Frequently Asked Questions
What do you charge for you services?
Like most architects, we charge a percentage of the cost of construction. Our fees are in accordance with the NSAA recommended scale of fees. Generally,
on new construction, for Design Services, we charge 4% of the cost of construction; for Construction Documents,
we charge 5%; and for Site Service and Contract Administration we charge 3%.
Note that these fees are calculated on the before tax costs.
The cost of construction generally includes only those things which will be mentioned and
overseen by our building contract. Property costs and other non architectural costs are not factored into the fee.
The fee seems expensive. Are there any offsetting savings?
On any project, having us review builder’s bids is always a cost saving. Furthermore, the builder (usually) has an on-going
relationship with our office and will see the project as one of many projects, rather than as the only project the client will ever build.
More importantly, through careful design, we will eliminate unneeded spaces and area from the house so as to save construction cost.
Finally, through careful selection of material and fixtures, additional savings may be achieved.
Can we reduce the fee by reducing the amount of service.
We prefer to do the whole project (DESIGN to CONSTRUCTION DOCS to SITE SERVICES) and feel our clients are served best by
receiving the entire slate of architectural services. However, there are circumstances where we are prepared to offer a
partial service. If the client is unusually qualified as a builder, we are comfortable in relaxing our site services role.
Or sometimes the client wants only design advice at the very outset, in which case we are able to do a design
analysis study to suggest building placement, aspect, height, etc.
Is travel included in the fee?
Within a 100 km driving radius of Halifax, travel is included. Beyond the 100 km radius, travel time is charged as
an extra and the travel rate of 32 cents per kilometer is applied, although the first 200 km are free.
What other extras or reimbursable expenses might we expect?
All costs associated with the internal workings of the office (prints and models) are not charged to the client.
When the client requests a specific item for any purpose, then charges will accrue. For example, printing costs to make drawings
for the bank, the building permit or the builder are charged to the client. If travel is required, the architect will request that
this become a reimbursable expense. Only with prior approval will any travel costs (other than site visits) be charged.
We live in Alaska? Can we work with you?
YES. We are up-to-speed as it relates to making information available to you. We have an internet server to which we can give you access, or we can mount drawings to a public area where you would view them with any browser, or (of course) we can email the drawings to you? We have iCHAT, MSN Messenger, and our web-server has a secure space from which to view or download information. We can arrange for a web-cam to be established on your construction site.
Do you have preferred builders?
YES. We have a preferred list of 3 or 4 builders who we have come to know and trust. We are prepared to work with any builder who has the demonstrated experience, capability and interest.
How much does it cost to construct a new house?
In 2002, average housing in Metro Halifax housing cost about $105/sq. ft. for a bungalow and about $100/sq. ft. for 2 story housing. These numbers apply to conventional housing, most of which is built in multiples (sometimes a whole street of the same design) and applied to low quality construction and materials (vinyl siding, 20 year roof shingles, 2x6 exterior wall construction, sheet vinyl flooring and wall-to-wall carpets, baseboard heating, small and few windows, etc.). Custom housing usually costs between $125 and $160 per square foot (Note: costs refer to construction costs and exclude HST, but not architect’s fee, land acquisition cost or landscape costs) ALSO note that in renovation, square foot costing can be very misleading.
Can you do landscape design as well?
YES. We are able to do the entire scope of work associated with landscape design including: site and garden design, site drainage, topographical design, soil and garden preparation, and plant materials specification and supervision of services.
The way your fee is structured (a percentage fee), it seems that it is to the architect's advantage to make the house as expensive as possible.
Certainly the fee gets bigger as the project gets more expensive. However, we are obliged to achieve a contract at the cost you set out for us.
If we design a house which is more expensive than you have asked, you will know that when the first bids are received from the builder,
well before any construction starts. Then it is our job to reduce the project to the cost you had originally instructed us to meet.
In this way, it is only our time and money that has been wasted in making the first set of drawings and models.
All costs of the work required to reduce the project to the budget figure are borne within our office.
Other than your fees and construction costs, are there other costs of building?
YES. The building permit can cost thousands of dollars, a septic field (if required) can cost 3 to 12 thousand dollars, well drilling (if required) can cost 2 to 10 thousand dollars, the lawyer's fee associated with the land acquisition is about 1% of the land value, the transfer tax can be another thousand dollars, and of course the real estate agency will cost 5 or 6% of the land value. Sometimes there are additional professional fees to considered. While structural and mechanical engineering services are included in the architect's fee, civil engineering or geotechnical engineering are not, although most residential projects do not need such services.
What about interior design services?
We can provide interior design services, which would include blinds, draperies and various furnishings. Sometimes we hire one of our interior design colleagues, or sometimes we will take on the project in-house. Having said that, some usual interior design services are already included in the architect's fee including: electrical fixture selection, plumbing fixture selection, kitchen design, and of course basic colours etc.
What about modern building techniques? What about "smart houses"?
We consider ourselves quite conservative in terms of material selection and construction techniques. Only "when the jury is in" on modern materials
are we will to commit out clients' money to a new building idea. The recent controversy about Tyvek® or other spun-bonded building papers speaks to
the importance of being conservative in this area.
In regard to home automation, pre-wiring, structured wiring, and other modern technological requirements of building, we are as contemporary as any office.
We embrace this technology as it allows for the home office, enhanced home security and peace and quiet in your home.
How long will it take to design and construct the new house?
Our experience is that with renovations, the design/contract docs process usually takes about 6 weeks, the permit application two weeks, the bidding and negotiation three weeks (2 overlapping the permitting process) and construction about 12 weeks for a total of about 21 weeks. Of course as with other aspects of renovation, there is a lot of variability in these estimate
In new construction, the design process can be about 8 weeks, contract documents are another 8 weeks, the permit application two weeks, the bidding and negotiation four weeks (2 overlapping the permitting process) and construction about 24 weeks for a total of about 42 weeks.
Sometimes clients want to extend the design period over a year or two and sometimes client wish to "fast track' the project. We are able to work at either schedule.
We worry that with fast tracked projects, some of the economy of the project is sacrificed to make way for the demands of the schedule.
Conversely, projects whose design extends over lengthy periods of time will often go through great changes brought on by client changes of heart or circumstances. In some ways this is welcome, as the client sees the house evolve to suit emerging conditions. However, this can lead to additional architectural fees if the building is redesigned a number of times. In the instance of extended design periods, we usually recommend that the project be kept at a schematic level until near the time of construction. This saves on fees while allowing for changes as they occur.