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  • Mariki Terblanche

Signing Off On Architectural Design Drawings (Part 2)



I am late with this promised comment on what it means to “sign off” on your design as proposed by the Architects.

Architects divide their service in six/five stages. These are defined in the industry as follows: (I added the Quantity Surveyor so you can see what we do too)

As you can see, at the end of Stage 2 you will be presented a concept design. This is normally the point where you will be asked to “sign off” on the drawings. Be very careful as to what you sign here. If you change basic layouts or accommodation requirements after this, you may be liable for redesign fees. It is always good to insert a line in your agreement with the Architect that whatever you are presented at the end of Stage 2 must be within your agreed budget. Otherwise you are not going to pay for the design and have the right to walk away form the project. Also agree your “walk-away” fee up front. Then you all know your risk.

Once you sign off on this layout, the changes that you can make will be limited. But be sure that, if you decide, despite my warning, you are going to ask your architect to “fix” his fee at this point, that you have also decided the actual concept, look and feel of the building as any changes to a fixed fee design, will result in a charge via “change orders” from your Architect.

If the fee remains percentage based, Architects are normally more relaxed as they will get paid based on the final approved cost of the building so if they make changes, normally the cost will go up and their fees will increase accordingly.

(By the way for commercial buildings the fees should be around 6% and for residential around 10-12%. The super rich will normally have to pay for the exclusive famous architects around 15% and then also engage an interior architect who will charge another 15% on the interiors of the house (tiles, colours, fittings, sanware, etc). And yes, the design architect gets fees on all interior items that is built in too)

Most architects will ask you to sign off again at the end of stage 3 before they submit your plans for local authority approval. This is a very important stage and you must make sure that the design is in accordance with your brief and that it meets the budget. Get a QS to give you an estimate and don’t beat him down on the value. He has years of experience and will cost what is on the drawings. If the budget is too high, send your architect back to the drawing board… and don’t pay him any more fees, until you can afford to build what is shown on paper. There is usually a very large percentage fees due at this point. (more than 50% - see table below)

Normally the fee is charged as follows:

Stage 1 = 8% of total fee

Stage 2 = 20% of total fee

Stage 3 = 24% of total fee

Stage 4 = 28% of total fee

Stage 5 = 16% of total fee

Stage 6 = 4% of total fee

This is a bit more reading than normal, but it is such and important issue that prospective developers/home owners don’t know or understand fully. This issue can spoil your relationship during the two years that you will have to work together unless both parties fully understand what they are agreeing too.


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