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4 ways you can afford an architect

McMahons-Point-House_Kitchen1We may think we are surrounded by architecture, even immersed in it, but to be honest, most of what we live in would not be called architecture. They are buildings, for the most part adequate shelter, but perfunctory, built without any feeling or interest. People have always been able to build their own spaces – though developers and project home builders may have taken over from the pioneer DIYer – but what if you want something more?

If you are concerned with how we should live and what we should live for – the good life; something tailored for the way your family lives, on your site – shelter designed for proportion, light and meaning, or what Le Corbusier called

the masterly, correct and magnificent play of masses brought together in light

and you think an architect is not an expensive luxury –

how can you afford an architect’s services?

Fees for the traditional architectural full service – from sketch design and detailed design, approval documents, construction documents through to acting as your agent administering your contract with the builder on site – can vary from 9% to 15% of the overall cost of the construction. Whether it is calculated as a percentage fee, a time-based fee or a lump sum, this can be a large number, so how can you afford it when the budget is tight?

  1. Plan for it – develop the budget as an all inclusive figure for the entire project – including fees to consultants, fees for council approval, furnishings, construction cost as well as contingencies – rather than a figure for the cost of construction only.  Then save for it, or think of ways to move the project ahead in stages.
  2. Limit or tailor the architect’s services to just what you think you need – this is not really recommended, as the design process starts at the sketch design stage and decisions continue to be made to the very end of the construction on site – but you could consider, for example, using the architect for just the design, approval and documentation stages if you are confident that you can find a suitable builder and deal with them directly. This may reduce the professional fees, but the end result could well cost you more if you are exposed to the technical or legal problems which frequently occur when a project is on site. Nonetheless, architects can usually tailor a scope of work and fee to suit your needs.
  3. Allow for the architect’s fee by reducing the overall scope of the project, on the assumption that the smart design of flexible multi-use spaces will save on building too many single-purpose rooms. You could even consider using simpler forms or less expensive finishes.
  4. Find out why using an architect is important to you – look at our pre-design questionnaire here, and ask yourself what is important to you in the process, what does a successful outcome look like? Money is a tool – we spend money on the things that are important to us, and it may be more important to have a house that catches the light in the right way, or that catches the breezes, and is beautiful, rather than the house with oversized rooms squeezed uncomfortably on a site that you will get more cheaply from a project home builder.

It’s your project, and it’s up to you how you spend your money, but remember something that Oscar Wilde said:

nowadays, people know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Money can be an emotional issue for some , but don’t confuse money with security. Although money is one way to feel more secure, money alone won’t deliver this. There are ways to build a life that’s more secure, starting with the stories you tell yourself, the people you surround yourself with, the environment you live in and the cost of living you embrace.

So how can you afford an architects services?

If you value these things in your life, how can you afford not to engage an architect for your project?

by Peter Hill