Design Fee Question


I am considering doing some home renovation project in Baltimore  -1700 square feet row home - gut and redo and would like to know what rate to charge for design fees for a permit/construction document set?

Also, what rate will the structural engineer and MEP engineer charge for thier work?

Should I fold the engineer's  fees into my fee or should I have the customer pay the structural and MEP fees seperate from my fee?

Any information would be appreciated.


Dec 30, 13 6:15 pm
Are you licensed? Do you really need consultants? Have the client hire the consultants seperately if you can.
Dec 30, 13 8:46 pm
wurdan freo

type your question into google and add the word "archinect". Lots of threads on here about pricing. In my opinion, no one can tell you how to charge. You need to decide what your time and skills are worth. 

Dec 30, 13 9:18 pm

You need to call you structural engineer for a quote.

For a residential project, you can get a quote from MEP engineers, but very often MEP can be done as designed/built. You just need to show the plumbing fixtures, elec. outlets and switches and lights, phone, cable and data outlets, HVAC registers and condenser location on your A sheets.

Gang Chen, Author, AIA, LEED AP BD+C

Dec 31, 13 2:02 am

First and foremost, we should not talk about fees with specific numbers. Don't violate the antitrust laws. 

It is acceptable to discuss how to obtain fee quotes just we can't discuss or have direct conversations of what to charge. It is potentially unlawful for competitors or potential competitors of any degree to discuss prices directly as that falls afoul of price fixing and collusion to price fix. Be careful. 

I have not notice any glaring violation of antitrust laws yet but stating a precautionary note.

Dec 31, 13 3:45 am

Has an internet forum been sued for anti-trust violations yet?  this isn't the aia and even if we all agreed to charge the same price it wouldn't be significant enough to attract the attention of the government regulators. 

Dec 31, 13 7:46 am
Have you say down and figured out how many hours it might take you to actually do the work and multiplied that by an hourly rate?

Have you worked at a firm that did this kind of work? How did they handle the subs?
Dec 31, 13 9:09 am
Saint in the City

"Have you say down and figured out how many hours it might take you to actually do the work and multiplied that by an hourly rate?"

The OP sounds very inexperienced -- I'd seriously doubt that he/she could make a useful time assessment.

Dec 31, 13 9:22 am
Saint in the City

"I have not notice any glaring violation of antitrust laws yet but stating a precautionary note."

It's comforting to know that you're on the case.

Dec 31, 13 9:25 am

AIA has been sued before: AIA used to have a suggested fee schedule on AIA forms, and it was sued and lost the case. That is why you do not see any AIA suggested fee schedule anymore.

I also have a real estate broker license. It is also stated VERY clearly on all the real estate forms that real estate commission is NOT fixed and is negotiable.

Gang Chen, Author, AIA, LEED AP BD+C

Dec 31, 13 10:26 am

I know Richard, it is like these guys are trying to make a business out of architecture. If it was me I'd report these architecture thugs to the dark overlords that run architecture (alien reptiles dressed in black), then perhaps they will realize their blasphemous ways do nothing good for the industry.

On a side note, I would charge 1 millions doll hairs (get it 'doll hairs')... oh no, the architecture police are knocking at my door...eeek!

Dec 31, 13 10:39 am

phew... so that was the lizards in black. They were like, 'you can't mention doll hairs on archinect or whenever discussing architecture', and I was like 'why not', and they were like, 'doll hairs are a valuable commodity in some parts of the world', and I was like 'where?', and they were like 'deep underground', and I was like 'really?!', and they were like 'yesss', and I was like 'my oh my, you have a nice forked tongue', and then he was like 'thank you, you're not going to do it again, are you?', and I was like 'no, never again', and he was like 'okay, thank youz', and I was like 'your welcome', and he was like ' off to 'broadstreetexpresstrains' house for a talk, and I was like 'gezzz, crazy ass reptile aliens', and they were like '...what'd you say", and I was like, 'oh, nothing' and then one of them was like 'look a cricket' and his tongue lashed out and hit this cricket on the head, and he was like 'yummm', and I was like 'ikky', and he was like 'good bye'...

