Architect fees

We had a perfectly nice architect around to survey our house. However she wants 4 600 euro plus TVA for the plan (340 m2), and 12,5% to manage the project (spend around 300 000 euro).

Is this reasonable? Locals (who are lovely and helpful) told me I can do it myself, and I should spend the money on something nice.

The project involves an extension (80m2), a rebuild of a sunroom, drains for new toilets and bathrooms, and installation of a pool.

Excellent news Paul! As a matter of fact I used to be amongst other things an expert witness in tiling disputes! That really is navel gazing. Mind you on one such rather large one I and my colleagues earned £75k in fees and that was over 20 years ago. It will be in my book. I always used to warn people that the construction industry is not for people of a nervous disposition.

You’re right DAVID. A good pm needs excellent communication skills and that means ditching, as far as possible, email.

That says it all I suppose. Just off to study ceramic tiling in sanitary areas.

I certainly did not wish to rubbish project managers as a whole- I am sure that on the larger projects they have a useful role. I have a friend who did it on Cross Rail for example. However, and it's a gentle one, I do feel that well experienced architects, and those with the right personal skills, can do project management too. Many cannot and prefer to hide in an office with computers (I started with a T square then moved on to parallel motion then in fact did only conceptual drawing after as I was concentrating on getting jobs, running the company, finances and doing site visits). Computers had the unfortunate effect of slightly distancing the relationships. Maybe a project manager can shield an architect from certain things; I remember attending meetings with the unions on one project to help select with them the colour of the tiles in the lavatories on a large project for British Leyland.

You don't come across as a fossil to me. You sound like someone very proud of the work you had done during your life, and with the qualifications you have held... and a person with integrity. Perhaps, however, you can take on board that people from all walks of life may feel the same way as you do - and then maybe you might think twice before you "rubbish" the role they have played.

Simon- I know a few insurance people and like architecture it's been going towards the very large firm- the smaller firms find it very difficult. I know smaller insurance brokers have been finding it tough. In my firm we had as a client Mr Wood who started Direct Line- that put masses of brokers out of business. We did a risk assessment for Direct Line surveying many hundreds of house after the drought in the 80s. It was a good commission but was dropped art 2 days notice once they had all the risk data. Luckily I had employed only self employed subcontractors to do it!

Funnily enough among other things I did was being a .....postman! On larger projects there may be a need for a project manager but specifically what I object to is a project manger placing himself between the client and the architect. On smaller and in particular residential jobs it's a killer. It's essential in my view for an architect to have a very good, even close, relationship with the client. If not there is a danger of the old verbal message down the trench changing from one end to the other. One or two private houses I did had a project manager; I had to explain everything to him, then to the client and then change the drawings time and again. I did turn a hand to many larger jobs, but again I liked a very hands on approach. Early in my career I did a sorting office at Leamington Spa and a telephone switching centre in Ealing. I agree that many architects are not suitable for project management but some are (I hope I am) and my gradually being removed from that role the profession has allowed itself to lose status and at the same time respect. Many clients now just use an architect to get planning permission and then let the D and B boys take it over. Usually the end result shows. I blame Sir John Egan and opposed his approach 30 years ago. Perhaps I'm a fossil!

I mentioned previously that I used an architect during our latest house renovation (a similar sized project to yours, with double extension etc). We paid €4k incl TVA - so perhaps the initial fee you have been quoted (to me at least) seems a bit high.

However, we felt that this part of the process was worth paying for - It was one less hassle to have to deal with. Getting builders quotes, choosing materials, managing the change etc. I did myself (in conjunction with the excellent French builder we finally chose).

I would manage the build myself, save the 12.5% and put it towards a new kitchen instead... but put your faith in a good builder. Ours had been in business for over 50 years (father and then son) - we surmised that a company in business for that long, in the same area, would be worth trusting. It worked out great.

I don't mind paying for good advice, I just do not want to be ripped off.

Hello again David. You seem to have a bit of a downer on Project Managers... not sure why. Project managers work on many varied types of tasks in many different fields....they don't necessariy need to know how to draw!

For example, I worked on a large project for Royal Mail - they were hoping to build a large rail distribution hub (a large sorting warehouse for mail bags, transport arrivals and departure - both trains and large HGV vehicles, train platforms, staff facilities etc etc). My role was to act as an interface between the client i.e. Royal Mail, and the Architect.

The architects, despite all their skills, didn't have a clue about Royal mail operations and found it quite difficult (at first) to give Royal mail what they wanted - you see, they had no practical knowledge of the operational workplace, or the legal parameters that RMail had to work within. My job was to provide them with direction and a clear picture of what was needed - and not what they initially wanted to provide. So you see.. I didn't need a pen and paper.. I had 25 years operational experience to fall back on..I started on the "shop floor".. oh.... and for me, it wasn't just about the money either... I was proud to work for Royal mail, and I was proud when I - alongside the architects - delivered a very good facility.

