Architectural Fees for Residential Projects

March 20, 2013 — 148 Comments

. For someone who doesn’t actually handle any of the billing in the office, I spend a lot of time thinking about billing.


I have written two previous posts on the subject of architectural fees: Architectural Fees- Part One:  this posts talks about the different ways architects can develop their fees (hourly, percentage of construction costs, etc.) Architectural Fees – Part Two:  this posts elaborates a bit more on Part One (more on hourly rates, per square foot fees, and combination fee structures) but I introduce the concept of “Skin in the Game.” I like to tell clients that everyone needs to have skin in the game, that both architect and client are accountable to one another and while we both have something to gain, we both also have something to lose. That’s what I was thinking about as I sat down to flesh out this post. Alternate ways of setting up a fee structure that helps the client feel like they have more control over the architectural fees that could be generated while giving the architect the opportunity to plan for and cover their expenses for the services they are providing. One of the issues that we come up against all the time is that during the interview process, most clients have just a few things to base their selection criteria – design style, personality, and professional fees. More times than not, we don’t struggle with the design style and personality portions, people are generally familiar with our design style and as an office, we are a fairly likable bunch. That just leaves the last bit – the architectural fees. In our office, almost all of our contracts are based on a percentage of construction costs. Most architectural firms who subscribe to this way of determining their professional services fee fall into the 8% to 15% range. This means on a $100,000 dollar construction cost project, the architectural fees would fall in the range of $8,000 to $15,000 range – pretty simple really but one of the things that can always cause confusion is what exactly counts as part of the cost of construction. The other issue is the level of service that Firm ‘A’ at 8% charges and the level of service that Firm ‘B’ at 15% charges … and for these new potential clients, they can’t always tell (or even understand) why they would hire Firm ‘B’ when they like Firm ‘A’ and they are so much cheaper!?! Since I am more of a Firm ‘B’ service provider (and our professional fees reflect that) we lose out on a number of project to less costly architectural firms. This drives me crazy for the simple reason that the additional services I generally provide are worth far more than the delta of fees between the two firms might suggest. That’s where my idea of skin in the game is evolving. What I have been thinking about is how I can create a menu of services that allows the potential new client to more readily recognize the value of the service they are receiving. If I am going to provide less service, then my fee should reflect that right? The problem with this model is that most people think they don’t want these “extra” services but in the end, almost always see their value … but at this point, it’s too late and some other firm is working on their project. So by creating a menu of services, we can get down to a more competitive fee – again, seems pretty straight-forward to me.

. Roll of architectural drawings

One of the projects I have been highlighting here on the blog is the Cottonwood Modern house and pool pavilion. These clients signed up for full services and I’d like to say that they are pretty happy with their decision. The drawings package we prepared for them was significant – I get asked some times about our drawings and what sort of effort do we put in to document these sorts of projects. To say “a lot” probably isn’t a very satisfying answer. On this particular project, here is some of the metrics on what the construction drawings package included:

  • 53 – pages of construction drawings at 30″ x 42″ sheets – the breakdown = 31 architectural, 14 structural, 4 landscape, 4 lighting design. That’s 463.75 square feet of drawings or 61.83 yards if the sheets were laid end to end
  • 62 – interior and exterior doors
  • 34 – window types
  • 19 – wall sections
  • 71 – door and window details
  • 105 – interior elevations
  • 14 – exterior elevations
  • 299 – individual architectural drawings
  • unknown – sodas and cups of coffee consumed during the drawing of these documents

