Apples and Oranges: Architectural Fees?

Hi all,
We are currently looking for an architect to help us design an addition to our house. We are interested in 2 firms. Both are small, one is a purely architectural firm, the other a design/build firm. The problem is that estimates for the fees to design the addition are VERY different. I want to know if I was missing something?
The architectural firm's estimate is about $3000 for what they estimate is 66 hours of services to design a 3 story ~500sq' addition (which we are estimating will cost $80-100K to build). The design/build firm is charging 10% of construction costs for the design portion. With an estimated $80,000-100,000 to build, their costs would be $8,000-$10,000. Up to 3x the architecture firm's price. Of course we could be vastly overestimating the cost of construction, so the cost of the design would be less. Unfortunately, my experience is that one rarely OVER estimates the cost of construction.
Am I missing something here? Is one vastly over or under charging? I suppose we could get a 3rd quote to "break the tie"
We are in central Virginia.
TIA
Bart
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Get more estimates for the job, don't settle for just two. Get references similar to the work you want performed, contact the references and see how they feel about the work done for them. Then you would have a better idea on sizing up the original two bidders you were interested in.

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BRN wrote:

Yes. You are missing the fact that there is no Federal Office of Building Design Fee Control...people can charge whatever they wish.
As far as cost to build, why not ask both what basic per foot cost runs in your area? Consider that a 2-car garage is roughly the same size...would you expect a garage to run 80-100K? I wouldn't either. Yes, you have to allow more for interior partitions and drywall (plumbing too maybe) but those aren't all that much for that size area.
-- dadiOH _____________________________
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How many 3 story garages have you seen? Your comparison seems to fit the subject well.
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doubter wrote:

That depends. OP said 500sq.ft. Doesn't make a whole lot of difference if 500 sq.ft. is in one story or three. If, OTOH, he meant three stories *each* with 500 sq.ft. then it would be a BIG garage. :)
-- dadiOH _____________________________
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wrote:

The OP also didn't mention what the new spaces are going to be. If, for instance, they are going to be 3 bedrooms that's a whole lot different (in both design & construction costs) than a Kitchen, Media Room, Screen Porch, and a Bathroom. The bedroom option maybe costs $100k to build, the second option could easily cost three times that.
Michael (LS)
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On Fri, 13 Aug 2004 16:17:44 -0400, someone wrote:

not the determinate. Take the total costs and divide. Its just that similar projects tend to have similar costs so there is such a thing as an "average" s.f. cost FOR SIMILAR PROJECTS.
A 3-story, 500sf addn means each floor is quite small, thus maximizing the cost per s.f. from things like perimeter area to floor area ratio, etc. Generally, to build 500 s.f. over 3 stories is WAY morre expensive than to do it as a one-story garage!!!
-v.
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"dadiOH" wrote

There is no such animal as cost per _square_ foot when it comes to renovation work. Each project is unique. Renovation is not a tract project.

There is a substantial difference between a garage and living space. If this is a 2 floor with a full basement being added, you can't even begin to compare with standard footer work. I believe you're overlooking HVAC work, maybe a complete new system in because the existing is not sufficient to properly heat or cool. You also need supplies and returns for the system. This could be a bathroom addition which adds substantial costs beyond a couple of partion walls. How about an upgrade to the service panel, because the original met only what was needed at the time. Maybe the main electric feed needs moved, or the water main, sewer moved or modified. Tying into existing is always more than building a free standing structure. You have cutting existing for entry/exits, headers for your openings of the existing, siding & roofing issues, all types of finishing issues besides the new.
80-100k would be the minimum to even think about a project should it entail such upgrades or modifications, even for 500 sq.ft. Being in the business I've seen much more $ than that poured into projects simply because people like where they live.
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i am VERY leery of anyone that wants a percentage of anything. and simply put, the cost of the design has very little to do with the cost of the build. i could design a very labor intensive addon, or specify higher cost materials, but that doesnt mean its a better design or that it would actually take more time to design it.
but to be honest; 100k for a 500 sq ft addon? if you think that sounds even remotely reasonable you got money to burn and need not worry about the costs anyway...
randy

