SAVING ON PROFESSIONAL SERVICE FEES #djawest : More than ever Architects are aware of a demand to deliver value for the least amount of expenditure. By allowing clients to define specific assistance as needed, or to alternatively budget and bundle a multiple of defined tasks for a fixed fee, Architects can and do maximize the value of assistance provided.
Think of it this way…a trip to the grocery store often times is augmented with a list of things to purchase; and more times then not, could be categorized by the isles in which a product would be found. This predetermined, systematic approach allows you to maintain focus on what you really want, while gathering those things in the shortest time possible….purchasing architectural services can be thought of in a similar manner. There are many isles and many products or services that could distract you from the few things that you may be willing to purchase.
Often times, consumers think of Architects or the services they provide as just “well rendered plans and elevations” and not much more; however in the broader context of true professional tasking, a mature Architect will earn his or her fee many times over by delivering a precise solution, at the highest quality, for the least amount of construction dispute and hard cost required to build your project.
In affect, a seasoned Architect understands a wide range of issues that in the opinion of most professionals are considered non-negotiable; as a short list those concerns may look something like this:
|Design & Construction|
|Operations & Maintenance|
Within these broad categories, there are multiple isles; and found within those isles are many, many items on the shelves in consideration to the tasks undertaken. For example under Site Analysis alone, a very important step in the Design Process, there are dozens of evaluation categories and hundreds of checklist items. By understanding that many tasks are involved in the comprehensive delivery of a top-notch, professional service, it becomes very easy to acknowledge that fees for certain assignments would equal tens of thousands of dollars.
SO WHAT NOW…HOW CAN I AFFORD AN ARCHITECT ???
Well…strategies will vary and much dependant on the depth and breadth of the actual project, intended use, public safety, zoning, etc.; for instance say a Community Hospital verses a Private Residence; however most Home Owners may find the following fairly useful:
SINGLE FAMILY RESIDENCE
- Think about your space needs or program; write them down.
- Understand and inventory various Site considerations. (see Site discussion below)
- Determine your budget or what you can afford for construction (all inclusive including Architecture, Engineering and Construction Management Fees).
- Think about an Architectural Style or character.
- Visit with three or more Architects on Site; discuss items 1 thru 4.
- Ask for a firm price to generate a Schematic Design only; of what they themselves would propose as a solution given the shared constraints.
- Request that the work product be in the form of a scaleable sketch of floor plans and each of the 4 primary elevations.
- Qualify that Plans and Elevations are yours to own for single use, provided you pay in full for all services rendered.
- Require that they provide a progress review document at the 30%, 60%, 90% and at the final solution phase of tasking. Doing so allows you to comment and direct revisions along the way during this period of tasking.
Please note that if the Architect doesn’t seem to understand your goals and or that the work progress is inferior, reserve the right to cancel service immediately during any scheduled progress review meeting. For instance, if you dismiss the Architect at the 30% review phase, only 30% of the fee would be due; and only if he or she had completed at least 30% of the work. Incidentally all progress payments would be paid along the same percentages noted.
The design is now your property….to complete as desired; you may terminate all services at this point, or alternatively if you are satisfied with the work product through the 100% review phase, you may now elect to allow the Architect to continue with tasking during the Design Development Phase of service.
DESIGN DEVELOPMENT PHASE
- The development side of activities will allow for a refinement of concepts, detailing and consideration to structural and performance aspects of the dwelling. In fact, performance considerations should occur during the Schematic phase as well and continue to evolve during this period of work. (see comments re: Engineering below).
- Ask for a firm price to undertake Design Development only; and a short and long list of things yet to be completed. Next decide what tasks are of value to you; then have this scope priced accordingly.
- Like before, require that the Architect provide a progress review document at the 30%, 60%, 90% and at the final solution phase of tasking; allowing you to comment and direct revisions along the way. At any point the Developed Design remains your property and may be completed any way you would like; you may terminate all services at any phase of completion. Alternatively, if you are satisfied with the work product through the 100% review stage, you might allow the Architect to continue with tasking during the Construction Document Phase of service.
CONSTRUCTION DOCUMENT PHASE
- As the name implies, the Construction Document phase is the assimilation of all work to date prepared and presented as a Plan or “How-to-Build” document. The importance of this document should not be understated. For most, a well prepared plan and accompanying specifications will save the Owner many times the actual cost for this service.
However, like anything there are exceptions to rules; an experienced builder in collaboration with a competent structural engineer may proceed with minimal plans, supplementing documents to building officials with detail cut sheets.
- Ask for a firm price to undertake the Con Docs only; and a list of things yet to be detailed. Then decide what tasks are of value to you and have this scope priced accordingly.
- Yup…just like before, require that the Architect provide a progress review document at the 30%, 60%, 90% and at the final solution phase of tasking; allowing you to comment and direct revisions along the way.
Do not dismiss the need for engineering review; and keep tasks well defined as you had previously for the Architect. Ask for cut sheets in lieu of drawings and a list itemizing proposed activities. If there are any coordination issues to be undertaken with the Architect, make sure that the Architect has already agreed that those issues will be included with the Design Development phase of tasking. Activity for this type of service…if managed correctly, can be very cost effective.