There are about 95% more drawings here than are necessary to secure a permit for construction. It is a complicated house but we probably didn’t need to draw 71 door and window details – but we did because it produced a more thorough set of drawings, enabled more accurate pricing, and has led to far fewer construction related issues in the field. But not all clients want to pay for all this additional service … what to do? The idea is that for an architectural fee totaling 8% of the construction cost, you get a standard set of drawings: plans, exterior elevations, door and window schedule  – basic stuff. If you want interior elevations, millwork details, that will be an additional 1.5%. Coordinate interior finishes? Sure, that will be 2% … I think you get the picture. The client comes in for the interview, understands that our fees are competitive with everyone else, thinks that they don’t need these additional services, and we get the project. As the project goes on, they learn more about the process, come to understand and value our input and guidance, and start to select some of the additional services items because … well, because they have real value to them. The flip side to this is that is the client chose to retain our services up front for these “additional” items, the percentages associated would be reduced. Like I said in the beginning, I don’t have anything to do with billing in our office – that task is relegated to those whose names are on the door. I know I don’t have the kinks worked out – I’ve only just started to identify the kinks. One really apparent one is “Construction Observation” which we make a requirement on all our projects. We will occasionally get potential clients ask to have this portion of scope removed from our basic services but we always say no. I have all sorts of reasons why this is the worst area to remove your architect but that’s a different post on a different day. I would be curious to know if any of the readers here either have a menu of services contract like I describe in place for residential projects or if you are a a client who has worked with an architect who had a contract like this in place. What are your thoughts? Thanks. . .

Print Friendly

even better stuff from Life of an Architect

  • Pingback: 8 Fundamental Questions to Ask Your Architect Before a Home Renovation - KUKUN()

  • Ivy

    Hello Bob, (Others are also welcomed to suggest!)

    Found your web last night and managed to read through some very useful articles. It was interesting and fun! Thank you for having this website.

    Just finish reading about your drawings package (which is really impressive indeed) and architectural fee for residential project, I then have some question for something else…….not sure whether I should ask you about this. But I am about to ask you anyway. 😉

    Do you happen to know how much architects should charge for their design (only the design package – master plan, architects, interiors, landscape) for a Resort & Spa project with total area 200 Acre?

    The customer doesn’t have any budget in mind just yet. Her requirements include…

    a resort & spa with 80-100 units for resort customers
    a pavillion
    a meditation centre
    a spa
    a restaurant
    a reception
    2 swimming pools
    and a marketplace for general visitors at the front gate.

    As of now, we are still discussing on our fees. As we receive little information, so we are thinking of proposing our fee by basing on …

    Total Designing Area (sq.m) * Fixed Fee per Sq.M.

    What do you think? Too simple? Any thought?

    Thanks in advance 🙂

  • Scott Smith


    I might have missed the answer to the question: often the cost of construction is used to determine the fees, but how is the cost of construction determined so that fees are known before design work begins.

    • Typically we are working towards a budget and even if the final allowance or total construction cost is unknown at the beginning of the project, the client has a budget in mind. If that original budget is exceeded (and we have done our jobs as custodians of that budget and pointed out potential overages along the way) our fees are adjusted at various times along the way.

  • Cédric Ballet

    Hello All,

    what’s the typical fee for a new construction project, 2 homes, 3000sqft each side by side

    modern design, mid century style, $250/sqft

    individual custom design

    both built on flat pads

    project is in the Los Angeles area

    I know architectural fees range in the 10%, 12% for good architects but i guess i could expect a discount since we’re talking about 2 homes sharing similar features. That alone should create economies of scale

    Also, does the fee typically include the building and safety visits and corrections, preparation for the coastal commission hearings, assistance during the construction phase, expenses?

    12% of such a project would be around $200,000….lots of money

    your input would be greatly appreciated


    • Stephen Strugala

      Hi Cedric,
      Typical architect fees in the Los Angeles vicinity are going to range anywhere from 5%-15% depending on the firm, the project, the location, the amount of detail required, and ultimately the schedule. Sometimes you can find lower fees if the architect is doing the project for a discount, anticipating that they will get future projects from the client. The overall fees will typically include schematic design (the initial sketching and overall form and placement on the site), design development (coordinating with the various consultants), construction documentation (details and further city code clarifications), and finally permitting and construction administration. Typically construction administration are hourly fees as the amount of CA will vary from project to project, along with who is the general contractor and how well they know construction. I would probably budget around the 8-10% range if you are looking at two side by side projects, along with the fact that the projects are on a flat lot. Los Angeles is currently is a gigantic building bubble, so everyone is charging crazy rates as there is plenty of work to go around. All the best. Stephen Strugala Design

