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Architects charged for their services as a percentage of the total construction
cost of the building work. This covered the core services of design, drawings,
planning and technical approvals, site inspections, certifying money to
the Contractor and generally sorting out the whole job. Some services such
as measuring and drawing up the existing site/building are on a time charge
basis. This system is still in place and can be very good on larger projects
or where budget figures are required. There was a scale of charges published
by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)
however this has been withdrawn (the OFT thought it anti-competitive).
Anyway... since many people seem shy of asking Architects
It is impossible to give exact guidelines here as every job is VERY different
however as a rule of thumb you might expect Architect's fees on a smallish
project to be around 12% of the total cost of the work. Obviously this
goes up the smaller the works and down the larger the project but for
the modest projects this practice gets involved in it will not be too
In fact rather than a percentage system I tend to charge on a time basis
at an hourly rate plus expenses or an agreed total figure with scope for
variation depending on circumstances. This suits the type of work I tend
to carry out - alterations and extensions to old buildings - often where
the client is involved in organising some or all of the building work.
It seems fairer to me and is popular with clients. Whatever method is
used (and every job is different) it is important that there is a written
record of how fees will be calculated and when they will be charged. Most
Architects will tell you that this does not always happen - particularly
on small jobs but it is good practice and in fact a requirement of our
Institute's Code of Professional Conduct and of the ARB - the Architects
Registration Board (the title 'Architect' is protected by law).
I know from
talking to clients that many people...
a) do not really understand what it is that an Architect
b) worry about what they are getting into in terms of costs before they
are even sure they want a new building/extension/conversion etc...
So... for what it's worth, here is my view based on day to day experience
in small works - (send me an
if you are still not clear on any of this)... Also I should point out
that if you are looking for say, a small extension then some (all?) of
the larger Architecture practices may not be interested (no, I don't know
why really - they say it's their overheads...)
DO? Architects - in a word, Organise.
Yes, there's Design flair, drawing skills, technical know-how and lots
of other stuff that sounds good in adverts but ask any Architect what
they spend most of their time doing and I would expect them to say 'Organising'
(otherwise known as 'problem solving'). Now, some people like to organise
their own buildings and just have an Architect do the designs and detail
plans - fine, no problem - in fact I quite like this as long as there
is a good builder involved - other people want the full service whereby
the Architect organises the whole job from start to finish. Between
these 2 poles there are an infinite number of variations - every job
is tailored to the needs of the particular client - and obviously there
is a difference in cost - but not as much as people believe - in fact
I think it is one of the better kept secrets of the profession that
clients get better value for money having the Architect run - or be
closely involved in - the whole job rather than just the design and
technical drawing parts. (For my part I like to encourage builders and
clients to let me know of any issues that arise on site irrespective
of the scope of the service requested.)
Many (but not all) Architects will have an initial chat about your project
without charging - although the time may be added into the overall fees
if the project goes ahead. See my note on fees above .
to budget for (and I'm simplifying things a little here) will be a
Planning application fee (if planning consent is required) to the
authority (here it is the Lake District National Park Authority or 'LDNPA' for
short) - currently [June 2014] domestic
extensions are probably £172.00 and conversions or new houses £385.00.
Commercial rates are more - based on floor area. You can check with the Planning Portal's online fee calculatoralthough I sometimes find that it does not offer the option you want (that may be a browser problem).
Note that Permitted Development rights have been changed for householders on 1st October 2008 and your work may not require consent (but check carefully, preferably with the Planning Authority who now may ask for a paid application to confirm that you did not need to apply - strange I know but useful if you come to sell later).
Don't forget to allow several hundred pounds at least for a bat survey, which is the most likely requirement for an ecological survey (in 4 out of 5 applications I deal with). There are potential surveys for many other creatures and even trees, not to mention flood risk and proximity to rivers (has your nearby beck/stream been 'enmained' and become technically a river with much greater need for consultation and prevention of pollution from your building work?) but the bat survey is now very commonly requested.
When you reach the working drawings stage a Building Regulations application
will need to be made to the local authority (assuming the work involves
structural work or drainage - always check as currently [June 2014] some re-roofing, replacing windows, some home electrical work and even re-plastering or re-rendering external walls may come under Building Regulations) - local authorities are
South Lakeland DC, Copeland DC, Eden DC, Allerdale DC (see Planning/Building
Inspector - who does what page)- it is a bit complex to explain
here but even a modest extension will likely attract a fee of several
You should also allow a few hundred pounds (for a modest alteration/extension)
just in case certified calculations for an element of structure (commonly
steel beams) from a consultant Engineer are requested by Building Control.
Your Architect may recommend an Engineer but it is a client appointment.
(Quantity Surveyors are useful appointments - specialists in costing
and scheduling - especially useful where work is going out to tender
- but I seldom see them on small works these days unless there are special
requirements such as when a Lottery application is being made.)
is involved (the more onerous duties are for anything in pursuit of a business, but check as letting a holiday cottage is probably a business use, certainly if you pay business rates) then there will also be fees
for a CDM Co-ordinator - there are one or two I recommend locally and will give an estimate. The government has indicated the system will be changed soon [June 2014] but we await details.
Wall Act may bring in surveyors as well if you are on a tight site.
That's it really for domestic/small commercial work... unless you need
a new water supply (usually over £1k plus any
digging and water supplies need to have 750 mm (2'6") cover for frost protection), an electricity supply (anybody's guess! they will quote) or
a gas supply (ditto).
Going back to point a) Organising all this is best left to the Architect
- but if you like spending hours on the telephone he/she will happily
let you do it instead!... although Contractor's are less happy about
it since it makes life a lot easier if there is one point of contact
for paperwork, contact details and project information.
- remember VAT - currently
20% [June 2014].
Builders and Architects always discuss costs excluding VAT but should
point it out to domestic clients (businesses can often claim VAT back).
Note that while there are some exemptions to VAT listed below - professional
fees are always standard rated - currently 20% - unless the Architect
is not VAT registered.
VAT Exempt or reduced rate?...
A helpful Customs guide on reduced rate and exemptions for types of construction is available for download here
Works to provide disabled access to premises may also be zero-rated
but again, check the latest details with a VAT office.
One of the reasons that there is so much confusion
is that the Chancellor may announce a scheme in the budget - but before
implementation changes to the detail are made.
Ultimately it is the builder or tradesmen that you, the client, have
to convince if you feel a reduced rate or zero-rating of VAT for your
project is justified. This can take more effort than you might think.
On listed building work to residential or charitable properties where you are seeking zero-rating, it is a good idea to give
each trade a copy of the listed building consent, and on reduced rate work such as conversion of non-residential building into residential use (e.g. a barn conversion), a copy of the planning permission to prove that the resulting dwellings will be full residential use and not just an extension.
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