William Sutherland



Office Address Cluan
Rydal Road
LA22 9BA

015394 34489

For location plan
see Local Links


2 cottages about to be knocked into 1 - unusual!


an Architect

What does it cost?
June 2014

Traditionally 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 There was a scale of charges published by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) however this has been withdrawn (the OFT thought it anti-competitive).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 about this...

A Rough idea...
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 far away.

My method...

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).

In my experience...
I know from talking to clients that many people...
a) do not really understand what it is that an Architect does and
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...)

  • a) 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.)
  • b) COSTS? 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 local planning 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 hundred pounds.

    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.)

    If CDM 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.

    The Party 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.
  • Lastly - 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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