    • Cédric – I would recommend that you ignore the percentage values and look at what you get. There is a reason the 5% fee exists and the 15% exists and its not because the lower percentage firm is so much more efficient that they don’t need the money to do the project. (we call this “buying a car by the pound”). Regardless of what the percentage cost may be, you should ask what do I get for the percentage I am getting charged. I would also ask to see a sample set of drawings that reflect the percentage fee you are being charged. There are a lot of firms out there that charge a very low fee but provide minimal drawings and minimal to no support. As a result, you might be tempted to go with them because as you put it, $200,000 is a lot of money. Once you realize that you need something that isn’t included in the original proposal, the additional charges might be higher than if you had selected those services from the beginning.

  • Terence

    Hi Bob,

    The information here is helpful, but I’m wondering how fees are affected by area and commercial VS residential. We’re planning a small condominium-style hotel (10 units @ 1,000 sqft each) and we’re located in the San Francisco Bay area (i.e. expensive location).

    Can you suggest a fee range for a great architect with who’s just beginning to build his own firm?


  • a gardner

    i’m hoping you can help me understand the reasoning behind architect fees as a % of construction cost as it relates to material choices. i’ll use countertops as an example (but the same question could be applied to flooring, tile, etc.): if the size and the edge detail of a countertop is set and the only difference is the cost of the material, why should/does the architect get more in fees just because the material is more expensive than another option? thank you in advance for your help!

    • stef_a_no

      This is a really good question and all things being equal, the architect should not get more money for selecting a premium caesarstone over a plastic laminate, but in the real world things are seldom equal. A typical project that for budgetary reasons is restricted to a cheaper countertop is most likely also on a shoestring architectural budget. The projects that call for more expensive materials often also garner higher architectural fees, but not just because the material cost is higher. The client spending way more money on their project is also willing to investigate many options and invest in custom detailing to ensure that all the materials are jiving and work perfectly together.

      This might qualify as more of a coincident, but I see it happen on every high end project..

  • NCooper

    I hope you don’t mind me posing a question here? I’m trying to gather research for a novel I am writing. It falls in the architectural world. I have a developer who’s hired an architectural firm to restore an old grand theater. How possible is it for the developer to break the contract for personal reasons? Is it possible but expensive? Would it be a mess, possibly courts involved? Does this happen often? I may not even be in the right place to ask this question, but the internet is failing me a bit in this area. You seem to know your business and detail things clearly. I’d appreciate any all help!

    • the answers to your questions are: yes, no, maybe, and sometimes … and not necessarily in that order.

      Depending on the contract, there are different ways this can go. Some have a termination clause that basically states the one party can terminate the contract of the other with written notice and when all the fees are up to date. If there is a dispute, some contracts call for mediation, some don’t clarify and then the courts might get involved. I’m not personally aware of how often any of this happens.

      All the answers to your questions should be in the contract. If they aren’t, it will probably be the worst way you can imagine it to be.

  • Sally Y

    When building a house, are the costs of things I personally purchase normally considered part of the construction cost. The architect fee is based on a percentage of construction costs. Should my personal purchases be considered part of the construction costs?

    • to a certain extent – yes. When my fee proposals were written based on a percentage of construction costs, we didn’t include specialty items (like chandeliers or kitchen appliances) as part of the construction costs for the reason that the coordination time required to document that light fixture (or kitchen appliance) was superfluous to the cost of that item. There are other items that could be owner provided where that is not the case. For example – let’s say you buy the window package directly. Regardless of who buys it, there is still a lot of coordination and drawing time associated with integrating that item into the construction documents.

      Hopefully, I’ve provided some level of insight that would equip you to know the specific answer to your question.

  • Scared Newbie

    I need some help as a layperson. I want to add a 2 story addition to my Washington DC home. I want to add approximately 20-25 feet out.($100 – 150K) When looking for an architect for small projects like mine…What should I look for? I am NOT rich and will be on a tight budget so factoring in the cost of the architect is important.

