Blog: How much does it cost to hire an architect?

Posted on March 28, 2022

Whether you are looking to build your dream home from scratch, add to your existing property or need advice on how to make the most of the space in your home- architects are trained professionals who have the skills to turn your dream project into a reality.

No matter the size or complexity of your project, you are probably considering ‘how much does an architect cost?’ and ‘what type of work do they do?’.

In our latest blog post, Ian McGregor, provides an insight into the role of an architect and the associated costs.

When do you need an architect?

Commonly, architects are contacted when someone, whether that’s a business or an individual, is looking to alter or extend their property. This could include a wide range of projects, such as extensions, self-builds, refurbishments or commercial work such as space layouts for offices, restaurants and bars.

At the beginning of the process, some people will have a clear idea of what they are looking for but others will be looking for a consultant to provide expert advice.

This is why your initial meeting with an architect is extremely important. It gives both the customer and the architect opportunity to gather information, explore options, and gain an understanding of what is achievable based on space and budget.

What kind of projects can an architect help with?

Architects can help with a range of different projects including residential buildings such as family homes or loft conversions to commercial properties, encompassing anything from retail units to office buildings.

Not only can architects help design and manage a project, they will also help with building warrants, planning applications and the tender and construction stages.

It’s important that you have your documentation in place and receive the correct approvals from your local council, prior to completing any work because without it you are carrying out an offence and could be liable to a fine of up to £5,000.

Although, as an individual, you can submit this work on your own or via a designer, the process is quite strict and requires a great deal of information. As a result, it is often quicker and more cost effective to hire an architect from the beginning.

How much do architects charge?

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) used to have a fee scale which architects could follow or use as a template to guide their pricing. However, this is no longer used, instead most architects will use their own knowledge and experience to decide on an appropriate pricing method.

As applicable to most industries, the complexity, design and time scale of a project will impact the amount of money charged. Architects will usually break this up into different stages, to help the client see where their money is being spent and to also allow them to decide what stages of the project they would like to proceed with.

The common ways that an architect can charge clients is through a fixed fee, percentage basis or time-charged basis:

Fixed fee: A fixed fee is usually a lump sum of money and is best used where the scope of the project is clearly defined from the start. This is where the initial stage of the project is really important as it allows architects to gather information that will allow them to assist in obtaining a cost estimation for the proposed works.

A percentage basis: In this approach, architects’ fees are expressed as a percentage of the total construction cost. Before any of these fees can be predicted, there needs to be a discussion between the architect and client to decide on the services that will be provided, the rough price of the construction budget and the scope of the work.

Time-charged basis: This is commonly used when the scope of the work is not easily foreseen or in a situation where services don’t relate to the amount of construction. Time will usually be recorded per hour as similar to the way in which solicitors and tradesmen operate, this information can be shared with the client for review.

What type of work should this include?

The work of architects can be broken down into three main stages; feasibility/concept design, documentation and construction. Throughout each of these stages costs are broken down to give clients full visibility of how their money will be spent.

The feasibility stage is the starting point of any project and allows the architect to develop the client brief and prepare design proposals. Once the design and layout are agreed, obtaining a cost estimation for the works allows the client to set their budget for the works.

Further services that architects can provide include helping clients to achieve documentation such as planning permission and building warrants. Architects can take care of this process from start to finish, from the preparation of any drawings, liaising with the council and the submission of the applications.

Once approvals have been obtained, and prior to the construction stage, tendering will take place. This is when an architect prepares and issues a tender package to contractors in order to receive a fixed tender quotation. After receiving quotes, a meeting will be held with the architect and preferred contractor to review the submitted tender and discuss items such as start dates, finalised costs and the duration of the work. Once the client has decided to proceed, the chosen contractor is has been appointed with a Letter of Acceptance will be signed, with a contract agreed, prior to works starting.

The construction stage can be complicated and encompasses a range of tasks from carrying out site visits, liaising with the council to issuing construction drawings to the contractor. Contract administration is a job that architects often have to do. This happens when a client directly appoints a contractor and the architect has the job of sitting between the two parties to ensure that the project is running smoothly, helping to tie everything together.

Are there any hidden costs that we should be aware of?

Having completed the initial design stage, most architects look to provide a cost estimation for the works and report project fees and services. This allows transparency in fees, services, stages and timescales. The fees should be relatively fixed, and additional costs will incur only when tasks or items outwith the scope of work have been added.

How to make sure you're hiring a real architect

Appointing an architect is a huge investment, and it’s important that you appoint hire someone who you like, but also is qualified to do the job correctly.

Any designer can submit a drawing to the council; however, it is important to make sure that you’re paying for quality and experience. Using an architect can help you to achieve quality and put you in contact with the right people which can save you time and money in the long run.

The title of an ‘architect’ is protected by UK law, meaning that it can only be used by individuals who have acquired a certain level of education, experience and training.

A quick and easy way to check that you are hiring a real architect is to do your research online via the Architects Registration Board. This website allows you to search names through the registered records of all UK architects, meaning that if you cannot find someone on the register it is likely that they are not classed as a ‘qualified architect’.


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