How Much Does an Architect Cost?

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I received an email question from a fellow named Fred – “How much does it cost for an architect to design a house?”.I’ll try to answer that here.

Dear Fred,

That is a loaded question. Fees for Architectural Services can vary quite widely depending on the quality level of the Architect, the complexity of the design, the level of services desired, etc. In general a full scope of Architectural Services can run from about 8% to 12% of the construction cost. I know of some Architects that charge more than that – up to 20%. Typically this full scope of Architectural Services includes the following:

  • A thorough review of your building program (an analysis of your space needs based upon your lifestyle and family composition)
  • A design process (preparation of multiple design variations and development of the design through the smallest details
  • A construction documentation process (prepare working drawings and specifications)
  • A construction administration process (this involves following up on the project throughout construction, answering contractor questions, addressing construction issues as they arise, finalizing selections, reviewing the construction for compliance with the documents, etc.)

Now 8% to 12% of the construction cost is an awful lot of money. I happen to believe it is well worth it as a great design that is tailored to your needs adds value. But not every client has the resources to spend on design. Are there any ways to save a little cash on your Architect? Yes, by reducing your Architect’s scope of work. This reduces number of hours needed to perform the project and consequently the overall fee. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Ask the Architect to limit the number of design schemes they prepare. Limiting the number of designs can also mean you might be missing out on a great idea. But most Architects can get to a very good design solution quickly as long as they are focused on solving the problem.
  • Ask the Architect to limit the number of interior elevations they prepare. Preparation of Interior Elevations involves a lot of time designing and decision making. This means that you will have to dedicate yourself to these efforts and be comfortable with the decisions you are making without the Architects advice.
  • Ask your Architect to limit the number of details that they prepare. This means that you and your contractor will have to spend the time “interpreting” the drawings to determine the details.
  • Eliminate the lighting / electrical plans. You will have to work with the lighting suppliers and electrical contractor do prepare a lighting design that meets your needs and to select lighting fixtures that are appropriate to the Architectural design.
  • Limit the Architect’s time during construction. There are many decisions that need to get made and many questions to answer during construction. If you are comfortable making decisions and have the time to dedicate during this phase, then this might be a good money saving strategy. Keep in mind the Architect may want some sort of release from liability from all decisions that are made during the construction process.
  • Ask the Architect for other cost saving strategies. Each Architect has there own process, so they might have other strategies for you to save money on there fees.

So in general you can save $$$ by reducing the Architect’s scope of work and taking on those responsibilities yourself. Keep in mind you might likely be reducing the overall quality of the design by taking the Architect out of the process. But by using these scope reduction strategies or others you should be able to reduce the fee for Architectural Services significantly.

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