“Aren’t architect’s fees expensive for small jobs?”

3No – this is a bit of an urban myth, put about by non-professionals and some builders! Anybody offering similar services will have to cover the same ground and procedures, but often with less skill, experience and training than an architect.

However, it is important that if you are getting quotes, you obtain them from qualified design professionals such as architects and Chartered architectural technologists in order to obtain the best return on your investment.

Another myth is that a technologist/technician will be cheaper than an architect. This may be true if the person offering you a ‘cheap’ price doesn’t have insurance, professional affiliations and works off their kitchen table. However, be aware of the risks involved if things go wrong and there is no redress.

Architect’s Fees can be calculated in 3 basic ways and are subject to negotiation:

  • Percentage of construction cost. As an indication, for a complete design and project management service, this can range anywhere between 5% to 15% dependant upon project type, size and complexity.
  • Lump sum Fee. This allows some certainty at the outset and can be quoted separately for each stage.
  • Hourly Rate. This is generally applied when scoping the viability of the project – the hourly rate applied may vary widely dependant upon the practice size and the grade of staff utilized.

Basically, the cost of the full service will take into account the likely construction cost, project complexity and an assessment of the hours required to design, make the statutory Planning and Building Regulations applications, provide construction information and mange the construction process (if indeed these later stages are required).

Using a very simple small domestic extension project as an example:

  • A 20 sq. m ground floor rear extension to a house, in the East of England, using traditional construction on a straightforward site. The average build cost is say £1200 / sq. m (although this could be very much higher dependant on servicing and level of specification) indicating a construction cost of £24,000. Statutory fees to the LA will be Planning (Householder application) £172 and Building Regs. £504.

Calculating a percentage cost fee:

From experience of the project type and complexity, we will know that the fee for a full service, will be mid range:

  • Say, 7.5% of £24,000 is £1800 subdivided into very roughly, one third for planning, one third for building regulations (plus statutory fees £676) and finally one third for managing the construction. It’s also worth remembering as a rule of thumb, as the construction cost goes up, then the percentage fee comes down.

Arriving at a Lump sum fee:

  • For Planning – Assessment of the number of hours required to visit, survey, design, draw up and deposit with planning, multiplied by the hourly rate (within a range £25 – £65 per hour depending upon staff seniority)
  • For Building Regulations – Similarly, assess the hours required to draw up and deposit with local authority.
  • For providing construction information and managing the construction – again, we would assess the number hours required to prepare details, specifications, make site inspections, hold site meetings and administer the contract.

We can of course quote for partial services for preparing a planning and building regulations submission only, leaving you to manage your build.

Finally, ensure that terms of appointment are provided in writing and that you fully understand these, i.e. which services your appointed professional will provide, over what time period, their costs including likely expenses and additional costs such as local authority statutory application fees (above) and whether further specialists are required.