Some understanding of underlying bearing capacity will be needed to size footings, bearing pads, etc. In questionable terrain, soil borings are required for each and every home location; in other parts of the country the geology is fairly predictable and may not require a formal analysis at all. Verify this important consideration with the Engineer before undertaking a soil analysis.
Visit with your Architect regarding the following: Property Lines, Setbacks, Right-of-Ways, Utilities, Building Restrictions, Sight Lines (in and out), Solar Access, Septic, Well location, Entry Procession, Landscaping and Hardscape Schemes, Privacy Issues, Security, Future Expansion (on site and off), Wildlife Habitat, Drainage, Erosion, Slope, Geology, Existing Trees and Vegetation, Snow Storage, Emergency Services access…..and so forth.
What a sad day it would be…if all the effort taken to effectively buy-out professional services was lost by engaging an unscrupulous builder. Some shifty-hacks (undeserving of the name Builder), will attempt to blur costs by throwing big numbers at you and then substituting inferior means, methods and materials during construction. Further, you are no better off by engaging large scopes of work under a time and material basis either (hourly fees).
Look…it’s very simple; using the store analogy if you buy a bunch of bananas you pay by the pound; if you want the best price for a bunch of bananas you check the price per pound everywhere.
That’s it….simply ask for quantities of materials i.e.: Cubic Yards of Concrete, price for material and the price per CY Installed, Floor Framing and Sheathing, Wall Framing and Sheathing, Trusses and Sheathing, Roofing, Window and Door Openings, Painting….you get the idea. Break everything down to labor (including mandays) and material, and then compare pricing to others performing those same tasks.
Now don’t think that you are safe at this point…I’ve witnessed all trades coordinating price and manipulating quantities and data in the attempt to rake in huge sums from unsuspecting owners. I strongly suggest that you engage an Architect or Construction professional to verify quantities and expected costs before bidding; and unfortunately not all Architects or Contractors are capable of performing these tasks either…so please be careful.
I’ve personally saved my clients hundreds of thousands of dollars (often times on a single project), by putting their better interest first, and quantifying the work well before it was even undertaken for installation. Don’t become a victim!!! Profit gouging occurs more times then most would ever care to admit or even realize…
You know what…stay tuned! I’m thinking of an upcoming blog that will utilize real-life stories, that I hope by example will help a lot of people when undertaking their own projects.
CONSTRUCTION ADMINISTRATION AND MANAGEMENT
If you are capable and competent, managing your own construction project will save you thousands in this area of responsibility. If you are not Construction specific capable, you stand to loose a large percentages of your budget to profiteering…no matter the size or value of the undertaking.
With proper administration, delivered by an experienced and qualified Architect or Construction Manager, final pricing can be verified, proven as fair, responsible and guaranteed from the onset. Certainly there will be open allowances for unknowns such as weather conditions, below grade obstructions or debris, undetermined geology or water table, etc.; but over all in the right hands, the process will give you much peace of mind and save you money.
WHERE ARE ALL MY SAVINGS ?
Simple, you have taken a walk down the fewest isles possible, selecting only the few items of service that you most value. Bottom line…if you utilize this strategy you will save big money, allowing nearly anyone of modest means to afford an Architect and other construction services. Like a water faucet, you control the flow and quantity of activity based upon budget, performance demonstrated and the information or tasking needed.
OTHER ARCHITECTURAL SERVICES
As shared earlier there are literally hundreds of tasking responsibilities in play when delivering professional services; visit with your Architect and discuss these topics:
a.) must have
b.) nice to have
c.) and the things you are willing to do without.
With decades of construction specific and professional service experience, Dan Joseph Architects http://www.djawest.com/ is ready to assist with your project needs. Give us a call and discover the joys and the many advantages of a Design-Build Team for your next project!
POINTS TO REMEMBER
- A predetermined, systematic approach allows you to maintain focus on what you really want, while gathering those things in the shortest time possible….purchasing architectural services can be thought of in a similar manner.
- A mature Architect will earn his or her fee many times over by delivering a precise solution, at the highest quality, for the least amount of construction dispute and hard cost required to build your project.
- If your Architect doesn’t seem to understand your goals and or the work progress is inferior, reserve the right to cancel service immediately during any scheduled progress review meeting.
- The importance of a Construction Plan should not be understated. For most, a well prepared Con Doc and accompanying specifications will save many times the actual cost for this service.
- If there are any Engineering coordination issues to be undertaken with the Architect, make sure that the Architect has already agreed that those issues will be included with the Design Development phase of tasking.
- Verify your soil bearing capacity requirements with the Engineer.
- Understand all limitations and potential opportunities of your Site.
- If you want the best price for a bunch of bananas…you must check the price per pound everywhere!
- Unfortunately, not all Architects or Contractors are capable for performing detailed cost analysis…so be careful.
- With proper administration, delivered by an experienced and qualified Architect or Construction Manager, final pricing can be verified, proven as fair, responsible and guaranteed from the onset.
- Like a water faucet, you control the flow and quantity of activity based upon budget, performance demonstrated and the information or tasking needed.
- Stay tuned! I’m thinking of an upcoming blog that will utilize real-life stories, that I hope by example will help a lot of people when undertaking their own projects.