    • The best thing anybody can do – regardless of the size of the project or the intended budget – is to put all their cards out on the table at the very beginning and make sure that everybody knows the parameters. Carefully describe the work to be done, the budget that you have (clarify that this is the entire budget including professional service fees and not just the construction budget). You should also ask the architect you are speaking with if they have experience with this specific project type, what their fees are (and how they are determined) what you are entitled to expect for those fees (number of meetings, the drawings you should expect to receive) and ask them how they will deal with what happens should the project exceed your budget. Did they advise that you were exceeding the budget prior to continuing work and you made the decision to continue (which means you should expect to compensate the architect for any revision work needed to get the project back in budget) or if they said this project meets the budget and when it does not, any revisions should be done at their expense. While this is a complicated process with many variables, it is important to discuss these sorts of items in advance of hiring anyone. When everyone knows what they are getting themselves in to, they are more likely to understand what happens next and enjoy the process.

      Best of luck.

  • JF Campos

    I have a client that will be doing 25 homes, I have done some projects for this client before, but always just one home at a time, the 25 homes will be three models and maybe 3 elevations per model, however this will be single set of plans, I wanted to charge him based on the cost of the 25 homes, he wants to pay only for the three models or three homes, what is the usual way of charging in a case like this?

    • I don’t do this sort of work but if I were to simply tell you what I think I would do, it would be full price for the 3 homes/models and a fee for each of the repeated designs/houses. This fee would most likely be reduced in price but still compensate you for the risk/liability you would be taking on.

      • Joseph Sirilla

        I agree with Bob. We do this as our constant business. We charge full price for the “Master” and then we charge for a “Lot Release”. The Master construction documents will include all of the floor plans, options, elevations, building sections, sections, water intrusion details, and component assembly details. We will even throw in an electrical layout, but that is for bidding purposes only and does not get a sign/seal.

        Typically you’ll price out the master as a per hour basis that you will need to quantify and price out in a proposl… typically actual design and drafting are set apart price-wise. Then your lot release is the cost to assemble the drawings into a sheet set package that is specific to that lot’s construction scope only, obviously this will include plotting, sign/seal, delivery charges.

  • Sad because of architects!

    Thanks for the blog and comments. These have been very helpful and enlightening!

    My frustration with my architect / design firm is beyond the boiling point. We are in California /Bay Area and have been working on a residential addition in the city. To date we have spend close to $70k on architectural fees, not including $30k in historical studies, and permit application fees.

    I have asked my achitect not to perform any billable work without prior written approval, based on the fact that they continue to modify designs without even obtaining our input. A discussion that would take 5 minutes shows up with an invoice of $3000.00. When I complain, he says that it does not really matter because the fee is capped at 12% of construction costs. I say it does matter since the project has not been approved and all these additional fees and work is not supporting the approval process. Then after receiving feedback by the city of the initial proposal, we discover that his drawings do not meet code restrictions and setbacks, air wells and roof line have to be changed significantly in order to gain approval! Wait, WTF! I hired the firm to provide professional services and to show us what we could do and set our expectations.

    To finish this rant, and thanks in advance, I am feeling better already…:) I just received another bill for $4000.00 for drawings that were not discussed incorporating changes to the originals and reducing the project size by 800 sq ft. They did not take into account any of our input, comments….. When I complained to them, passionately, they threatened to quit. I am exploring multiple options, but what should I do?


    • I almost didn’t respond because you signed your comment “Sad because of architects!” which casts a light on ALL architects, not just the one you are working with.
      Every story has two sides to it so I generally don’t involve myself in “woe is me” tales because I don’t know the facts, certainly not well enough to express an opinion as to who’s at fault. It does seems that there are communication issues between you and your architects. I don’t know the budget of your house so I can’t add any sort of scale to the $70k number – you mentioned that your architect seems a bit indifferent to you since the fees are capped at 12% construction costs – where does the $70k fall as a percentage? How much time have you spent in meetings? Have there ben changes or modifications along the way?
      I certainly don’t want you thinking that all architects are bad at listening to the requests of their clients – that’s something that I like to think that’s where I spend an extraordinary focused. Have you called your architect to have a meeting about this specific issue?
      Your comment actually gave me an idea for a post – sometimes clients don’t realize that some simple programmatic change sets of a cascading effect of revisions that need to be made and the architects are terrific at explaining this cause and effect before doing the work.
      I think you should share this comment (or a cleaned up version of it) with your architect and see where that gets you.

