CREATING A PROJECT BUDGET AND FAQ
The Architect Always Drives Costs Up!!!
The mantra of some contractors and unlicensed practitioners/ residential designers. The generalization that for the most part has very little basis in fact but if you scream it out loud and as much as possible, will somehow stick.
Architects generally have to design to a budget agreed to and approved by the client. Changes usually have to be requested by the client and obviously a change that comes late in a project will generate added cost. Which is why communication is important between the client and the architect throughout the course of a project. An intergrated design approach is what we suggest. Residential designers like to tout that their fees are lower but their services are as good if not better than an architect's. To which the adage,"You get what you pay for", almost always holds true. You can read more of our thoughts about this in the "Selecting your Architect" section.
It is difficult to compare services (or lack of) provided based on fee alone.
Most times trying to select an architect/ designer based on fees alone is deceiving. It's not an apples to apples comparison. So let's look at two different scenarios as an example.
(values provided are for the basis of comparison and no reflection of real market values)
Scenario 1: Unlicensed Practitioner (aka residential designer)
A client wants a 1,500sf house on a sloping site. After shopping around, he decides on a residential designer willing to do the job for $2/ square feet. Approximately $3,000 in design fees. The designer slaps out a design in record time. The owner gets a set of drawings consisting of design plans with some dimensions, four elevations and a building section that is cut perpendicular to the slope (in other words it does not show what the slope is doing). What do you expect for $3,000?
The owner navigates the building department to obtain permits and has to obtain bids. A friend of a friend recommends a contractor. The contractor who bids the job, reviews the rudimentary set of drawings and realizes he has to figure a number of things out in the field. He also notices that there are barely any notes on the drawings. He thinks $480,000 might do the job but marks it up 20% because he knows there are risks inherent with drawings like these. Total bid is $576,000.00
Owner accepts the bid, believing he saved a ton of money by not using an architect. After all, the residential designer told him that architects drive costs up.
During construction the owner realizes he has to deal with the contractor. The residential designer tells him that the fee does not include any kind of construction administration but could do so on an hourly basis. Owner declines because he is assured that the drawings are sufficient. The contractor initially said (not in contract) the project would take 6-8 months. The contractor comes back with various change orders because as he points out, the drawings don't tell a lot. In having to figure things out, he passes on to the owner any aditional costs.
The contractor hires an architect to help him deal with the slope and bills this to the owner.
Again when an engineer is needed to design some tall retaining walls and which requires hiring a geotech engineer.
A neighbor complains about the project and that's when everyone realizes that there were no approvals from the design review board. A meeting is set up and during the review process,
they request lowering the roof (which has already been framed in).
By the time the project is over, the schedule has been pushed out 6 more months and the change orders amount to an additional 25-35%% of the original bid.
The owner still thinks he had a good deal because his call to the designer assures him of this.
Now let's look at the second scenario, where a reputable architect is hired.