. This practice was quashed by the government in order to promote price competition. So now how do you judge what sort of fee level is ‘expensive’, what constitutes ‘cheap’, and what will give you value for money?

As you might have guessed there is no clear answer simply because each project is different. So how do you choose?

Plan Drafters

The cheapest fee you will ever be quoted is from a ‘Plan drafter’. These may be individual who you may come across in a local parish magazine, local newspaper, or via post card in the corner shop window. Invariably you will find these people are unqualified, little or no experience, and, importantly – no professional indemnity insurance cover. They produce very basic line drawings that contain little on no detail and construction information, and the bear minimum in order to pass the Building Regulations.

You are advised to steer well clear of the ‘plan drafter’, if only for the fact that they are unlikely to be insured. He, or she will provide what appears to be a very ‘competitive’ fee quote. For ‘competitive’, in this instance, read ‘cheap’. Too cheap.

Qualified Building Design Professionals

The minimum level of qualification you should be looking for is either a Chartered Architectural Technologist who will be a Full Member of the Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists (CIAT), or a Chartered Architect who is a member of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).

What is the difference? – In a nutshell:

Both are equally valid professionals, and are experts in building design. The Architect is trained primarily in building design aesthetics and how that building interacts with it’s users, with no great in depth knowledge of building technology. The Architect’s knowledge of building technology is largely acquired through experience on the job.

The Architectural Technologist is trained in the technology of building design and construction. He /she will understand in detail the effects of different building and construction methods, and more importantly how, and when to apply them. The good ones also have, through experience, developed the ability to integrate good visual design with environmental and ergonomic considerations.

What is the value of a building design professional?

You might take the view that – “Building design professionals are an unnecessary expense if I want to extend or alter my home, or work place” – Right?.

Or, you could try looking at it another way:

A building design professional will provide the comfort that:

  • The whole project is designed to make sure your requirements for your new build, extension or alteration are met as fully as is practically possible.
  • Your design is compliant with planning policy.
  • Your design meets the constantly updating requirements under the building regulations.
  • Your design and your budget are tied together.
  • The finished project is aesthetically pleasing whether you are looking for the wow factor of something entirely different, or just pleasant integration and harmony with the existing environment, or something in-between.
  • The finished project performs well. Improving and enhancing your lifestyle or workplace as you had imagined, or, even better; beyond what you thought would be possible.
  • No one takes advantage of the fact that you know little about the technicalities and costs associated with building design and construction”.

By employing a building design professional to entirely oversee the project from start to finish, it is not uncommon to actually save money. In allowing him / her, to negotiate costs with the building contractor on your behalf. The best starting price can be obtained when the project is tendered, and any alterations, or additions to the original design can be kept under strict control.

The Building Design Professionals fee is still an additional cost, but put that into the pot that you intend to pay the builder from, and not only are you ensuring that your contractor will follow and build the detail design requirements you have agreed with your building design professional, but also you are paying only what is strictly appropriate during and at the end of the project. You can also ensure that money is held over for a period so that if any aspect of the build begins to fail, the contractor has an incentive to return to put things right.

Not all projects are like this, but there are too many horror stories circulating that so easily could have been avoided but for the input of an experienced and knowledgeable building design professional.

Here are some questions you might ask:

  • Can I promise you will get a finished project of consistent high technical and aesthetic design quality, with the small details just right? – Yes.
  • Can I promise that you will not be taken advantage of when it comes to paying your building contractor? – Yes
  • Can I promise that the pain and anguish associated with having strangers constantly on your property will be minimised? – Yes.
  • Can I promise you that you will never have to deal with your building contractor beyond making them a cup of tea? – Yes.
  • Can I promise you that by employing a building design professional you will save the equivalent of their fee against the building contractors charges? – No.

When all said an done only you can decide whether Yes outweighs No?

Please talk to your friends, family, neighbours, work colleagues and find out what their experiences are. Try and seek a recommendation for your Building Design Professional, as you would a building contractor. You can go here to see what some of my clients have said about their experiences of my services.

So How Much Does it all cost?

This is the difficult one, because every project is different and Building Design fees cannot generally be costed on a pigeon hole basis.

Within every project there will usually be a variety of level of professional service that can be offered. –

The ‘Entry level’ service – A minimum service level offered by Design Office Architectural Ltd which will provide for provision of architectural drawings suitable for a planning application, and further application under the Building Regulations.

What if my project does not require planning permission, or Building Regulations approval? – There may be a small fee reduction if no other administration work is necessary, but essentially the standard of information will be unchanged as this will be the minimum required by your building contractor to construct the project.

Beyond the Entry level there are a number of further elements that may be ‘bolted on’. You are asked to note that the following are ‘headlines’ only. A full appraisal of their content will again vary from project to project and can therefore be made available on request.

The inclusion of all the following will constitute a ‘Full service’ appointment.

  • Large scale detail drawing package to include electrical layout, Finishes schedule and Key construction details.
  • Written schedule of works and, or specification document.
  • Organisation of multiple contractors tender and preparation of formal building contract.
  • Organisation of pre-contract meeting(s) and subsequent site inspections during the contract period.
  • Post contract ‘snag’ inspections.

You will usually find two types of fee available:

  1. Fixed lump sum – Your building design professional will identify the amount of work to be done within the parameters that focus on the above headings, and offer a fixed price for a fixed amount of works.
  2. Percentage of the contract cost – This type of fee agreement is more commonly used on larger projects, but it may be to the client’s advantage to seek such an agreement where there is a possibility of the amount of work required being more open ended.

Alternatively, if you have a niggling query that you need answering you can post it here- use the reply box at the bottom.