Last edited 13 Sep 2019

Structural engineers' fees

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Fees are generally payments to consultants to cover work they have undertaken for clients under the terms of an agreement. They are generally paid in instalments, either on regular dates or at pre-agreed stages of completed work.

Structural engineers fees may be calcuated based on time charges, as a fixed lump sum or as a percentage of the overall project cost. Fees are entirely dependent on the nature of the project and the circumstances of the appointment. Large new-build projects may attract lower percentage fees than small works to existing buildings (see table below), commercial work may attract lower fees than private residential work, and works to historic or listed buildings may attract higher fees.

The examples given below are indicative only and apply mainly to small projects. Fee calculation may be based on:

The fee percentage will depend on the size of the project (in project cost terms). The following table gives the fees a structural engineer might charge (at 2013 prices) for work undertaken on commercial office developments in London of varying costs.

Construction cost (excl. contingencies and VAT) Under £1.5m £1.5m - £3m £3m - £10m £10m - £25m £25m –£50m £50m+
Struct'al engineer % and actual fee

2%

£30k

max

2%

£30k –

£60k

1.8%

£54k–

£180k

1.5%

£150k –

£375k

1%

£250k –

£500k

1%

£500k+

Other things that might affect the fees charged include:

When agreeing fees, it is important to be clear exactly what services are being provided, for example, do the fees include travel, printing costs, outline and detailed planning applications and so on. For more information see: Scope of services.

Professional institutes used to publish recommended fee scales expressed as a percentage of construction costs for a range of different building types. However, legislation aimed at preventing anti-competitive behaviour forced the institutes to abolish these scales, leaving little guidance for clients about what is normal.

Consequently, bidding for consultancy work has become a free-for-all in a highly competitive market. Some commentators argue that this has driven down fees, however, it may also have driven down standards and led to much design work being transferred from consultants to specialist contractors and suppliers who include design costs in their building agreements.

It is important therefore to obtain several quotes for fees, to be clear what is being provided and to be wary of just assuming the lowest quote provides the best value.

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