How much does an Architect cost?
April 21, 2021
Always high up on our client’s question list is How much does an Architect cost?
On average architect’s design fees range between 5-15% of the construction costs depending on the scale of the project. The higher the construction cost, the lower the percentage.
Before we start digging into the cold hard figures, it’s really worth setting the scene. Given that an architect can cost between 5-15% of the construction costs, this leaves between 85-95% of the remaining budget to be allocated between the rest of the design and construction team. So what you need to consider is - will the fee spent on the architect prove its value in the remaining budget.
If you get the right architect, the savings you receive through clever design and management of consultants and contractors should far, far outweigh the initial outlay for an architect. In turn, think twice before choosing the cheapest quote you can find. There are many choices out there, some of which aren’t RIBA or ARB registered. This doesn't always mean a cheaper service, nor does it mean an inferior service but it does mean that they are not governed by the code of conduct rules that architects and chartered architects abide by which may expose you to a certain degree of risk.
In this article, we look at the three methods of fee calculation used by architects and what this means for you.
Method 1: Percentage of construction costs
Some architects will give you a percentage of the construction budget figure. This method of calculation uses percentages vs construction budgets as it is typically proportionate to the amount of work required. At Vita, we use this method to calculate fees on a lump sum basis based on initial construction cost estimates. That way your fee is set to the allocated lump sum. We find this a preferable method otherwise, giving you foresight on the projected fees and also keeps everyone incentivised to keep to budget.
Method 2: Time charges
Where the scope of works is open-ended an architect may charge as a time charge. At Vita, we again try not to use time charges where possible as it doesn’t give the client any peace of mind as to what the end figure will be. However, when appropriate we do use time charges with a fee cap giving clients some control over their costs. Usually, this is commonly found at the early stages of a project through providing a 1-week feasibility study to better understand the project and scope which can be used as a method of calculating a lump sum charge going forward.
Method 3: Lump sum fee
A fixed cost weighted against a fixed scope of works. This is our preferred form of appointment as it gives the client a clear scope against a clear fee. How we calculate this figure is actually based on both time and sanity checked against percentages but the result is a far more collaborative approach.
But what if I don't want a full service?
As a rule of thumb, we calculate our fee break down into the 3 main RIBA work stages as documented below, from here, you should be able to pick and choose the services you want and the fee associated. Each architect should be providing you with a more detailed breakdown in their fee proposal so you can further hone the service you want to suit your project and aspirations.
Example: A new build house on an empty plot.
Of course, every plot comes with its own complexities and scope but as a general rule of thumb, it's helpful to understand what fees are involved on a new build house project of £250k, £500k, and £1 million.
Scenario 1: An estimated £250k budget
This would typically equate to a full architectural scope of 9% of the construction budget. £22,500 exc VAT.
Breaking this down into the 3 main RIBA stages:
Stages 1-3: Planning: £6,750 exc VAT
Stage 4: Technical design: £9,000 exc VAT
Stage 5-6: Construction: £6,750 exc VAT
Scenario 2: An estimated £500k budget
This would typically equate to a full architectural scope of 8% of the construction budget. £40,000 exc VAT.
Breaking this down into 3 phases:
Stages 1-3: Planning: £12,000 exc VAT
Stage 4: Technical design: £16,000 exc VAT
Stage 5-6: Construction £12,000 exc VAT
Scenario 3: An estimated £1m budget
This would typically equate to a full architectural scope of 7% of the construction budget. £70,000 exc VAT.
Breaking this down into 3 phases:
Stages 1-3: Planning: £21,000 exc VAT
Stage 4: Technical design: £28,000 exc VAT
Stage 5-6: Construction £21,000 exc VAT
So how much does an architect cost?
In summary, it depends on size and scope. It’s obviously an important question for clients to ask, but from our perspective, the truth is that the focus has to be on getting an architect and design that’s right for you, fits within your budget, and minimizes planning and construction risk. When you take a step back and see that the architect is only 5-15% of your project, it’s so fundamental to get this decision right as they are the foundations upon which the remaining 85% of the project is built upon.
The estimations discussed in this article are intended for guidance only, each and every project and site is different so contact us for more detailed information.