      • Sad because of architects!

        Sorry for the title, it should be Sad because of one bad experience!

        I have communicated with the architect multiple times with him, via email, conference calls and face to face on my concerns. I actually turned over the management of the project to my wife who is becoming equally frustrated.

        The total construction cost of the project will be in a range of 300-400k.


  • Liz

    Is it right that our architect is charging us to work on the extension of time document? This is of course no fault of ours, but the contractor. The contractor submitted their extension of time document whereby they were claiming for the full 18 weeks…..the architect then had to spend 30hours going through the document deciding which areas were correct. We, the client, are having to pay the achritect for this time…is this usual?

  • Keith Kelsch

    I have a problem. I have access to an architect, let’s call her Susan, and she is struggling financially and in many other ways life seems to dish out buckets of bad news. She has major accomplishments under her belt. Still, though, she will not take a job to design an affordable home for a young couple, which I would easily pay double what the going rate is in the area. She demands her 10% of the cost. This is what I do not understand. For homes under $300K, charging 10% on total cost to build to the architect suddenly puts that home out or reach financially. So now we are stuck in this country building ugly affordable homes over and over because good architects are often like demanding stage talent, they refuse to take a job off Broadway. I now do not use an architect, especially if they have never lifted a hammer. I design the home myself with a draftsman and then make adjustments with my engineer. Personally, though, I wish it could be different because I love new visionary solutions. For one who builds affordable housing a lot, there is no place to go.

    • The field and practice of architecture is a service industry – that means we don’t have a product just sitting on the shelf waiting for someone to come and buy it. As a result, we well time and knowledge – like all service providers. If I take your scenario (10% of a $300k project = $30k fee) and start applying that to an hourly wage, you don’t get a lot of time (time = money) So, the only place to go from here is to reduce service – either in terms of scope or service – and get something that is more appropriate to the money that the client wants to spend.

      Let’s take a sole practitioner architect who makes $74,000/year. A common multiplier to cover expenses, business taxes, insurance, supplies, etc. is 2.8 so that means $74k * 2.8 = $207,200 needed in revenue to generate a salary of $74K. Working 40 hours a week for 50 weeks a year gives you 2,000 hours to earn your $207k and so you need to charge around $104 per hour. Since we have $30k in fees broken into $104 per hour = 288 working hours (or just over 7 weeks time). This 7 weeks needs to be spread out through programming and schematic design (20%), design development (20%), construction drawings (45%), bidding and contract negotiation (5%), and then construction administration (15%). If we subtract out the service of bidding and negotiation, that’s a reduction of 20% service so you could cut out 20% fee ($6,000). You are still looking $24k or 230 hours worth of service (5.7 weeks).

      I don’t know what to tell you other than most people expect a lot ot “product” from an architect and think that there isn’t a lot of time that goes into creating that product. I would almost bet you that your architect “Susan” can’t afford the $300k house that she just designed.

      Demanding stage talent? I just don’t see it that way.

      • P. G.

        Bob…hate to double check your math, but reading above, wouldn’t “bidding and contract negotiation” only eat up 5%…which is $1,500 and not $6,000?

        Either way, we’ve found that friends or people getting deals never work out. “It will help your portfolio!” These situations and clients typically become the most demanding for the smallest fee.

        I often use the “friend as a bartender scenario.” Let’s start with a regular bartender…not a friend. If he/she mixes crazy cocktails for you, then you should give him/her a good tip. If they are popping beer bottles or pouring draft beer, etc., then their “level of service” is pretty low. Tip them in a standard manner. Now, the “friend as bartender” comes into play. He/she pours you a few craft beers, but only charges you for 75% of them. Most people will tip and spending more than what they would have paid full price because it helps the friend out.

        When that same situation enters the design field, most friends/acquaintances/etc. feel that they should get a stellar deal. They don’t look at it as a percentage…like a “tip.” Why wouldn’t someone want to pay higher than average (larger “tip”) to help out a struggling friend knowing that the level of service would probably be higher as well.

