An architect's fee will vary according to the scale and complexity of each project as well as the location, the level of service you require, and a variety of other factors. Every project has its own particular requirements, and costs will differ accordingly. However, here are some general pointers on how much using an architect will cost you.
How much work you commission an architect to do is up to you. You could employ them to help you create your concept and draw up an initial design, or to take you through planning, or to take on the whole project and see it from concept to right the way through to completion.
To make sure your architect’s fees work with your budget, it is important to have a clear idea of what you want them to accomplish. State your requirements clearly at the initial briefing stage and, wherever possible, stick to them. This enables the architect to cost the project accurately from the start, and helps avoid unseen financial pitfalls further down the line.
Generally, architects begin to offer a full service for projects with a construction budget of £30,000 or more. Lower than that and their fees are just not cost effective. If your budget is lower than £30,000, an architect may still be able to help with the preliminary stages of your project, for example concept design and planning.
Architects will charge in one of three ways: a percentage of the overall build cost, a pre-agreed lump sum or an hourly rate.
1. Percentage of the build cost
Once the approximate build cost and the scope and nature of services from the architect have been agreed, a percentage fee (excluding VAT) can be calculated. This figure is automatically adjusted if any changes in the estimated construction cost arise. It is a straightforward way of calculating a fee and ensuring it comes within your budget, while allowing for flexibility should changes occur to the plan.
2. A lump sum
Agreeing a total lump sum is a popular way of paying for smaller, straightforward projects, as it offers a degree of certainty from the start. If the project goes beyond limits agreed by all parties, the fee may need to be renegotiated. If your project is complicated or there are any unknowns, your architect is unlikely to agree to this.
3. Hourly rate
An hourly rate is suitable when it is difficult to pinpoint the nature of the project at the start. It offers the most flexibility but the least fee-certainty and doesn't suit the faint hearted. According to a survey in the Architect’s Journal in 2017, rates range from £35 per hour for a Part 1 student, to £93 per hour for a Partner. The hourly rate is higher in London.
There is no standard framework for working out architectural fees in the UK; each practice has its own table of costs. However, as a ballpark, you can expect to pay anywhere between 8% and 20% of your overall construction budget.
Percentages will of course vary according to the size and complexity of the project: if you project is complex - for example, it involves a heritage angle or input from multiple stakeholders - the percentage will be higher. Generally speaking, the larger your construction budget, the lower the percentage will be.
In any event, a schedule of services, detailing what is included and what isn't, will be provided along with the fee proposal. Additional services that arise during the build can be charged per hour or a separate fee agreed. Also remember that VAT will be added to the fee, and there may be additional sums payable for expenses, although this is often included.
Remember, architects are professionals bound by a code of conduct which requires them to be ‘honest and act with integrity’ and to ‘be trustworthy and look after clients’ money properly.’ As such, you should be confident that the fees you agree with your architect represent good value for the work they have put in. Conversely, attempting to save money by driving down fees may be a mistake: poor design can a have a long lasting and expensive impact.