Practical stuff - budgeting time for the C.A. phase of architectural services


I'd like your opinion as to how many HOURS (regardless of the billing rate of those assigned) you would budget, more or less, for a building as described as follows:

- about 25,000 sq. ft. office building

- tilt-up construction, rectilinear, one diagonal geometry variation at entry feature

- 2 story height

- pop in storefront windows for punched openings, but more involved floor-to-ceiling glazing design at entry feature with spandrel glazing

- elevator, nice monumental stair design in addition to utilitarian exit stairs at each end, tiled lobby with flooring patterning, some coves and lighting features in public spaces, standard accessories, and floor and wall tiling with bull noses et al. part way up in restrooms.

For the site visits, shop drawings, and general correspondence and clarification of issues, how many HOURS would you allocate?  Approximate.

Dec 30, 13 9:05 pm
Saint in the City

Bumping this one.  Curious what others might say.

The typical 10 - 15% allocation of fee for the CA phase yields a pretty scant amount of time for everything required.

My opinion is that CA is where the fee is blown, but many firms seem to decide not to address it.  

Dec 31, 13 2:05 pm


Let's say it's 15% of the fee, and hours.  How does 80 hours (1 FTE, 2 weeks) or 120 hours (1 FTE, 3 weeks) sound?  Average that to 100 hours (1 FTE).

If that's the case, and it was 15%, the 100% equivalent would be 667 hours (1 FTE), which works out to 16 or 17 weeks of ONE person's time for the entire job.  We all know it would involve more people yet go quicker.

What do you think?

Dec 31, 13 2:55 pm
Saint in the City

Not sure I follow -- 

What's your total fee for the job?

 I was guessing it'd be 25000 SF x 175$/SF or so for a total of about 4.4 million const cost?  Then 4.5% arch fee NOT including the about 200,000 total fee?  So 15% CA phase of that 200,000 equals about 30,000 dollars?  divided by $120/hour billable rate guess equal about 250 total hours for CA?   So not quite 5 hours per week over the course of a year's construction time (another guess)....?

Check me on the math, it feels early.

Again, I'm questioning the typical 10 or 15 percent for CA.  I know it's not possible to bill for every minute that  client or GC calls during CA, but even with a great set of plans and few changes orders,   a LOT of time gets spent.  The 5 hours / week gets eaten quickly by the time you attend regular progress meetings, do submittals, check pay apps., etc., etc -

Never tried billing hourly for the CA portion, but some do that as well.

Jan 1, 14 11:06 am

CA phase can range by 15% - 30% of the fee.  Depending on the type of construction and client (public vs private).  I work on mostly public jobs which take a decent amount more time, and there standard is 22% of the fee.  It is in actuality turns out to be more like 25-28% of fee.  

Then think about what you want to put in your contract:  How many meetings? How many field visits? Number of submittals?

Depending on the site location, each meeting will be 8 hours worth of time (minutes, discussion, travel, etc.)  Each field visit may be 4-6 hours (travel, resulting construction sketch, etc.)  Each submittal will be on average 4 hours or so (logging, marking up, re-submittals, etc)

If your concerned with the time I would estimate it from multiple points of view.  1. Percent of fee, and 2. break it down based on the time logic above.  

Also, depending on the size of your firm I would be inclined to only use $100 per hour billing rate.  This means each person on average makes $68K a year with a 3.0 multiplier for profit and overhead.

Jan 1, 14 9:10 pm

Thanks, Saint and outthere:

The building cost is not in the $175 sf range.  The fact that it's tilt up and boilerplate in places except the lobby, the monumental stair, and the entry feature keep the price down.  It is also sort of a fraternal twin, and in an office park.  Still, shop drawings are shop drawings, and for anyone who has done tilt up, it's very "speak now or forever hold your peace," so adequately checking the shops for the concrete panels is about a 16 hour (2 day) task, and that doesn't even include any phone calls or correspondence if there are questions. Other submittals take less time, but still need to be done thoroughly.  You are right in that all the pesky phone calls to and from the GC, which sort of dribble in, are what eat up the time.

There will be no hourly billing for CA, though that would be nice.  Trips to the site and for meetings are for each major phase of construction, with the actual tilting up being the most unnerving, though not necessarily the longest visit if everything goes smoothly.   Billing rates average around $100 to $110, with some being below that (paraprofessionals) and some being above.  The trick is to get it done mostly by licensed or seasoned p.m. types.  Some of the paraprofessionals are not thorough enough at stuff other than doing CDs.  Basically, I think it will mean, as usual, faring a little bitter during DD and CD and biting it to some extent in CA.

There's some reliance on it being similar to preceding buildings in the office park and economies of scale; however, it is not exactly like the preceding buildings.  There are no identical twins in the fold.  I hate that the CA phase is typically not allocated enough fee.  It's a "cultural" thing specific to a particular business model.

Jan 2, 14 11:11 am
Saint in the City

"I hate that the CA phase is typically not allocated enough fee.  It's a "cultural" thing specific to a particular business model."

I'd agree.  

Jan 2, 14 11:46 am

faring a little bitter during DD and CD and biting it to some extent in CA.

Freudian or what?  Meant to say "faring a little better" more so than "faring a little bitter."  The holidays are over.  Bah hambug.

Jan 2, 14 12:30 pm

I think I am going to try billing hourly on CA with some new residential projects coming up. I've never worked in an office where that was done but I like it in concept. The idea in those offices was to bill as much as you can early on so that you don't get screwed if the project doesn't proceed. I've been doing that but then I feel burned during CA and rely on new projects to float the ones in construction. 

My only worry (apart from them saying no to my charging hourly) is  that the owners will shut me out of the construction process if they know I am billing hourly and that I will loose control.

Any ideas on a way to deal with that? Something in the contract that says guarantees me a minimum of hourly CA hours?  

Nov 9, 14 6:01 pm

For a tilt up office building, you might not get a single call from the contractor or owner depending on how dirtbag they are.  Many times contractors/owners try to figure it out themselves to avoid paying any additional fees...

If I was going to throw a number at CA for a project like that it would be in the 40-100 hour range...unless the owner has specifically agreed to have the architect be heavily involved due to complexities outside of their own or the builders expertise, then bill up for all you can get, the handholding special.  

Nov 9, 14 9:57 pm

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