        I digress…but the above commenter makes a typical point. He doesn’t feel the fee is worth it, so he will “design” the house himself. If there isn’t anything intrinsically better by hiring a designer, then why bring up the question to begin with? If there is, then why not pay the designer what she’s worth?

      • Girafa Ponkan

        It’s important for people to know all the hidden costs we architects have. And how much money we make per hour. And still, I also see they don’t have 30k to afford a project to build an unifamiliar home. So it’s a lose-lose situation, that I don’t know how to handle.

  • Robert

    At what stage of the project should the architect expect final payment? We paid a 50% payment up front, and our small kitchen addition project is roughly 70% complete. The architect just sent me his final invoice, I would have thought final payment was due at the end of the project.

    • It all depends on the initial agreement in your contract – which I can’t really speak to. For my own work, I don’t bill for work that isn’t complete and that includes whatever fee I have in the project for Construction Administration/Observation … it stands to reason that I can’t be finished coordinating the progress and quality of a project when I am the owner’s representative on site when the contractor hasn’t finished their work … but maybe that’s just me.

  • Sarah

    Thank you for your blog. Is there a standard guarantee maximum in a contract? For example, fee is 10% of estimated construction costs of $500K, but then due to unforeseen circumstances it is $600K. Do you cap at 12% of budgeted construction costs or is it some other number like $55K? The increase is not due to the design but other items sure plumbing and electric. I’ve actually had to fight pretty hard to take out some design elements that would further increase in the price and have been pretty frustrated with an architect that sometimes responds to my emails. Trying to compensate everyone fairly.

    • Hi Sarah – yes, there can be guaranteed maximums in contracts.

      This is a tricky question to answer because there could be a lot of moving parts involved so it’s not always as clear cut as it might seem. Normally, an increase in cost represents an increase in work – and in that case, it seems perfectly fair that the architect is looking to be compensated for this extra work if that is how his contract was set up from the beginning. If you are selecting more expensive faucets and lights – or upgrading those items – I wouldn’t think that there would be additional work involved and if push came to shove, you could always play the “provided by owner for contractor installation” card and those line item costs would be removed from the project and in theory, the architects fees would drop – which is probably not their desire either. The trick is that the contractor probably gets better pricing than you do for those items and you have to figure out for yourself if the delta between contractor savings (and if they are getting passed on to you or not) versus additional fee by your service provider, if worth it.

      I hope you work this out to a mutually agreeable solution, these are the sorts of things that seem to create ill will with people.

  • Jake

    I wanted to mention a few points here for everyone’s consideration….. We have a small (7 people) residential design firm and do roughly 20-30 houses per year. We created our own contract. The contract is broken into phases. Each phase has a fixed fee and a clearly defined list of deliverables. We provide our clients with a menu of services from which we create our contract. Each service produces a work product of some sort (i.e.; site visit, 3d site model, site sketch, etc.). Some services/products/deliverables are mandatory (floor plan), others are optional (lighting design). The entire contract is a fixed fee and each phase has a fixed fee. We can do this because I know exactly what resources we need to allocate to create each work product AND because the description of the work product is clear and finite. This system works really well. The clients know exactly what they get and exactly what they are paying. Plus we know exactly what we have to do. It’s not complicated.

    • This is a system that I have been advocating for a while – glad to hear that you are having success with it. In my office now, we charge hourly for residential work and even though I was expecting a some push back from potential clients, the reaction has been just the opposite. Most of our clients are in the professional services industry (doctors, lawyers, etc.) and they seem to understand the concept that you are paying for time rather than a deliverable. Some clients want to minimize their role in the design process and some seem to live for the experience. Both have the same deliverables, but the experience is somewhat different.