There are many types of skills needed to provide an end product - no one profession has the monopoly on skills and integrity.

Apologies for going off subject re: architect fees.

Architects - I used to be an insurance broker and I think we have the same issues as Architects. The client demands cheaper premium and broader coverage - what does that mean: more work for less commission. The Architect is the same (at least in the UK) better job he does the less he gets paid, like the insurance broker.

We downsized - sometimes it pays to move into a grotty area. 35 years ago Stoke Newington in NW London was the pits, today it is highly fashionable. We just decided to capitalise and move, and so, after years of scrimping and saving, we have some money to spend.

There are very few architects with much money these days. The big international names and some of the big London firms maybe. Fee levels generally have gone down hugely since the 80s and at the same time the amount of work you have to do and hoops you have to go through have multiplied. Average salary of an architect in the UK is £43k.(About the same as a tube driver). Five years at Uni and 2 years priactical experience before you get paid much. An English architectural student will probably need a £50k student loan. There would not be enough to buy a house on a mortgage in London, where about 75% of the jobs are. Self employed you would not get a mortgage now. Yes Suzy many architects do become painters- I know a few. After all we were taught to draw properly in the old days (before computers!) and I even went to Art School in Brighton to do life drawing. It's essential to be able to think in three dimensions if you are an architect , so maybe sculpture is a closer art. I never met a Project Manager who could draw or explain visually an idea or project. I used to take blank paper and pens to meetings with clients and sketch in front of them- they loved it. Now people go away into a dark room, fiddle with the buttons, and come back a few days later. Computers take longer at the initial stage.

I agree Suzy. However, its even more amazing, by comparison, how many people have so little money...and the people with the money don't appear to have any understanding of that fact...

As an artist myself, I've noticed that some architects become really good painters. Re this post I know nothing of architects fees but I'm amazed at how many people have so much money.

Yes there is a a large amount of intuition involved, but of course that demands that you have had the right education and experience. Education doesn't mean just formal education. Many architects these days have very little detailed practical experience, and are often more interested in computer tricks. I counted myself lucky in that whilst my college work was very theoretical I was able to work with others who ensured that you got to know much more. Many visits were made to component manufacturing facilities, steel and cement works, joinery shops etc. We used to do full or half full size joinery details. We knew how materials performed. We discussed the details with experienced craftsmen. I worked physically on sites. These days when an architect makes a planning application in the UK he has to present a design statement giving the reasons he designed the building that way. Everybody seems to want to work on a tick box basis, but much of the architecture these days looks just like that, the same in every town and geographical region. I do argue for a more intuitive approach, but it has to be done by people with the skills. Oh and yes with passion!

Ha Ha.... not only sensitive .. but intuitive - I was a project manager for many years.

OK I understand we are very sensitive people!!!!!!!! I have had great relationships with most clients (out of many) but occasionally you get a client who is difficult. Private houses are not for every architect and I firmly believe that an architect who is doing such work must be prepared to put in the right amount of time and really get to know their client and usually their families too. Many of mine remained great friends after even thirty or forty years and several jobs. Occasionally, however hard you have tried to get it right, perhaps putting in additional effort, you may have a client or clients where the relationship breaks down. I clearly remember one such client who appeared to have very limited means but the client kept on asking for more and more work. I explained that I had great misgivings, and I confirmed my misgivings in writing, as I confirmed practically everything in writing. The client said that an inheritance was coming, all would be well. Of course the money ran out and the contractor left site. The client then tried to sue me . I was able to produce all the letters which the client's solicitor had not been informed of. I lost an enormous amount of money. The client became virtually insane and in fact changed totally physically. The house was boarded up without windows for several years but the client was living inside like somebody from a Dickens novel. I had several experiences with off shore client companies where it became very difficult to get paid, and the client hid behind trivial excuses, knowing it would be difficult to sue a £100 company registered in the Cayman Islands. These were all things they did not teach you about at architectural college. They used to call architecture a vocation. I don't think project managers have vocations.

Agree with you again Sean. An architect would normally charge either time basis (rare) or fixed price (you need to know the brief exactly and there would be plenty of caveats) or a %. On certain design items like say kitchens I used to agree with clients a time basis on kitchen liaison so that if the client chose a Rolls Royce with very expensive appliances I was not profiteering. I never marked up goods or bought them for clients, other than on one occasion an arab client asked me to buy £20k of toys at Harrods and then I charged for my time and the goods were charged to his account. I have known interior designers to charge clients for their time and then getting backhanders from the supplier without the client knowing. It used to go on- I am not sure if it's common practice now.