Architectural Fees - How to lower costs on design | Project38LB

Updated: Feb 4, 2020

When I close out a contract agreement, I always ask myself "What could I have done better?" Construction is a mixed bag and competitive business. The finished product can be done so many ways and priced differently as well.


I discovered a valuable lesson when working with architects, other service providers can do some of the work for a lot less. Architectural services are broken down into four common service areas; 1) Conceptual Design 2) As-built drawings 3) City Submission and 4) Construction Management. Having your architect perform all four services will be a percentage of the total construction costs. According to HomeAdvisor, architectural fees range from 15-20% for remodels and 5-15% for new construction. If you have the time and can do a little material research, it is possible to lower the fees and get a product closer to your specifications.


Using the right architect on an hourly basis for conceptual design or floor plans is the best use of their skillset. A perfect floor plan can save thousands of dollars in construction mistakes as well as reinvent space. Always ask for three or four floor plan designs. It gives you the opportunity to see the space from a different perspective. You can also customize a floor plan using sections of multiple plans. Architect budget $165-$225 per hour.


As-built drawings or a scale factor drawing of the existing building can be done by a draftsman. Not all draftsmen are alike. Some have deep experience with CAD services and will draw mechanical, shop drawings or anything you ask for. This is not the same as a draftsman with residential or commercial experience. Make sure to find a draftsman who has experience with "as-built" residential drawings. They will know the level of detail for the city permit. Generally, the drawing will need a site plan (where the structure is situated on the lot and distance from lot lines), floor plan (interior layout of each room), reflected ceiling plan (ariel view of the roofline) and possibly an elevation plan (structure height from the curb). I love this draftsman search tip by Newly Woodwards. I also did my draftsman search straight from the Google search bar using search words "fina a local draftsman AIA". The result was a number of fantastic choices. Draftsman budget $90-$150 per hour


The city submission drawings generally will include both as-built and proposed new structure drawings. The level of detail in a new structure drawing depends on the local building and planning department.


A little tip, all design professionals are never 100% knowledgeable on every building and planning guideline because code restrictions are unique to project site address. Design professionals learn about code restrictions for the first time shortly after the building application. More often than not, a correction is required. Some corrections are small and some are so large the entire structure is a redo. Maybe this is where the thought of "back to the drawing board" originated from?


If you like the draftsman who did the as-built drawings use them for the new structure drawings as well. it is a great fit because they know the original lot and should be able to translate the conceptual plan to a scale factor drawing. Make the first set of new structure plan as simple as possible. After application review, building and planning will tell you specific code, modifications and added detail you will need to include on the drawing. Draftsman budget $90-$150 per hour


Note, projects that remove or relocate walls, change the structure footprint will need a structural drawing provided by a licensed structural engineer. An architect will sub out this service. Your favorite referral sites are a great resource for finding this talent. I like Angie's List or HomeAdvisor. Structural Engineer budget $175-$300 per hour


Finally, construction management, all the details that get your project from paper to reality. This is an endless array of questions and problems. If you have never been into design, home repair, visit Home Depot, Lowes, plumbing, electrical supply fairly often, hire a construction manager. Construction manager budget $45-$65 per hour


Remember, always take pride in your project!



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