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  • Paul D.

It’s all about the money

Updated: May 15


It is for 95% of my clients and it most certainly is for me. I am the child of parents who survived the great depression (please don’t do the math on my age) and was raised in lower middle income America. I know the value of a dollar. So, when a client ask what a project is going to cost. I understand them completely. “It all about the money”.

When a client asks how much? I offer them a ballpark number. 5% to 7.5% of construction cost or X amount of dollars per square foot. It’s a number that when quoted, they either fall on the floor, immediately leave, accept it or sit down and ask why. Why, that is the question I long to hear.

If given 5 minutes I can clarify how this fee is generated and why the service is absolutely worth it. I will also describe ways that can save money (or time) by eliminating certain aspects of the design process. The business of architecture is a competitive one. If you search long enough you will find a fee that is lower than mine and perhaps lower than the next architect as well. However, the bottom line is we are all professionals and we all really cost about the same (or in some cases more). What you are getting or not getting (in the background) are the services that can be provided. A lower fee means one of two things, you are getting a lower fee because something has been pulled out of the service and you are not aware of it or the person providing the service has missed an item(s). The real value of a qualified architect/designer is in the level of experience he or she brings to the table.

When you are interviewing possible candidates ask to see some of their work completed (photos or field trips), their work in progress (plans completed and/or under design) and the process they will utilize to get your project from point A to B.


A good architect/designer will have a process they go through with their clients that covers all the proverbial bases. Programing, concept design, development design, construction documents and construction administration. All these phases have project value. The key from the client’s perspective and ultimately cost saving up front or on the backend is to understand what each service provides. Have your design professional explain each service and what will be provided and what are the ramifications if they are not included. Once you understand each step as an informed consumer there may be opportunities to opt out of some services. Depending on your construction experience level and/or your ability and desire to provide more time to the project by research or being the “gofer” you can save on the design budget.

Having a good concept or preliminary floor plan is a start. Knowing the direction that you want your ideas to move forward with will really help the designer. Photos and images of what you think you want your project to look like saves time (money) as well. If you have carefully vetted your designer by asking the right questions, have done your project research and are willing to volunteer your own time you could save hundreds or even thousands off the design of your project.


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