WHAT TO CHARGE TO DESIGN FIRE ALARM SYSTEM

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Hello!
Can anyone tell me what designers charge for doing Life Safety CAD drawings
I have been offered the opportunity to bid on doing some installation drawings for an addressable fire alarm system. I worked two years for a company that installs, services, and maintains fire alarm and fire suppression systems, but I never knew, or asked, what the company charged their clients to do the drawings.
Normally, a set of fire alarm drawings consist of:
1. A Device location floor plan. 2. A Point-to-point wiring diagram. 3. A Riser diagram. 4. As-builds.
The building is approximately 600,000 sq. foot, so its going to be a big job. I know I can come up with a proposal by figuring how long I think its going to take me to do the drawings, but what is the going rate for CAD these days? Is asking $20.00 an hour reasonable, or will it chase them away? I need the work, so I sure dont want that to happen?
I believe I can do the drawings in a weeks time, 40 hours (+/-), but Im not real sure. It seems that something always comes up, and so it takes longer than expected. It always happens! Does $800.00 sound reasonable to you? I also have to do back up battery calculations for the devices. I have no idea what to charge for that. I did that, the drafting, and more when I workd at the company, and made $8.00 an hour! Thats why I dont work for them anymore.
I really dont want to contact my former employer and ask them for help. Im now their competition!
I appreciate your suggestions, and comments.
Cadguy016
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responding to http://www.homeownershub.com/architecture/WHAT-TO-CHARGE-TO-DESIGN-FIRE-ALARM-SYSTEM-19811-.htm DA wrote:
Clayton Kaminska wrote:

It strikes me as, ahem, unusual that your first thought is how to draw it and what to charge for it as opposed to how to design it in a way it actually works. i.e. exactly where to put the sensors, alarms, panels. Where to place the riser, what's the max distances, which cable to use and other "little" stuff like that. Do you have this part already figured out?
Unless you are qualified to actually design the system, I guess you can do what most architects do when they are in over their heads with building systems - find a local company that you think can successfully bid on it and have them design it and create all the pertinent documentation for you do free. You'll probably have to lie that you'll put a word for them with the owner but what the heck? Everyone's doing it ...
------------------------------------- /\_/\ ((@v@)) NIGHT ():::() OWL VV-VV
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On Aug 14, 1:58pm, info_at_1-script_dot snipped-for-privacy@foo.com (DA) wrote:

Check it out fool! For 2-1/2 years, I was the "Design Engineer", Fire Alarm and Fire Suppression for a company that has the base contract at Pope, AFB. I did Installation Drawings of Monaco M-1 and M-2 Conventional and Addressable FACP's, so ya dude, I sort of know what I'm doing. I just never knew what the company I worked for, charged clients for a set of plans. I didn't ask because it's none of my friggin business!
All I asked was a simple question, what are CAD Draftpeople charging these days?
So, why do you have reply with such a insulting answer? Calling me a lier? Got a name for you Pal. I'm sure you know what it is too. Don't write to this post again. Got it?
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Maybe not, but you sure could use that info now couldn't you? There are no questions, only answers.

Sub it to me and I'll do it for $1,000. cash.
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wrote:

Get lost!
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responding to http://www.homeownershub.com/architecture/WHAT-TO-CHARGE-TO-DESIGN-FIRE-ALARM-SYSTEM-19811-.htm DA wrote: Clayton Kaminska wrote:

Skipping over the insults, I'm sure you didn't mean any of that ;)

I guess that establishes your qualifications a little better than what you wrote in the first message. See, telling anyone that you worked for 2.5 years at some place tells really nothing - no one has any idea what exactly you've been doing unless you elaborate. Still, I have approx 6 times the experience in the field, so I'm thinking I can offer my advise. It'll be up to you if you want to take it.
The reason you never knew what your old company charged for the drawings is probably because they did not have a line item for design-builts. A company that "installs, services,and maintains fire alarm and fire suppression systems" almost never actually designs the system from the get-go. Even if they do, they would receive (buy, actually, at $50-$150/set) the drawings from the architect before bidding on a job. In most cases locations are already marked and even if they aren't you are not drawing the building from scratch, obviously, you are just adding a layer to a CAD file. It takes MUCH more time to figure out what device and where to put it than to draw a symbol on a CAD drawing. That's why my previous post here. Have you already designed the system? Well, great! Your CAD drafting time is probably not going to be half of that you've already spent calculating.