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That's not really true. It CAN be true sometimes, but isn't always true. I've done some very intricate, detailed work that cost much more to design than the same "square foot" of a simple design.
I would agree that determining the actual fee based on the cost alone is an unwise idea. I only give a ball park range when someone asks what a fee might be. Then I offer them the option of a fixed fee (which is determined after a better understanding of the project is obtained), or straight hourly.
i could design a very labor intensive addon, or specify higher cost

It all depends... for instance, if you spec. out standard plastic laminate counter tops, the amount of "design" work is less. But what if you spec. out a custom laminate top? Or a floating top with special supports to make it appear as if it's floating?

It depends on the addition...a custom master bath suite could easily run $100K... Also, if it's 500 sq. ft. / floor, then the addition is a 1,500 sq. ft., not 500.
P
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sure. you can even argue that a good design lowers the build cost hence if you charge a percentage you actually make less for a good design. but you dont pay computer programmers by the number of lines of code they write for the same reason. it just doesnt correlate that well.

this is reasonable.

well thats basically the point. it all depends. thats why i dont like the percentage thing.

sounds high for just an average addon. even for 1500 sq ft. i smell luxury items like that fancy soap in the fancy new tub <g>
randy
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The fees noted of $3000 seems low and they would likely lose money on it or skimp on services. Typically, fees for this sort of work are between 7 and 10% of construction cost NIC permits and other fees. I would shop further and get a complete understanding of services provided. and liabilities included.
THe cost of 80 to $100K of a 500 sf addition seem about right for an order of magnatude estimate. Costs could be higher or lower due to your choices. Your mileage may vary.
BRN wrote:

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First thing that comes to mind is that you may be confusing the D/B firm's price. When I worked for a D/B firm as a designer, we charged a fee that included project management AND design. If the client asked, we'd give them a breakdown of what percent was for what. Is their total fee 10% and that included design? Or is it 10% for design and another 10% for contruction? If it's the flat 10%, then the design fees are 1) Hidden in the construction costs, or 2) not nearly as high as you think they are (or both).
As for the architecture firm's fee...they're giving you their services for $45/hour. There's no way I'd work that cheap. But that's me. Maybe they need the work. Maybe they're a young firm. Maybe they think they can do it 30 hours, and have given themselves some slop. I have a friend who works in a major city who has to do work for half of what I'd charge because of the competition.
Having been "in" D/B, I'm not a big fan. I like the protection an indpendent architect(/designer) offers, especially if the contract between you and the builder is written correctly. But yours is a smallish addition (is that 500 sq. ft. / floor? Or 500 sq. ft. total? 500 sq. ft. per floor would put the costs at 3 times what you're estimating, YMMV).
Finally, if you're shopping fees...you're probably looking at it the wrong way. You should be shopping service. Which firm is going to give you the services you need. Then look at the fees. 7-15% is a reasonable range for architecture fees. Some will work for less, other's more. Size of the project also makes a difference. For me, a smaller project has a higher percentage of fee because I still have a certain minumum of work to do regardless of the size of the project.
HTH
P
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The smart thing to do is Step one: contract with an architectural & engineering firm to generate an approved set of plans & specifications. Step two: solicit bids from as many building contractors as you want using those plans & specs.
with plan/spec, you call the shots and all the bidders are bidding on the same work
with design/build, it's a crap shoot, and you have no real basis to compare bids
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Firstly, you need to know what you want to build. Each individual component has a price range from low quality cheap to high quality expensive. You need to know where every item fits in this range or you may be paying too much for junk or a great price for quality. I don't like percentages. Why pay 10% if you choose a $1000.00 toilet, or settle for a $49.99 special to avoid paying commission on it. Everything should be detailed, including the pricing and how it is applied. Don't forget to ask about prices on changes. This is where most in the industry make their money. Once construction starts, you will see areas that can be improved, and you need to know how much they will hit you with to make that change.

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