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Fees and costs associated with the design services of architects and interior designers

Updated: Jan 17

Complexity, scope, budget, and schedule are the key components comprising your project’s design fee. Complexity refers to the physical and regulatory constraints and determinants that will need to be considered and addressed throughout your project. Scope outlines the specific design activities and deliverables from your architect and interior designer. Budget is in your purview and your principal lever of control. Schedule is the most fluid aspect of the project and most subject to external conditions and events not within the control of you, your designers or builder. However, holding to schedule throughout the project is important in maintaining your budget and your peace of mind. Rely on the expertise and experience of your architect and interior designer to successfully shepherd you through this process.

What percentage of your project budget will go toward architectural and interior design services?

The architectural and interior design fee(s) for a significant remodel, addition, or new home, regardless of how the fee is structured, will typically fall between 10 per cent and 20 per cent of the cost of construction for the project. The more technically complex the project and the greater the number of regulatory approvals needed the fee will naturally gravitate into the higher range. Your architect’s and interior designer’s involvement is best arranged by design phase with their associated fees shown as a percentage of the total project cost.

Design Phase

Percentage of Total Design Cost

· Predesign (5 percent): You and your architect and interior designer will discuss and set the scope, budget, and schedule for your project. Your architect and interior designer will be very helpful in understanding the current costs and availability of materials, systems, appliances, fixtures, fittings, and furnishings. From these discussions the architect and interior designer will generate your ‘Project Brief’, a written narrative encapsulating both the scope of the project and your aspirations for the project along with the deliverables needed to construct your project.

· Concept design (15 percent to 20 percent): In this phase the architect will create preliminary designs, sketches, drawings, models, that explore your aspirations from the Project Brief. Together you will review the concepts, selecting the most promising and then move those ideas into the next phase.

  • Design development (15 percent to 20 percent): This phase is where your architect and interior designer will develop the selected concept design(s) into more detailed drawings and specific selections that more precisely define spaces, materials, and constructability issues.

  • Construction documents (45 percent): These are technical drawings, specifications, code compliance instructions and details needed to secure contractor bids and ultimately hire the right contractor for the job. These are also the documents that will be required for the issuance of building permits and as construction progresses various inspections and approvals.

  • Bidding and negotiation (5 percent): Your architect and interior designer will have lots of experience working with contractors, so they are invaluable in assisting the homeowner to evaluate bids and help in the negotiation process. They are also an excellent asset in assisting in your selection the best contractor for your project.

  • Procurement services: This is an additional service that your interior designer can provide to acquire, receive, and install new furniture, wall coverings, carpet, rugs, decorative lighting, and accessories. Interior designers can purchase many items directly from manufacturers or fabricators saving you money over buying such items at retail. Fees for this service are generally negotiated once the scope is determined.

  • Construction observation & administration (15 percent): In this phase your architect and interior designer will make periodic visits to the site to assure the work is progressing and being done in accordance with your project’s design’s intentions. These visits and accompanying reports are your best way to stay appraised and engaged.

New Build vs. Remodel

It may seem counterintuitive, but design fees on a significant remodel project can actually be greater than fees for a new build. Why? Because of predesign activities and hidden conditions. A set of “as built” plans and investigations will be needed by the architect and interior designer before any significant design efforts can advance on a remodel project. All remodel projects present hidden conditions and unforeseen issues that can reveal themselves at any stage of the project, especially when your project is an older structure. In addition, older structures often exhibit modern building code deficiencies or violations that need to be remedied, plumbing may need to be rerouted, and structural deficiencies and weather worn materials may be revealed during demolition. Depending on the extent and number of these circumstances your architects and engineers may need to make more site visits to assess the existing conditions and more design efforts to adjust your plans accordingly.

Additional Costs and Considerations

In addition to design fees, additional costs for land surveys, soils tests, and specialty consultants such as arborists and soils engineers may be encountered. Presentations, scaled models, and other exhibits made to and for Design Review committees. HOA boards and Historic Preservation commissions will add to the overall design fees.

Reimbursable Expenses

Certain project-related expenses, such as out of town travel, printing of plans and specifications, special delivery charges, and samples, are considered reimbursable expenses. The homeowner will then reimburse the architect and interior designer for money spent on these services throughout the process.

Building Permits

When your designs are complete, the architect or the builder will submit them to your local building authorities to obtain a building permit for your project. The cost for building permits vary by location and your architect can appraise you as specific amounts. Permit fees are generally derived as a small percentage of the projected costs of the construction of your project. When a building permit is required for a new build or a renovation, an architect will need to be engaged in order to get the plans approved and ultimately secure the building permit.

With this understanding of the design fees and expenses associated with your remodel, addition or new home, your next step is the selection of an experienced and capable professional design team like the STUDO @ Westmoreland Farm™ in Lake Forest, Illinois.

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