Dec 31, 13 10:54 am

So, since you can't mention you know what on here, or really ever, I would charge...ummm...ONE MILLION GYROS....get it 'gyros'... with extra tahini too.

Dec 31, 13 11:01 am

Thank you all for your comments.

i have read where some designers reccommend an hourly rate whereas others reccommend a percentage of construction rate. What is the preferred method. Also, should I get 

E&O insurance for this one project or should I wait until I get a few more projects?


Dec 31, 13 11:04 am

Damn, so some hairy greek guy just knocked at my door and he was like...

All in all, I guess gyros are the last remaining commodity in greece so scratch that idea....

Dec 31, 13 11:05 am

Let's all agree to spend the same amount.  We'll conspire by not anti-conspiring.  Kittens will save us!

Dec 31, 13 11:06 am

Did the lizards in black visit you yet broadstreet?

Dec 31, 13 11:07 am

Or we could speak in some consumerism code, since there are may products that are listed at fixed, I'd charge them 4 Mac book pros, one I-Mac, two I-pods, and 5 polarized Fast Jacket Oakleys. Then you just refer to the fixed rate of those goods and you get your dollar sum.... good idea, huh?!

Dec 31, 13 11:18 am

Well, that is just the DD fee of course...

Dec 31, 13 11:19 am

No not yet .....but the little gren leprechaun just got too close to the third rail on the tracks and singed his pee green wingtip lizard shoes.........but. Back to the subject at hand anyone have any comments on fees?


Dec 31, 13 11:24 am

Broadstreet, have you taken a Professional practice course? It should have covered a lot of this.

Hourly vs. fixed fee vs. not-to-exceed vs. percentage of construction cost are all viable and acceptable.  A small project can vary widely, though - residential tends to charge a higher percentage (10-20%) than commercial. I suggest sitting down and REALLY thinking through what you have to do:


Measure existing and produce as-built base drawings: 12 hours? 35 if it's complex and you can't draft fast?

Meeting with client to discuss program - 2 hours? 15 if they want to take you to some other project to show you what they like?

Schematic Design, three options - 6 hours? 40 if you're slow?

Meeting with client to discuss SD options and get feedback - 2 hours? Or maybe 25 if they are highly involved and question every little thing and make their own suggestions of how to change things?


So now I've walked you through 25% of the project scope and the amount of hours varies between 22 and 115.  This is why hourly is great for designers - we can take as much time as we desire and get paid for every second! - and lousy for clients.  And this is also why a fixed fee tends to be great for a client - especially if they are demanding and high-maintenance and have unrealistic expectations - and lousy for an architect.

Your best starting point is to estimate how many hours it will take to do each task and decide upon an hourly rate. Add up what that will be and show it to the client.  Then let them know that the more demanding they are and the more options they want to see, the more it will cost. Agree with them on a topset amount based on that hourly total.  Then keep track during the process of how much time they or you are burning so you can make adjustments as things go. If it's all open book then your clients won't feel like you're cheating them.

Sometimes in my practice we would have an agreed-upon fee (either based on construction cost or hourly, depending) that would go through the beginning of construction then we would switch to hourly.  This can be helpful if you don't know the contractor and think they might call you about every 1/2" of confusion on the drawings - a bad contractor can burn up your time right quick. But we would also have an agreed-upon minimum number of hours spent at the site to make sure the contractor wasn't willy-nilly making decisions that would screw everything up, either aesthetically or functionally for the client.

This is not a simple process.  It's very complex, and every client/site/contractor is different, and if you really don't know what you're doing you need to be careful. But the only way to learn how to do it is to do it a few times.


PS E&O is probably way outside your concerns right now.  It will likely cost you at least several thousand to get it. How much do you really stand to lose if the client sues you? You sound young, so I can't imagine you own a bunch of material goods they can take away. Are you even registered?

