In terms of professional fees for architects, there are no standard fee structure in the UK today. This may cause some anxiety to clients. In this post, we will discuss how an architect's fees are worked out for basic understanding. An architect's fee can vary significantly based on the design brief which looks into the widely varying project size, type, and quality of project that a client requires.
One of the first things to get right for a project is the design brief. This is because if a design brief and budget are well defined at the beginning of a project, the architect has a clear scope of services to deliver and can propose an accurate fee proposal that reflects the service required from the practice. For more information on producing design briefs when finding an architect, see our previous blog post.
Types of Architects Fees
One of the three methods of calculation will usually apply for architect's fees in the UK, they are as follows:
(i) Time charge
Time charge applies the hourly rate of a particular architect, which varies depending on their level of experience to the time spent on a project. This method works well at the beginning of a project when the scope of services has not been agreed yet. This method offers the least certainty for the client, however, an estimated number of hours plus a maximum cap can be agreed between the client and architect.
(ii) Fixed Fee
A fixed fee or lump sum approach provides the most certainty for the client. This will require the client to have a strong understanding of what they require from a project from the beginning of a project, so this is a good approach for the experienced client, clients such as SME developers, commercial clients such as those who are renovating a shop, a restaurant, a gym, etc. When the scope of services change as the project progresses, the fixed fee will need to be reviewed and likely increase. It may be a good idea to understand and put in writing how the architect will charge should a scope of service increase unexpectedly, ie. what is their and relevant team member's hourly rate.
(iii) Percentage of construction
Percentage of construction cost provides the client an indication of professional architectural fees, which is generally proportionate to the work required from the architecture practice. The percentage is determined on a project-by-project basis, which involves an understanding of the complexity of a project such as site challenges, existing or new build, size of project, etc, ranging from under 5% for a large-scale development to a higher threshold circa 15% for complex projects such as listed buildings. This method builds in flexibility for the scope of services to change as the project progresses. There may be slight concerns from clients for this approach as the architect's fee is higher when the construction cost is higher, however, a professional architect registered with the Architect's Registration Board are bound by a code of conduct to act with integrity and honesty.
Most architects will breakdown a fee proposal into the stages recommended by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Plan of Work, the latest version was recently released. To better understand the architect's fee, speak to your architect about the fee proposal according to stages.
Regardless of the method of how an architect's fee is calculated, an architect is essentially billing their time to provide a professional service. An architect with the right project expertise, track record and perhaps even local knowledge can add a significant amount of value to a project. Working with the right architect from day one, one that is truly compatible with your project will ensure the entire process from design to planning application to completion progresses smoothly. As a client, working with the best architect for your project can remove episodes of headaches because when an architect is on top of things, this includes anticipating an issue before it even arise to mitigate it. From a design perspective, an architect that is aligned with your design requirements may also add to the quality of the space, adding value to a property which may translate into a higher financial value.
Yvonne Chua, Architect | 19 March 2020
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