Not exactly. You actually asked "WHAT TO CHARGE TO ***DESIGN*** FIRE ALARM SYSTEM" and that is a greatly complicated question of which CAD drafting is just a tiny little bit. I mean, among hundreds of other questions, are you insured for "errors and omissions"? For how much? How much do you pay for insurance? Can you afford being on a hook in case there is a fire your system did not prevent/suppress and the customer's lawyers are after you? What other overhead costs do you have? Is there travel involved in case of an existing building etc, etc.

Actually, I did not mean it to be insulting, more like speaking from experience. In fact, I still suggest that you might consider involving an actual contractor or at least find one beforehand that you can later fall back on if needed. Now, the part that involves lying - it'll be up to you how to resolve an ethical conflict: you need the contractor's help but what incentives to you have if you are not hiring them outright? You have the customer's ear but as a designer (I assume this is the role you're after, not just CAD draftsperson) you're supposed to be indifferent to all bidders when it comes time to review bids. If you are able to navigate this without lying (or stretching the truth - does that sound better?), you have a great systems design career ahead of you. If not, well, you won't be alone.
Final note regarding insults: you are trying to make living in a contractor business. Man, it's time to grow much thicker skin, you're going to need it!
------------------------------------- /\_/\ ((@v@)) NIGHT ():::() OWL VV-VV
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First thing I would do is call up my sprinkler guy and ask him how much he'll charge to *design* the system. Yes, it will need to be sealed. (I will email him my *.dwg of the floor plan which he will redline and send back to me, then I'll do all the hardlines, etc.) All sorts of things need to be taken into consideration when you take something like this on. Anyway, I don't charge by the hour, but rather by the job. I'd count up the heads, @ 10' o/c x 25% x $5.00 and see what the total looks like. Before that though I'd get a copy of the building specifications and go over them in detail. This kind of work is especially scary if you didn't design the entire building.
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OK, disregard everything I previously wrote. I must be on krak, I thought you were talking about fire sprinklers. Been a long day.
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wrote:

Ya, well maybe you should read what people write before you go and insult them. By the way, it's crack, not krak. Show's your intelligence level.
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You open your gaping maw in a NG to ask a silly skoolgurl question about something you have no experience with and when you get an answer you pout and stamp your little patent leather sandles.
We're not surprised that you are an expert in krak.
Now we want to see your encore.
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wrote:

It's all OK in a bag of chips! Got a proposal to them, so now I wait for an answer. Thanks to everyone who expressed their thoughts and ideas on this subject. No hard feelings, especially towards you Night Owl. The way you worded your first reply, sounded insulting, but in the end, you did have some real good answers, many of which I will take into consideration next time someone approaches me to do fire alarm drawings for them.
By the way, "if" anyone is interested, I have a Device Location Floor Plan and a drawing of a Monaco Enterprises M-1 Addressable Monitor Module on my Website; East Coast CAD Solutions http://eastcoastcad.netfirms.com /. Look for Drafting Services on the left and it will take you to my drawings. http://eastcoastcad.netfirms.com/drawings.html
Clayton
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Just as well - we're not buying any bullshit today.
You are right - this is a discussion group, and we decided to discuss why you come across like such a twit. These things can be addressed and corrected. Please grow some thicker skin. That doesn't mean acting like a tough guy. You're not, your wife knows your not, and no one else cares in the slightest. Acting like a tough guy and stomping and shouting doesn't convince people. It annoys people, and a good rule of thumb is to not annoy people when you are asking for some help with your questions.
R
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He can't follow simple threads without mixing things up. This 600k sf fire alarm may be his waterloo.LOL Seriously though, I can't imagine anyone hiring him to do such a thing as it's very apparent he doesn't have the horsepower to take it on.
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...

