Billable Rates for Architect’s Design Services, Architectural Costs & Hourly Fees

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When you build a brand-new home or are involved in an extensive remodel, addition, (etc.,) chances are you’ll need an architect’s expertise. Architects are proven helpful for any home improvement project as they provide an extensive skill set of planning, designing, drafting, troubleshooting, and overall project management. When you build a brand-new home, chances are you’ll need an architect’s expertise.

Architects are proven helpful for any home improvement project as they provide an extensive skill set of planning, designing, drafting, troubleshooting, and overall project management. Hiring an architect can help you limit any dilemmas down the road. They are the experts in working with design, materials, building systems, and maximizing space according to your budget.

Average Costs to Hire an Architect
National average cost$40,000
Average range$25,000-$70,000
Minimum cost$2,500
Maximum cost$150,000

The national average cost to hire an architect is approximately $40,000. However, many other factors could significantly lower or increase this price, such as the location and scale of the project. 

Do I Require An Architect?

The role of an architect can easily be confused with its common professions, such as interior designer, home designer, or drafting technician, and it helps to understand the difference.

Interior Designer

You may consider an interior designer to help the layout finish of your home’s interior. Typically, the interior designer focuses on the furnishings and aesthetics of your home. An Architect’s role differs from an interior designer as they are responsible for overseeing a new home built. Architects and interior designers occasionally work together on a new space, although their roles are clearly distinguish.

Drafting Technician

A draftsperson is an engineering professional who can handle the technical details of your building’s structure by providing accurate drawings of the design supplied by the architect to finalize. Usually, an architect will hire a draftsperson to seek out any technical issues, and the pair work closely together during the design process. Architects develop creative solutions to obstacles, while a draftsman focuses on practically securing those solutions.

When you decide to build a new home, you will require both professionals. An important tip is to be honest with the professionals you are considering. Many design professionals occupy themselves with project requests and usually do not take on projects they are not fit for.

Everyday Situations that Require an Architect

  • You are adding a story or significant addition to your home (i.e., a wing)
  • You are remodeling a historic home
  • You have specific neighborhood rules and stringent building codes
  • You need help reconfiguring the space of your home, perhaps when a layout issue arose
  • The site involves unusual or challenging terrain
  • The state you live in requires building plans to be stamped by a licensed architect
  • When you need a project permit 
  • Any notable areas of your home that require an architect’s seal to move forward with your project

Architects are great at considering design, functionality, budget, and other constraints as a final solution toward the client’s satisfaction. 

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Key Tips When Hiring an Architect

  • Patience is key. It may take 1-4 months to draft designs and 2-10 months toward commercial projects.
  • Communicating your budget. Discussing your budget with the architect beforehand will help them control the project’s total cost and stay within budget.
  • Be available during the construction process. The quicker you approve drawings and construction time, the faster your project can move along and the more pleased you and the architect will be. Many architects claim that the most engaged clients are the most satisfied clients at the end.
  • Ask questions about anything you don’t understand. It is perfectly understandable not to be an expert at any part of the design and construction. Making an effort to understand will allow little to no surprises at the end.
  • Speak up when you do not like something. Your architect will understand that this is something that you cannot afford to be unhappy with and will be very grateful you spoke up sooner rather than later.
  • Check your local laws to determine if you need to hire an architect, as, in some areas, a builder or design/build firm can get a permit for the project.

Legal Considerations

We list common legal concerns to look into before hiring an architect and diving headfirst into the process.

Ownership

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) contracts grant ownership to the architect, and typically, it grants the client a one-time use of their plans. This is something to keep in mind when hiring an architect because if for some reason the architect has to forgo the project, trouble may occur on your end, and the law will solely protect the architect.

Design & Construction Errors

Each builder must check full dimensions given by the architect, but some design errors may go unnoticed until they notice too late. Design errors fall on the architect and should be addressed in the architect’s contract. Construction errors sometimes happen as well, and that will fall on the builder. Be prepared to work these errors out between the architect and the builder, and make sure the contracts clearly state what should happen in these scenarios to avoid time-consuming legal disputes.

Rate Types and Average Costs

There are many different metrics by which an architect can charge you. It is helpful to note that the most common way to be priced is by a percentage of total construction costs. Still, you may also be charged hourly, by the square foot, or a combination of different methods throughout the various phases of the project

Architect Hourly Rate

TitleAverage Hourly Rate
Intern / freelance$60 – $100
Architect$100 – $200
Principal architect (oversees firm)$160 – $350

An hourly charge is often applied when the scope of the work is not well known, so the total time allocated is hard to estimate. Usually, the pre-design phase of the architectural design process is charged hourly, including consultations and initial meetings. It is also somewhat familiar for firms to charge hourly for architectural drafting services.
For general architectural services, a new architect may charge $150 – $200 an hour, while a senior architect may charge $350 – $400 an hour. You can get some interns for as low as $45 to $90 per hour, but remember, the steep hourly charge of an experienced professional will still prove cheaper than a poorly done job in the long run.

Architect Costs Per Square Foot

ServiceCost per square foot
Concept development$1.00- $5.00
Construction documents$1.00 – $5.00
Construction Administration$2.00 – $5.00

A few architects continue to charge their customers by the project’s square foot. It is common to combine square-foot billing with other methods. Drawings are often charged by the square foot, as the scope is pretty straightforward. Drafting designs for larger homes usually cost more.

