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Architect: Charging for your services

There are several ways that you can charge for the architectural services you provide:

  • on a time basis, charging the client so much per hour for time spent working on a project. You'll need to decide at what rate to charge out your own labour and that of your staff. This will depend to a certain extent on where your practice is located and on your reputation. It is sometimes helpful to find out the hourly rate charged by accountancy professionals in your area as this is often in line with what practices charge for architectural services
  • on a lump sum basis. You would estimate the time you would be likely to spend on a particular project, plus the expenses you will incur, and then quote a lump sum to the client based on this. The danger of this approach is that you could end up out of pocket because the job takes much longer than you had estimated, or because the expenses are higher than anticipated. Some practices offer clients a choice - a lump sum (fixed fee) for the job or a time-based fee. The lump sum is set at a higher level than the time-based fee is likely to be, minimising potential losses to the practice. Clients may choose this option because it offers them more certainty
  • on a percentage of total construction cost basis. Many firms charge on this basis. Some vary the percentage according to the nature of the commissions - for example, a higher percentage would be applied to the cost of historic buildings work or work to existing buildings than to new work. Generally the percentage is reduced in relation to the value of the project. For some years the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) produced guidelines to help members to arrive at a realistic percentage to apply to the final construction cost. This varied from under 5% to nearly 18% depending on the nature of the building, the value of the contract and whether the commission was for work on new or existing buildings. Some practices based their charges on the RIBA guidelines, but at a lower percentage rate, to reflect market conditions in their areas

The Fees Bureau carries out a survey of architects' fees each year and publishes details of the average going rate for different types of commission. You can buy the latest edition of Architects Fees on the Fees Bureau website. Alternatively, you can subscribe to the Fees Bureau interactive online calculator which shows average fees and hourly rates for different types of project.

You would also pass on to the client the expenses and disbursements that you have paid during the course of the project.