Hi Clayton, I do understand you're getting ~$1000 for the design. I'm curious about the approximate cost of that "fire alarm" system, you know, parts, installation etc, just a guess on your part would do, for a 600,000 sq. ft. building, that the customer will pay for it. That question helps understand the ratio of design to system cost. Ken
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Don't sweat it, Clayton. Some advice an old timer gave me when I was starting out has stood me in good stead. Charge them more and they'll respect you for it. If you start off submitting low bids you get a reputation as being cheap/inexpensive and the customers come to expect that. When you attempt to raise your prices, as you must to stay in business, you'll get much bigger blow back from it, and you'll probably lose customers. Let them feel the sticker shock right up front. "I'm good. I know it. And you'll be paying for it. And you'll be happy to do so." Then back it up with your work.
Another thing to remember is that you don't want to be number one in one person's book. You want to be number two in everybody's book. When the first guy doesn't deliver for whatever reason, or there's a falling out, they'll be calling you next.
If you want to figure out what your old firm was charging - roughly - take your hourly pay and multiply it by 3 or 4. That's standard, and it goes to much else in the construction business - roughly 1/3 materials, 1/3 labor, 1/3 profit and overhead. Since you're working out of the home there's less overhead overall, but you have no economies of scale, so do not ignore it. You will only be able to spread out, for example, your insurance cost over one person, instead of however many. The other guys that are submitting bids are paying it, and charging for it, so so should you.
The other trap people fall into is that they start lowering their prices when the economy takes a dip. That's a losing race - a race to the bottom, and a race you do not want to win. There will always be somebody cheaper than you. You don't have to be the cheapest, just the best value.
The _only_ reason that someone is hired, is to take headaches away from the employer. Employees bring some problems, but if they don't take away more headaches than they cause, they're gone. You need to build a reputation as _reasonably_ fast, fair priced and no fuss. If you can do that, you won't have to advertise anywhere. They'll come find you.
I would also suggest you start building your referral pool. It pays to have people from different areas of the business that think you're a good value, and you won't make them look bad for referring them. Make some calls or drop by some supplies of the equipment. Ask questions of the technical support department. Flirt with the receptionist - assuming it's a woman! But stay focused on your mission, which is to let them know you are out there, capable, likable and looking for work.
Right up front - lose the tough guy mentality. When you're on a bike, that's all fine and dandy, but, well, you ain't on the bike anymore, at least not in that way. You're making a living and supporting a family, and those come first to anybody who has half a brain. There're already too many guys in construction who do nothing but piss on people's shoes. They feel that they have to swing their dick to show how tough they are, but again, that's a losing battle. Even if the guy on the other side deserves a verbal beating, you'll be taking money out of your pocket, shoes off of your wife's feet, and toys away from you kids or grandkids. None of those are acceptable to you, are they? Well, then, you should practice your Dalton from Roadhouse (great movie) response to any insult lobbed your way, "Opinions vary."
R
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I pretty much agree with what you said except this, " Flirt with the receptionist - assuming it's a woman! " That's a definite NO-NO. What I'd do is visit with a dozen donuts for the gals in the office, that goes over well, it's amazing how well that gesture is appreciated. (Usually there's a fresh donut cooker enroute to locale). Recall if the receptionist is worth flirting with, the boss might be swingin' with her. Ken
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Opinions vary. :)

Flirting is not trying to pick her up. You have a dirty mind. :)~
And bringing donuts...? There are enough fat people parked in chairs all day as it is!
R
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Well I've only had intimate relations with customers and co-workers a dozen times or so, and that was in response to them initiating it in my weaker moments (I'd loose my breath, turn red, get dizzy, and say YES), apart from that I'd always be friendly and polite and have a sense of humor. Ken
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You'd lose your breath, Ken, or loose it? The first means you become short of breath - you swoon. The second means you have some fearsomely bad breath. :)
R
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I think girls smell good, phernomes or sumfink, they got pubes right, so when they do a pee, some of their pee stays on said bush, which in turn odorifrizes to send out the ovaluation time, making we virginal boys dizzier. LOL, males supposedly have better ofactory (smell) than gals. Ken
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