Most Architects do not charge by the square foot for large assignments as they risk losing money on unforeseen problems that can drive up the cost. The amount of work and time needed for one project type can vary greatly. The cost per square foot depends on the project complexity and the architect’s experience but generally ranges from $2 to $10.

Percentage of Construction Cost

Service LevelPercentage Fee
Basic design % limited services5% – 10%
Moderate design & full services10% – 15%
High-level design & full services15% – 20%

The most common way to be charged for the bulk of the project is by the percentage of total construction costs. The total costs that go to the architect vary by firm but usually are 8% to 15% on average. 

For remodels, you’re looking at around 10% to 20%. For concept designs, the percentage can be as low as 5% to 8%. Architect fees for commercial projects are 3% to 12% of construction costs, depending on the complexity. For the design of simple structures like warehouses or parking garages, you’re looking at 3% to 9%, 4% to 10% for office buildings, and 5% to 12% for a complex structure or specialized facility.

Combination 

Different stages of the architectural design process are not all accommodated for the same payment method. It is common for firms to charge their clients on a variety of fee schedules. When an hourly rate and a cap of hours are discussed, the client feels more comfortable with the project, knowing they won’t surpass a specific cost.

The design stages are by the hour, which incentivizes the client to be active and present in the process. Following the design, the project’s scope is better understood, and a percentage of total cost or square foot may replace the hourly charge for construction.

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Phases of Architectural Design & Cost

PhasePercent of architect costs
Schematic Design20%
Design Development10%
Construction Documents40%
Bidding and Negotiation5%
Construction Administration25%

Pre-design

The pre-design phase deals with meeting several architects and choosing one. Collectively, your needs, goals, and priorities for the project are determined. A lot of research and information begin to assemble from both ends. The architect’s role is to outline the project’s overall plan and bring in a rough cost, which the client must agree to before moving forward. 

Schematic Design

The schematic design phase includes a site visit and analysis of the terrain. The architect’s role is to create initial concept designs, including preliminary drawings, sketches, floor plans, elevations, 3D renderings, and a site plan. A consultation with a structural engineer is required to produce a rough project draft.

Design Development

The design is refined and finalized during the design development, including the preferred materials, fixtures, and engineering system. The architect starts filing the building plans to obtain the necessary permits and lay down the groundwork.

Construction Documents

The architect’s role is to produce multiple sets of complete technical drawings and specifications to obtain any permits necessary for the project. Typically, a hard copy of blueprints is taken to different contractors to receive bids. 

Bidding and Negotiation

Builders submit bids based on the architectural drawings. The architect assists the client in selecting a builder by answering contractors’ questions, clarifying details from the design, and making sure bids meet all requirements.

Construction Administration

During this construction administration, the architect visits the site to make sure it complies with the drawings. They answer any questions or address concerns from their contractors and structural engineers. This phase may include preparing additional drawings, approving requests for progress payments, handling any changes made to the plans, and developing solutions to unforeseen problems. The architect makes sure all details are accounted for, and the project is turning out as the client imagined

Cost By Project

House Plans

You can expect to pay from $2,500 to $8,000 for house plans. There are two types of house plans to keep in mind: stock and custom. Stock plans are readily available for purchase and can be a less expensive option for clients to build their dream homes. The range for a stock plan is between $500 to $5,000.  

The alternative and more expensive option are custom plans. An initial consultation typically goes by the hour ($150 – $350.) Once the final set of plans are drafted, you may expect to be charged by the square foot, as it takes considerably more labor and time to draw up plans for a large house than a small house. 

The total for your custom house plans will range between $3,000 to $8,000 on average. When you decide to add multiple layers of construction documents such as electrical, cabinetry, appliances, and plumbing, you’ll be paying anywhere from $10,000 to $60,000.

Home Addition

Hiring an architect for a home addition involves a range of costs depending on how often your architect is required on site. Once they supervise the construction of your project in addition to their design work, the price will be significantly higher. The cost to design a home addition is around $6,000 on average. When the architect manages the construction, the charge is closer to $15,000 to $20,000. Overall, architect costs for home additions tend to cost 12% to 20% of the total project. 

Home Remodeling

It is common for there to be multiple revisions to the original plans during the remodeling process. The definite fee schedules apply to a new home remodel but have extra charges due to the surprises revealed throughout the remodeling process. The less involved your architect is, the more fluid the process works and lower the price. Often, remodels start on an hourly basis until the project’s scope is clear, and then comes a fixed fee. Typically, a cost per square foot applies for smaller projects, whereas the time cost required is more predictable. 

Specifically, the cost per hour ranges from $150 – $400, while the price per square foot ranges from $2 – $10. This will depend on how extensive the remodel is and how much is the architect’s involvement.

How Cad Crowd Can Help

Cad Crowd offers a full range of architectural design services for designers and clients. From freelance drafting to residential, commercial, industrial, civil, landscape design, and interior design, our professional designers in our global network are ready to take your project to the next level. 

Take the guesswork out of hiring an architect, and let us help you find top-tier professionals. Get a free quote today.