Can anyone tell me what designers charge for doing “Life Safety” CAD
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
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.
The building is approximately 600,000 sq. foot, so it’s going to be a
big job. I know I can
come up with a proposal by figuring how long I think it’s 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
don’t want that to
I believe I can do the drawings in a weeks time, 40 hours (+/-), but
I’m 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! That’s why I
don’t work for them anymore.
I really don’t want to contact my former employer and ask them for
help. I’m now their
I appreciate your suggestions, and comments.
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 ...
On Aug 14, 1:58 pm, info_at_1-script_dot email@example.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
All I asked was a simple question, what are CAD Draftpeople charging
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?
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!
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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."
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
(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.
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.
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.
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