Well how much does an architect cost ?
I guess this is the 6 million dollar question at the moment considering the never-ending depression we’re currently battling against. In this age of anti-monopoly/price fixing and considering the range of architects that are currently available (from the Starchitects that have seen their practices either go under or had a huge drop in staff numbers to the hungry one-man practices (of which I proudly count myself); you might as well ask yourself how long is a piece of string.
What I can do however is outline the three key ways an architect normally works, this system is included in the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland (RIAI) Standard Agreement between Client and Architect and the RIBA and AIA (and all the other professional architect bodies) will have something similar. I’ve taken the details below for domestic housing but other agreements and percentages are available for other building types.
Method 1: As a percentage of the Total construction cos
The RIAI can no longer provide architects with recommended fee scales but each year they do produce a graph showing statistics for the previous year of Projected Building Cost against the Percentage charged for different Building Types.
The graphs show scattered graphs with median lines for one-off housing projects, Renovations and House Extensions up to €5M. The percentages then spread from 4-16% dependent on the project/cost.
Therefore for a project costing (excluding VAT): €100,000 the total fee for RIAI Work Stages 1-4 (Initial Design, Developed Design, Detail Design and Construction to completion) for a fee percentage of 10% is €10,000.
I would highly recommend this method of working where the architect is retained for the entire project; his/her code of contact requires them to work to your budget and not to deliberately recommend the most expensive option ! This method of work also allows to include other services that wouldn’t be included in the services below such as wall and tiling designs and layouts, advice on sustainable and lifetime design.
Method 2: On a lump sum basis
This is where a fixed lump sum is agreed between client and architect for some or all of the above stages.
This method may be suitable for a part architectural service; for a few sketch designs, the planning application only for example but it should be emphasised that you may not be utilising your architect in the best way; architects will be more committed to the project when their skills are utilised throughout the ENTIRE course of the design, detailing and construction.
The benefit of working this way is that the client knows exactly how much the architectural fees are going to cost in advance of construction. The disadvantage is that the lump sum fee for an equivalent stage may be higher than the equivalent construction percentage basis.
Method 3: On a time charge basis
This is where the work is charged on a per hour basis; the RIAI agreement allows for a ‘principal’ and ‘technical staff’ rate. Using this method may be ideal for short, easily defined projects where the total architectural fee is reasonably low.
The advantage to the architect is that he/she is getting paid exactly for the amount of work undertaken; the disadvantage to the client is that the hours can quickly mount up and costs can quickly spiral out of control.
The hourly rate price may also be a higher rate than either the equivalent percentage fee basis or the lump sum fee.
Feel free to comment; would love to hear from other architects and related professionals on alternative pricing methods…