Rates for Design Fees

Generally, design fees are billed hourly and are pretty close to 10% of the construction cost for new construction and a little more for renovations.

Design fees vary on most projects due to:

  • factors like simplicity of design or construction
  • size of project
  • type of project
  • complexities of the land, etc.

Design fees tend to be lower when the client knows exactly what they want the first time they explain it to the architect. Like consulting with a doctor, the more precise info a patient gives about aches and pains, the easier it is for the doctor to diagnose the illness. An architect can help a client more efficiently when provided with more detailed information. When a client wants to see multiple design options to see which ones look better, work better, or are less expensive to build, the architect designs and re-designs the project several times. This causes higher design fees, but it tends to be a good investment since design fees are nearly negligible when compared to the construction cost of building something that isn't exactly what you want.  


Additionally, the building department will review the plans, and ask for additional information or clarifications. Architects never know exactly which info the city officials may request, so this also must be billed hourly. Our approach is to give the building department the minimum amount of information necessary for three reasons:

  1. The more info they review, the more time it takes them, and therefor they charge you more (they bill hourly too).
  2. The more they review, the more questions they will ask, and it takes us longer to respond to those questions.
  3. The more info we draw, the more it costs you.  So it is mutually beneficial to be strategic with the information we present to the building department. (we had a building department ask me to print drawings on a different shade of white paper once, so you never know what ridiculous things you may encounter).

Lastly, during construction, the builder will always request additional information about certain design features when the construction conditions differ from assumptions that were made before the start of the building process. This is the most critical time spent by an architect since the results of the collaboration between the builder and architect result in a real building. The drawings done prior to this time only outline the basic design intent. They act as a placeholder for information until the actual information can be gathered during construction. For example, if we specify a certain size for a built-in cabinet early in the design process, it may not fit in the actual space during construction since the thickness of drywall, framing, insulation, trim, plumbing, duct work, etc in that area of the building can vary.  The builder works with us during construction to clarify these types of situations, and the architect is the appropriate person to ensure these decisions are made properly.  The builder means the best, but they do not always have the best insight in these situations since design is not their expertise. The builder-architect relationship is important to protect the client's interests such as design intent, schedule, and budget.  


Depending on the skill level of staff and type of project, our hourly rates are:

$185: Principal Architect
$100: Project Manager
$85: Project Assistant
$300: Principal Architect conducting land use code research, hearings, documentation

During a project, the client will also incur fees from the building department for permit reviews, permits, and inspections.  There may also be fees from engineers if applicable.  It is to the client's best interest to allow the architect to handle the permit process since we are familiar with the procedures required by most building departments, and we have relationships with some of the staff.  Many times, we can save clients hundreds of dollars by submitting plans electronically. This is a major savings since multiple copies of plans do not need to be printed on expensive large sized paper, there are no trips to the building department, and there are no redundancies with making permit revisions to multiple copies of printed permit drawings. Permitting is a complicated process, and it's not practical to explain all of these processes to a client who wants to try it on their own.  We have learned the tricks of the trade over MANY years of practice, and we can pass this savings on to you.