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Reasonable Architect Bid?


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By Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 2/25/2008


Howdy All:

My apologies in advance for the large post.  You'll understand why in a bit.

This is a great site; I've learned a lot from it!  I'm hoping some of you seasoned pros might be able to help me here.

We're just getting started on the building process and we've got a lot to learn, definitely.  Right now we're shopping around for architectural folks who can turn our drawings into buildable blueprints.  I've read just about everything posted hereabouts regarding the various percentages people have been charged for similar work, whether it's been with individual architects or owner-builder companies like UBuildIt.

The other day we got an interesting proposal from a local architect.  It's for more than I'd intended (I'd really been shopping for somebody who would just give me blueprints) but Colleen (my partner in this) is feeling like she needs more help--essentially more "hand holding" (in the good sense).  Here's the proposal from the architect; I'd be curious if folks think it's a good one, if the prices are reasonable (it's a big house, yes), etc.:

PROJECT DESCRIPTION : A two story home with a ‘mother-in-law’ apartment, a three car and a single car
garage. There is a small turret shaped sitting room on the roof. The Owner wishes to build using either Insulated Concrete Forms or Structural Insulated Panels or a combination of both. The living room is a great room with timber trusses and high (9-10 feet) walls. The upper library may be similar. Much of the remainder of the house will likely have flat ceilings and may have manufactured trusses. The exact roof profile hasn’t been established yet.

The exterior look has been temporarily described as a ‘lodge look’ although Tudor or castle style may be part of the finished look. Stone rather than ‘southwestern stucco’ is preferred. House is completely off grid and Owner is making plans to build wind generation and storage systems located in a shed type building adjacent to the house. A septic system will be required. Radiant floor heating is requested. The Owner and his manager will contribute to the construction process.

DESIGN RESPONSIBILITIES: (applies to house and battery shed)

Architectural Content
 Complete floor plans indicating room finishes but not colors
 Elevation views, section views, wall sections, stair detailing
 Fire resistive construction details (if desired)
 Detailing of a traditional masonry fireplace (an unusual thing these days)
 Insulation and energy conservation systems as well as Code compliance.

Engineering Content
 Site plan using topography supplied from Google Earth, site utility layout, any retaining walls (your choice of
materials). Drainage plan if required by El Paso County.
 Septic system design and up to three site visits to inspect installation per El Paso County Health Department.
 Foundation design.
 Framing plans for all floor and roof systems including detailing of timber trusses for either local of distant
fabrication.

 Wall design using either ICF or SIP including submittal and review process(s) that might be required for SIP’s.
All details for construction that are not standard methods will be detailed.

Electrical layout for power and lighting including load calc’s for AC systems, layout of low voltage systems
such as cable, phone, network and alarm systems although the specific design of such systems will be done by
the installers.

 Plumbing layout and sizing for domestic water, waste and venting using a combination of copper and PEX.
 Heating system design including radiant tube layouts, boiler sizing and piping but not control systems. Ground
source heat pump and earth loops will be detailed and installation of earth loops will be specified.
 Domestic hot water heating equipment and schematics will be provided.
 RESCheck, heating appliance certificates, heat loss calculations and related Regional Building Department
submittals

Services not included;
Soils Analysis, Inspection or Report, Topographic & Survey, color selection will be by Owner, design or
specification of the wind collection or electricity storage systems. Cabinet, woodwork and mill work details have
not been addressed hence are not included. Kitchen design and detailing has not been discussed so we need to have
a separate agreement for that or the Owner can contract for that through a specialty designer, all depending on the level of fixtures, materials and workmanship desired.

DESIGN PROCESS: Our efforts and pricing are separated into Concept and Production phases. Owner has
provided a draft of the floor plan including room usage. We will use that as initial concept and create a virtual
building in AutoCad as part of the fixed price production scope of work. From there we will make recommendations as to possible changes that might be in line with the owners wishes (for example, a corridor between the house and the apartment would allow easier dog movement to the fenced yard and prevent the bulk of the garage from being heated to the same degree as the house). Changes to the initial concept would be done T &M as priced below as Concept work. Once the concept has been solidified, we would begin Production drawings as part of the fixed price. With the initial concept drawings, we would help apply for a permit for an accessory building of the battery shed.

SUPPORT - Obviously we would support our work and that support is typically based upon dealing with experienced contractors and tradesmen. We would detail the work so that the scope of work for any tradesmen is clear and evident. There are always activities that overlap between tradesmen. This is where experience and/or diligent and cooperative tradesmen are most helpful. We are not preparing specifications detailing the quality or
manner in which the work is to be done assuming that experienced tradesmen will be performing the work and that a positive relationship between tradesmen and Owner exists. Since the construction manager may need additional support, we are prepared to make weekly site visits to assist with planning, contractor coordination and quality control if desired and charged at an hourly rate.

REVISIONS : Once the concept is solidified, changes can cause various problems and lead to a slow down of work
and inaccuracies depending on the item of system being changed. Changes made further down the design process
will require more effort to make those changes and likely incur higher costs.

WORK PRODUCT : We will create the plans in a 3D AutoCad environment. Progress drawing will be sent electronically in the form of an AutoCad .dwf. This cad viewer program can be downloaded for free and allows user to view whole building, make slices and sections, turn off components and see other elements while rotating or zooming. Final drawing will be printing for building department. Up to six hard copies are included. Additional copies can be made for the cost of printing + $30.