Dec 31, 13 11:26 am

Make sure you put in a clause somewhere in your contract your total liabilities shall NOT be more than the fee you charge if you are not getting E & Q insurance. Your client is probably looking for a bargain, well, then s/he needs to take the risk.

Gang Chen, Author, AIA, LEED AP BD+C

Dec 31, 13 11:33 am


was that part of this mornings class and you wanted to share it with us while still fresh?

Dec 31, 13 11:40 am

Don't violate the antitrust laws.

This is too idiotic for words.

Make sure you put in a clause somewhere in your contract your total liabilities shall NOT be more than the fee you charge

This is a close second.

Dec 31, 13 11:52 am

And my comments don't hold a flame to the ones mentioned above Miles?

What does it take to sound like a moron on archinect?

Where is guren when I need someone to insult me, he must be working on an inside corner detail of hardy board meeting cultured stone, or applying foam banding to his sweet elevation.

Dec 31, 13 11:58 am


no... It is tjust a precautionary statement. It is not a precautionary statement if it was after the fact. It is also something you should take seriously.  There are people that tends to not take these laws seriously and literally state prices and practically borderline price fixing because they don't follow laws they don't agree with.

In general it is a requirement of law (standard of professional care) that precautionary statements are made on discussions that can be reasonably foreseen lead into violation of applicable laws. This forum is subject to U.S. Authorities as with most if not all of the internet top level domains issuance and domain registrars and the do ains themselves.

The laws demands prudence and precautionary statements is just that prudence. Take it or leave it. Don't blame anyone for ignoring. Based on the nature of this site's forum, it is important to reiterate these precautionary statements on a regular basis because there is no "Sticky" to keep it on the front. It gets "buried" and people tend not to look up posts thart are "buried".

Dec 31, 13 12:04 pm

Shut up Richard, I am try to be the moron of this thread and you are clearly getting in my way of me doing so.

Dec 31, 13 12:06 pm

Make sure you put in a clause somewhere in your contract your total liabilities shall NOT be more than the fee you charge

You can sometimes get away with this clause when you're only doing design work, not being involved in the construction process.  But it's a rare client that will let this clause slip in.  And really, if you design something without being safe and professional, then the contractor builds it and three days later the roof caves in, do you really think it's fair that you don't suffer any liability beyond your fee?  

Be ethical. Think about being fair in all that you do.  If the client doesn't grant you the same social contract, then say no to the job and move on.

Dec 31, 13 12:08 pm

Miles Jaffe,

Don't be an idiot. You don't have to have remotely a monopoly to violate antitrust laws. There are state and federal antitrust laws. You can violate the antitrust laws if you ask a colleague/competitor how much they charge a client for their services. Competitors and potential competitors are not suppose to have direct communication on prices. You can look at your competitors public advertisements and prices they advertise to their clients/customers and then determine a way for you to price competitively but you aren't suppose to have direct communication over pricing. You are suppose to derive your price independently and free of direct communication with your peers over prices.

it is a different issue when you are getting quotes from consultants. That is not what i am talking about. I simply issueping a precautionary warning to folks here to avoid stating specific prices they charge. Some here do that. Ignorance of law is not an excuse and will not protect you from fines or other disciplinary actions of state or federal authorities.

that is the point I am trying to get across BEFORE anyone violates the law. It is easy to violate. FYI: Locality of competitors don't matter so much anymore in this global internet driven world we are in. Just stating that last point for those who might try to one up this with a clever comment about locality scope. In this global wide information superhighway world driven by global wide telecommunication infrastructure.... The locality scope of the antitrust laws is the jurisdictional long arm scope of the jurisdictional authority. Think the long arm of the U.S. Legal authorities and think about it for awhile.

Dec 31, 13 12:22 pm

Ok DeTwan, if you want to be the moron, you can be. At least you need some competition to keep your quality of craft on your high game.

Dec 31, 13 12:25 pm

"Think the long arm of the U.S. Legal authorities and think about it for awhile."


