Sunday, Jan 19, 2020

Why a 10% fee?

Why do architects charge fees? What is it for? Is it necessary? Well, let’s talk about fees.

But, trust me – architects only charge fees because it’s necessary.

Architects, like lawyers, doctors or engineers, make their living by charging fees. Unfortunately, the consumer often has no idea what the architect’s fees are for or how they relate to their needs. The lawyer charges a fee and produces a “standard” document for the protection of his client, or represents a client in the courts, where representing themselves would be risky for the client. The doctor charges a fee and determines what treatment is needed for a medical problem. The engineer charges a fee and produces a solution to some complex technical problem. Why exactly does an architect charge a fee?

Where does it hurt?

Each of the professionals above is sought after a client determines he or she has a problem. Something hurts or they need protection from something and they need help. For most people, when it comes to the architect, this is the trap.

People in need of an architect’s service seldom think they have a problem. After all, they know exactly what they want. They need a three-bedroom split-level house with a pool and patio out back and someplace for the dogs. They just need someone to “draw the plans” for them. For that, especially with the computer these days, there should be a simple price.

It’s not until the time for construction that the fact that the initial instructions (the “brief”) were incomplete, or the arrangement of openings does not allow good ventilation (the design), or the specifications do not agree (the design development), or the full extent of the need for engineering input and construction details (construction documents) are unclear that they accept that there is a problem, and by then it is often too late. Commitments have already been made to the bank, to family members and to government agencies – commitments that would cost real money to change. At that point, the architect’s fee no longer seems so big or so unnecessary.

What do architects do?

All professionals provide the same service: they listen to your problem, help you clarify it, examine the facts, come up with a diagnosis and propose a solution or prescription. That is what architects do. Their “normal service”, as defined in the booklet “Selecting Architects and Design Professionals”, published by the Professional Architects’ Board, is rendered in stages.

The schematic design (preliminary design) stage is the preliminary examination, first diagnosis and proposed concept for a solution. It is focused on making sure the concept addresses the context (site, climate, neighborhood) and the relationship and servicing of the spaces needed to satisfy the owner’s needs.

Design development takes the concept and puts flesh on it. Construction method, services and quality standards are agreed on; other consultants are integrated into the design process; and the concept becomes a defined plan, elevations and section.

Construction documents are the prescription for the builder to supply what has been agreed to. Construction details, specifications and other detailed drawings are produced and used for pricing, getting a building permit and building the project.

Finally, the architect acts as the owner’s agent in a relationship with the builder to make certain the project is built as agreed, for the price agreed and within the time agreed.

And for that, the architect charges a fee. The realtor charges between six percent and 10 percent fees and delivers the property, which is either already built or ready for a building, but is still in need of a design service to satisfy your personal needs. The architect’s service transforms just a building to your personal building.

The document mentioned above actually publishes a recommended scale of fees for architects, breaking the work down by type and value. While individual architects are free to charge what they wish, the scale indicates reasonable minimum fees. Like lawyers and the engineers, there is a real reason for architects to charge a reasonable fee. They provide a beneficial service that requires both the technical knowledge to guide you through technical concerns of a project and the experience to navigate building regulations and contractual matters to bring a project to a successful completion.

Now you know.


  • Patrick Rahming & Associates is a full service design firm providing architectural, planning and design services throughout The Bahamas and the northern Caribbean. Visit its website at and like its Facebook page. The firm’s mission is to help its clients turn their design problems into completed projects through a process of guided decision-making, responsible environmental advice and expert project administration.
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