  • Jane

    Hi Bob,

    I have a question I’m trying to get help with. We hired an architect with an hourly rate that caps out at 12% of our construction cost. As the plans have progressed my relationship with the architect has deteriorated. It takes 4-5 emails for him to make changes I request meanwhile our billings and my anxiety increase with each change so that I’ve stopped asking for them. I am tired of having to pay to be ridiculed for my ideas. Meanwhile the architect has added many features and designs we never asked for such as an outdoor BBQ and extensive tiling in bathrooms and laundry. I’ve been reading through our contract because I’m so overwhelmed with what to do and was figuring I’d make all the necessary corrections and remove the architect’s extras with the contractor. Well it seems I can’t do this without the architects approval AND his capped percentage fee agreement is based on the estimate of work not what we actually construct. So we paid this guy to design work we didn’t ask for and when we take it out of the plans – again paying him to revise back to what we can afford – we may still owe him more than the 12% of our original budget. This seems highly unethical. Is it legal? What do I do about it? Thanks for any advice.

    • Jane

      Also, if we end our contract with him can we use the plans as they were meant for?

      • Paul Scharnett

        I can actually comment on that, as a future architect.

        A couple of things:
        Depending upon your contract, you have certain rights that are enumerated. Most architectural firms use the AIA standard agreements, which are largely beneficial to both parties. If the architect is going well beyond the original scope and you disagree, you probably have approval rights to the final project.
        Regarding the plans, they are technically the architect’s property, as an architect retains all copyright on a project unless it was specifically transferred in writing to the Owner or other entity. You are not allowed to use his plans without his permission, as they are a product of his services.

        In your situation, I would suggest three things:
        1. Architects are generally pretty reasonable. I can’t speak to this particular person, but architects are trusted with huge projects for a reason. There is likely a misunderstanding or miscommunication about design intent or something somewhere that has precipitated your situation. You should try to reason with him first.
        2. If it were my project, I would recognize that even if the architect does all of this extraneous work, what eventually gets built and approved is indeed your choice. If it is a percentage fee or lump sum, this extraneous work really won’t cost anything if you cut the extra work out of the project.

        Best of luck,

        • Jane

          Thanks so much Paul. I appreciate your response. The problem is my experience this far with this architect has led me to feel he is unreasonable. I would like to use our finished plans from him and work solely with the contractor at this point. I’ve reached my architectural budget and I don’t need his help except for making the necessary changes that were asked for in plan check.

          This architect insists he needs to be a part of the construction phase and says our contract stipulates that. It also says I can end our agreement with seven days notice and that we can use the plans for the property they were designed for. I’m not sure if I should terminate the agreement and move forward with the contractor or tell the architect my feelings.


          • Hi Jane – sorry to be silent, I thought Paul provided an excellent response to your initial question. At this point, I think for all parties concerned, you should convey your feeling to your architect – how he responds should be a pretty good indicator of how you should move forward.

          • Jane

            Thanks Bob. My previous “talks” with the architect on his disrespectful and confrontational language and style haven’t produced the changes I was hoping for. At this point I need to part ways with this “bully” but am holding out for my RTI. I really appreciate the help this forum has provided.

          • anonyms

            I came across this QA thread during research I’m doing right now on Architects pay rates and compensation. As of this date (Oct. 2014), law has changed in California and one cannot use drawings or plans developed by an architect without the architect’s expressed written permission or release. Myself hopefully in the end stages of dispute I have had with an architect (I paid $xxxxx for design to approved construction drawings for a home with remodel budget of $yyyyyy. I created design and preliminary sketches for home with remodel budget of $100k more). Some important points for you to consider: if you signed a contract stating you can end agreement with 7 days notice, you can do so, period. Again, keep “feelings” out of it. Even if you do this, at this point in time in California, you will still need a written release/permission to use the architect’s plans/drawings. The architect can insist from here to eternity that he “must do… [insert name of whatever he is trying to get you to let him do]…” but UNLESS THE CONTRACT REFLECTS THAT REQUIREMENT (unless the contract says ‘…architect MUST bla bla bla…’), the architect just ‘gets’ the ‘right’ to feel disappointed s/he didn’t get what s/he wanted, period.

          • Jane

            Thanks! I spoke with an attorney and the contract is simple and clear I guess. I need to give him the seven days notice but I can use the plans for the property. If it states this in the contract this counts as “permission”, correct?

          • Jane

            I still need the RTI on the plans though. Do you know if he is the only one who can get this?