Dec 31, 13 12:29 pm

the 'fear' is powerful in you son...

Dec 31, 13 12:31 pm

I will add to what Donna said... You can not lessen your statutory liability. If the courts find you liable, your contractual limitations doesn't matter. You can only limit your liability amount for contractual violations. You can not legally limit your liability  by contractual means on liability issues regarding negligence, tort and other such issues. If you try to, the courts will not enforce those terms of your contract except for contractual violation. If your design failed due to negligence and it costs $5,000,000 and you are deemed the sole responsible party for the failure, you are liable for the $5,000,000 cost. There are virtually no state that allows you to contractually limit professional liability to a specific dollar amount except only for contractual violations. 

Dec 31, 13 12:37 pm

Competitors and potential competitors are not suppose to have direct communication on prices

How are posters on Archinect going to beclassified as "competitors and potential competitors" since we don't know the real name of the OP, the client, the project, its location, etc.?  Informal discussions of the going rates we've seen elsewhere could hardly be considered collusion.  To collude, you need something to collude about.

Dec 31, 13 12:37 pm

"Or we could speak in some consumerism code, since there are may products that are listed at fixed, I'd charge them 4 Mac book pros, one I-Mac, two I-pods, and 5 polarized Fast Jacket Oakleys. Then you just refer to the fixed rate of those goods and you get your dollar sum.... good idea, huh?!"

Then why not just use bitcoin?

Dec 31, 13 12:45 pm

That would make life too easy then, dumb dumb.

Dec 31, 13 12:49 pm


Because you and others on the forum offer same or similar services and can potentially compete on projects.

What the rest of what you say doesn't matter. Price fixing can be done without direct clients. If we all were proposing to charge 5 cents for our services... We would be conspiring to collude. However, people are unlikely to agree with 5 cents but it is a point. The quantity amount does not matter. We just aren't suppose to have direct communication on prices. In this world of internet, we could very well know the client and not talking about that. Pricing of services are not necessarily priced specifically to the particular client's project. I'm not suggesting or recommending people charge this way from a business perspectives but some charge a fixed price or percentage based on project or building type.

you can violate antitrust laws for CONSPIRING to collude even if no collusion has occured. CONSPIRING to collude is another word for ATTEMPTING to collude just like attempting to murder is unlawful even if actual murder did not occur because you were stopped before you succeeded. Or attempting to steal but you were captured before you were successful. 

In the courts, it doesn't matter if there was any actual things to collude about as the lawyers are the ones that will paint the picture in court if you know what I mean. What would stop a prosecuting lawyer from painting a picture of conspiracy to collude? Don't give ammo to the lawyers. At the end of the day, in courts, it boils down to which side was most effective in presenting their side of the case in convincing the Judge or jury to side with them on the case.

Dec 31, 13 12:59 pm

Ok, I go first.  I charge 1 bitcoin per hour of design work.  You can convert theat into dollars, euros or pounds at your leisure.  Anybody want to tell me if that is too high or too low?

Dec 31, 13 1:06 pm

In short, Geezertect,

In a global economy, any one of us and each of us are potential competitors for any project, for any client in any location. 

Prices are not necessisarily priced on a project by project basis and could be a fixed fee or fixed percentage of construction cost which two or more potential competitors agreeing or attempting to establish or even potentially attempt to establish an agreement on price to charge (directly or indirectly) via direct communication and in some cases of indirect communication. It doesn't matter if the fees are a fixed fee or even potential collusion of a percentage amount. AIA got in trouble for their price tables they published years ago.

Cases aren't always high profiled. 

Dec 31, 13 1:08 pm

yeah, basically you all are murders, baby kitten murders, I am of no exclusion, I murder at least one kitten a night before bed.

Dec 31, 13 1:10 pm


It doesn't matter if you use Bitcoin or other e-currencies if they translate to real monetary value via an exchange rate. The current conversion rates for it in USD is something on the order of $760-$765 for a single Bitcoin. I'm not going to say if it is too much or too little. I'm reserving any comment. All I say is you decide for yourself.

