Fees charged by architects vary very significantly, and since the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) abolished their indicative fee scales, there is very little benchmarking information freely available.
Fees are commonly quoted as being between 8 and 12% although, according to a survey by Building Design (a survey which in part relates to fees paid by housing associations and local authorities, presumably for new build projects which traditionally attract lower fees than works to existing buildings, and which was carried out during the worst depths of the recession in 2012), '...only 21% of architects achieve fee levels of above 5% while 55% are paid fee levels of 4% or less...'.
As fees are entirely dependent on the nature of the project and the circumstances of the appointment, the figures quoted above are not very illuminating. Generally speaking large new build projects attract much lower percentage fees than small works to existing buildings, commercial work attracts lower fees than private residential work, works to historic or listed buildings attract higher fees still and so on.
Fees will vary based on:
- The architect appointed (a 'signature' architect may charge more than an 'unknown').
- The type of building required.
- The size of building required.
- The complexity of the building required.
- The quality of the building required.
- The location of the architect and of the project.
- The amount of bespoke design required.
- The level of service required (from basic planning drawings, through to a full design service, site inspection and post occupancy evaluation).
- The amount of information available (about the nature of the project required, the project brief, the feasibility of the project, the site conditions and so on).
- The state of the economy (in times of recession, architects may struggle to find work, and can offer lower fees simply to keep work flowing through the office, conversely in boom years, they may not have enough staff to meet demand and so will push fees up).
- The perceived risk to the architect of undertaking the project.
This is sometimes demonstrated by reference to the following notional, relative costs of a typical project:
- 0.1 to 0.15 for design costs (ref OGC Achieving Excellence Guide 7 - Whole-Life costing).
- 1 for construction costs.
- 5 for maintenance and building operating costs during the lifetime of the building.
- 200 for the cost of operating the business during the lifetime of the building.
Ref. Report of the Royal Academy of Engineering on The long term costs of owning and using buildings (1998).
However, this has been criticised as misleading, not least because the construction industry accounts for around 7% of GDP, implying a much more significant proportion of business costs than the ratio suggests. Other ratios of construction costs to operational costs to business costs have suggested figures as low as 1:0.6:6 for some types of buildings. However, the usefulness of these ratios is questionable, other than if they are calculated based on actual figures for specific businesses.
Traditionally there are 3 standard ways an architect may charge:
- A percentage of the build cost. This requires that an approximate build cost can be estimated (so that an appropriate percentage can be calculated) and that the scope and nature of the services required from the architect are known.
- Lump sum fee. This is popular for home owners and small clients as it gives certainty about the total cost at the outset. Lump sum fees are appropriate where the scope of work required is well known when the appointment is made. If the nature of the appointment or of the project varies beyond agreed limits, then the fee may need to be re-negotiated.
- Hourly rate. This is generally reserved for work where it is difficult to define the scope of services required or the nature of the project when the appointment is made. It is important in this case that fees are capped to a maximum that can be charged without prior agreement and that detailed records of hours worked are kept.
All three methods will generally bring the architect to a similar position. This is because there is a relationship between the type of the project, its build cost and the amount of hours required. Ultimately, the fee quoted is likely to come down to how many hours the job will take multiplied by a charge out rate.
NB when appointing an architect:
- Always check the Architects Registration Board (ARB) register to make sure they are a registered architect (if they are not, they cannot offer their services as an architect).
- Check that the architect has adequate professional indemnity insurance.
Very broadly, the role performed by an architect might include some or all of the following services:
- Assisting the client to prepare a strategic brief.
- Carrying out feasibility studies and options appraisals.
- Advising on the need to appoint other professionals.
- Advising on procurement routes.
- Contributing to the preparation of a project brief.
- Preparing the concept design.
- Preparing the detailed design.
- Preparing planning applications.
- Preparing applications for statutory approvals (such as building regulations).
- Preparing production information.
- Preparing tender documentation.
- Contributing to the assessment of tenders.
- Reviewing designs prepared by others.
- Acting as contract administrator.
- Inspecting the works.
- Advising on the rectification of defects.
- Carrying out post occupancy evaluations.
It is also important to be clear to what extent expenses such as; travelling, print costs, model making costs and so on are included in the fee.
 Additional services
Some services will only be undertaken by an architect if they are specifically identified in their appointment documents, and otherwise they may not be included within the fee. These are described as 'other services' on some forms of appointment and might include:
- Compiling or editing briefing documents (for example preparing the strategic brief may be the responsibility of the client or an independent client advisor, not the architect).
- Environmental studies.
- Applying for outline planning permission.
- Undertaking negotiations with the statutory authorities or the main contractor.
- Undertaking surveys.
- Undertaking tasks in relation to party wall matters.
- Undertaking tasks in relation to two-stage tendering (such as two-stage design and build contracts).
- Revisions to documents that are required for reasons that are not the architect's responsibility (for example as a result of changes in legislation).
- Assessment of designs prepared by others.
- Undertaking tasks in relation to disputes or work not in accordance with the contract.
- Preparing a site waste management plan.
- Preparing marketing materials.
- Assisting in raising funds for the project.
- Preparing as-built drawings.
- Providing site inspectors.
|Competitive fee bid or financial tender only||21%|
|Framework agreement with or without further competition for specific projects||10%|
|Invited competitive interview (no pre-qualification questionnaire PQQ)||4%|
|Expression of interest / PQQ only (no design work)||3%|
|Expression of interest / PQQ followed by competitive interview (no design work)||3%|
|Expression of interest / PQQ followed by design competition||2%|
|Invited design competition (no PQQ)||1%|
|Open design competition||1%|
Smaller practices tended to be appointed mostly by direct appointment (61%), whereas this was less common for larger practices (25%).
For detailed descriptions of the sequence of activities necessary to appoint architects, see the article: Appointment, and the work plan stages:
- Traditional contract: appointment.
- Design and build: appointment.
- Public project: appointment.
- Construction management: appointment.
- Management contract: appointment.
This is an amended version of an article created by --Grant Erskine Architects 11:11, 14 January 2013 (UTC)
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Architectural styles.
- Architectural training.
- Appointing consultants.
- Collaborative practices.
- Concept architectural design.
- Consultant team.
- Consultant team start up meeting.
- Design liability.
- Professional Indemnity Insurance.
- Scope of services.
- The architectural profession.
 External references
Featured articles and news
The origins, evolution and future of Level 3 BIM.
For new and returning Urban Design students, check out our article list divided up into the modules you'll be studying.
Report states that health of urban dwellers could be significantly improved by rethinking transport design.
The Kremlin, the centre of Russian power, includes some of the country's finest architecture.
Report launched outlining steps for a national infrastructure system that is efficient, sustainable, and delivers until 2050.
A review of Justin Bere's concise and well-presented introductory guide to Passive House.
This article describes in detail the tender process for a typical commercial construction contract.
What is energy storage, what are the different types and what is its future?
MAD Architects reveal their designs for a state-of-the-art concert hall in Beijing.
Take a look at BIG's designs for two twisting towers in New York City.
'The filing cabinet' which was labelled one of the best British buildings of the 21st century.