FEE’s : A fee of $16,500.00 will be charged for the Production phase work listed above. Alteration of the initial concept into the final concept would be billed at $60 per hour. We would estimate the need for 10 hours of changes in the Concept phase. Presently the house measures to about 7100 square feet. Assuming an average cost of construction of $100 per square foot, the estimated cost of construction is about $710,000 and the fee represents about 2.5 % of the cost of construction. Construction phase support can be given at the cost of $60 per man hour including driving time. A down payment of 15% is requested. Billing will occur biweekly as plans progress.

I personally think that he's assuming much of the work will be done by contractors rather than by ourselves, and suspect that's where he gets the $710K value from.  (I think the house might appraise at $710K, but I don't think it'll run anywhere NEAR that much to actually build--he likely doesn't know how much of it we'll be doing ourselves.)

Is this a good bid?  Is his rate good?  Are the services he's proposing a good mix or are we overlooking something?

Love to get some feedback from all you smart folks out there.

Ferretman

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By Patty in Vero Beach, FL on 9/27/2008


Steven,

Considering how big your house is, that is not a bad deal.  Typically, architects will charge 6 to 10% and he is letting you off with 2.5%.  I totally agree that it is crazy to throw up a number of $100 a square foot when whatever faucets and appliances you select shouldn't be a part of the $100 a square foot, but it is.  We shopped around and found a fella who charged for the square feet, not all the goodies we put in the house.  Anyhow, I think our price was a little lower than yours, but not by much.  Then again, we are in Florida and at this time, building is in a bad way so we got a really good bargain. 

Our design does not include plumbing, electrical, HVAC nor structural engineering nor all those tests.  He will design the roof, but structural engineer will have to bless the truss design and foundation/wall designs.  Now, as a structual engineer is so pricey, we have in ours that our architect will convert the structural engineer notes to the plans. 

Just make sure that the guy comes very well-recommended and does a good job with his plans.  It's good that he will put extra detail in there for you. 

Hope this helps!

Patty


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By Jeff in Hartland, WI on 9/28/2008


Hi Steven,

The proposal sounds good in terms of the services the architect would provide. And the cost isn't too far out--if you want an architect. You can probably get plans drawn cheaper, but then you won't get the HVAC design, electric design, etc. Then again, your HVAC guy can probably do an HVAC design, your electrical guy can do an electric design, etc.

I had a local designer (not an architect) design our house for far less than what your architect quoted. We got elevations, floor plans, renderings, construction sections, and some minor detail elevations. This amounts to six drawings total.  My HVAC guy will design the HVAC system, but I did rescheck & heat calcs myself. I'll let him do the duct design. I'm probably using an electrician who's done some work for me in the past. They specialize in new construction, so I have no doubt they'll do a good job. The design is included in the subs' pricing, and you won't get a break if they have to build to someone else's design, so you're paying for these "minor" designs twice.

In my opinion, architects are a "full-service" option. They do a lot of work, and they charge you for that work. As they should. If you want the services they provide, go for it. But be sure to talk with more than one architect. Be sure that you're very comfortable working with the architect, because you'll spend a bunch of time with them over the next few months. And be sure that you won't resent paying them their fees.

One more thought: I'd try haggling a bit with the architect. The industry is in a rut, architects are feeling it just as much as builders and subs. See if there's any room to lower the price and/or get even more services.

Jeff


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By Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 12/9/2008


Howdy Patty:


My apologies on taking so long to respond... things have been busy!

Thank you for the comments.  I agree I think he's been more than worth the money--he's doing all you've suggested and more (such as the initial design for the solar panel system).  In our case he is also doing all the truss design work, and then the truss folks will sign off on it.  (I believe as of this writing he's already had them approve the "normal" part of the house, and the fancier exposed trusses over the central area will get their stamp after we finalize that portion).

He is definitely a very good guy--we've already recommended him to a couple of other folks in the canyon who are also building next summer!

Steve

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By Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 12/9/2008


Hiya Jeff:


You put your finger precisely on it, Jeff--we had a couple of other guys make bids who would have been cheaper, but nobody did anywhere near this amount of work.  Most of them were just "here's a design, thanks" kind of bids.  We wanted more.

I don't mind paying for that kind of professionalism one bit--as you say, having it done right costs money.

Steve

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By Sean in Denver, CO on 2/7/2009


I think that's a bargain number for the amount of work. The real trick is comparing final sets of plans and just how much information is actually on them. I've seen sets with a lot of holes and I've seen fully detailed sets that have all the section and detail information that you really need. Honestly, the fee is related to the amount of time someone is putting into it. I'd spend some time really looking at the plans and seeing the level of detail on them. If there is only the bare minimum, $17,100 may be too much.

I'd also ask if they have experience with owner-builders. Someone with a lot of experience may be able to get by with a napkin sketch but a first-timer may want to have a lot more detail thought out by the architect. You'll also want an architect willing to answer questions.

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By Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 2/8/2009


Thanks Sean!

Since I posted my first inquiry we'd selected this guy and frankly couldn't be happier.  His work has been outstanding and thoroughly detailed, though he occasionally will leave off a couple of seemingly obvious things. (An example:  Very detailed length measurements along a given wall for window locations, door locations, etc.--but he will sometimes forget to put a "total length" measurement in there.)

I give him his final payment sometime this week when the plans are approved; after that he'll provide consulting/clarification and check construction as it goes to make sure it's going properly. If we wanted to change something he'd be the first one we would approach, of course, but he's done an excellent job.

I'm gratified that at least we didn't mess this part up!

Steve

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