Dec 31, 13 1:14 pm

handsum, it would seem 1 bitcoin might actually be too high?  those things are apparently worth a lot.  i would say 0.156 bitcoins/hr would be good.

richard balkins, assoc aia, can you link a case precedent where real lawyers and a real judge found a person guilty of anything for discussing prices of any sort on an internet forum?  not the aia, because we aren't the aia.  preferably link a court case where architectural services are involved.  i'm curious to hear more about the link between how you think law works, and how it actually works.

Dec 31, 13 1:56 pm


Dec 31, 13 2:01 pm


Dec 31, 13 2:03 pm


first off, why would this internet forum be any different than colluding in person at Go Daddy's U.S. Based 65,000 sq.ft. Data center?

why would it be any different then collusion on a dial-up BBS?

Internet is jurisdiction of the U.S. Government and its laws. 

Why would architecture occupation/business be exempt from anttrust laws when any other service based occupation/business isn't? What makes architects SO special over any other occupation.

since the law enforcing agencies of state and federal rely on people reporting, the only reason architects are commonly reported in cases with the DOJ is that architects tends not to report other architects except only to the licensing boards.

currently, I don't have an active subscription to court case files. Most of them, you have to pay money to get the court dockets. However, where in the federal statutes or even state statutes exempts Architects from antitrust laws?

Dec 31, 13 2:53 pm

Dude, are you an architect or something? You sure like to argue over something that isn't even relevant. If it concerns you so much I would just report it to the lizards in black, their slant eyes and forked tongues will set these murderous architects straight.

Dec 31, 13 3:04 pm

I'm a building designer... Close enough. As well as an associate member of the AIA and IDP intern. 

I agree, I think I've argued in circles enough on the one point. 

I guess its a habit among us architects and closely related design professionals. It's a culture thing.

Dec 31, 13 3:17 pm

Don't be an idiot.

Ignorant AND arrogant. LOL Keeping tossing that associate membership around like it means something.

Enjoy your time here on Archinect, you're off to a great start!

Dec 31, 13 3:23 pm

yeah... I know the Assoc. AIA doesn't mean much but we all know many of the firms have a bias to hiring interns as membership with the AIA. Seems like a higher statistical average.  Otherwise, it doesn't mean much except in the architectural wingie waving.

I been on this forum for a number of years. 

Miles, don't take anything I stated personal. Never intended as that. 

The next step is getting a pair of black rim round glasses.... LOL

Dec 31, 13 3:31 pm

Collusion and conspiracy are basically synonyms.  They mean planning and acting together in secret especially for an unlawful purpose.  Obviously, they would involve an agreement between the conspirators.  Let's see.  Has the OP made an agreement with responders on this site about how much he will charge?  Don't think so.  Have any specific actions been mutually taken?  Don't think so.  Has it all been done in secret?  Surely you would agree that the internet is about the farthest thing from secret.

By your theory, any business that publicly reveals its prices is engaging in illegal anti-trust behavior since its competitors can use that information  to set their own prices.  Barbers, dentists, retailers, restaurants, car dealers beware!!  

Pricing of services are not necessarily priced specifically to the particular client's project     Huh????

Dec 31, 13 4:03 pm

i just think you're mistaken on what constitutes anti-trust laws.

if you believe that a court would enforce the current law in the way you suggest, i would think that belief could be supported with case law.  if not, it raises a flag that would suggest to me that you should question your belief.  after all, if a court has not enforced that law in the way you think, why believe that they would?

i think our industry would be served better if we were more comfortable talking about money, including our fees.  i think if we weren't so afraid to talk about it, we would likely stop the race to the bottom and possible find a nice place to moderate the potential for price declines.  your misunderstanding of the law and what happened to the aia long ago only serves to exacerbate that fear.

having said that, i don't know what broadstreet should charge.  i don't run my own company, so in many situations i am essentially powerless to effect change.  i have more questions than answers....

Dec 31, 13 4:13 pm

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