Why do architects learn about building materials

Architect's fee: How builders keep the costs for the architect under control

Reading time: 6 minutes

An architect's house is generally regarded as an expensive, even priceless undertaking. However, if you come out of the eighth model house development rather frustrated, you should think about an architect's house. But how much does an architect really cost? Our editor Bettina tracked down the rumor about the architect's fee and asked the architect Henriette Schreiber about it.

How much is the architect fee really?

In search of an answer, I started a survey among my friends and acquaintances just for fun. The question was: would you build an architect's house? The first answer I got consistently was: “No, too expensive” or “Nobody can afford that.” That was very clear. When I asked: “What does an architect cost, how much should I expect?” Nobody could give me an answer. An architect house offers a number of advantages:

  • more individuality
  • Participate in the construction process
  • Participation in the design of the premises
  • Individual selection of building materials

That should be worth the price, right? No plaintiff, no judge. But how much is the architect fee? I'll tell you that at the beginning: Architect's fee: amount and planning process.

One thing in advance: around 30,000 euros in additional costs for an architect's house can arise.

Now I've figured out the costs for an architect, but how does it actually work if I want to build a house with an architect? I spoke to an expert about this. Henriette Schreiber works in Hanover together with her husband Axel Schreiber in the architecture office Schreiber. Together they offer all phases of the architect's work in building construction, from the basic assessment and cost estimation to construction management and property management after completion. This means that they are very broadly positioned.

Self-made: Hello Ms. Schreiber, it's great that you took the time for an interview. Let's start right away: Assuming a customer comes into the office and wants you to plan their own home: What does a typical process look like?

Henriette Schreiber: At the beginning we inquire about the client's concerns. What should be planned / built / changed and why? In this conversation we get to know the client and try to classify and evaluate his wishes. The location of the building site, the type of use, which needs have to be met, when the whole thing is to be implemented, etc. is discussed. This is how the client gets to know us. The first conversation is less about the architect's fee and more about empathy: Can the client build trust in the architect? Can we convey our architectural form of expression to the client?

Self-made: Trust and communication between an architect and the customer or builder are prerequisites for the building project to succeed. How is this continuing?

Henriette Schreiber: We make an appointment to visit the site. The subject of construction costs is usually only addressed in advance. The client is only presented with a sum once the offer for the architect's fee has been drawn up as a rough summary. In the later process, a common denominator must be found between the desired construction volume and the available budget.

Self-made: And what exactly is your offer based on?

Henriette Schreiber: The architect's fee offer is based on a value determined from the estimated chargeable construction costs. The whole thing is set up with a rough cost estimate based on the information from the building cost index (BKI). The fee for architects is always based on the fee schedule for architects and engineers (HOAI). Hourly rates can also be agreed for special services, supplements, etc. Deviations, special payments and freely negotiable fees are also regulated here.

Self-made: According to the fee schedule, there is a minimum price and a maximum price. Can it also happen that the architect sets his fee higher or lower? If so, when?

Henriette Schreiber: That is at the discretion of the architect. If he assesses the cost of his work as higher or lower, that can be a criterion for varying the architect's fee. That is a matter of negotiation.

Self-made: What documents should a customer bring with them at the first appointment? How can the customer prepare for the first appointment?

Henriette Schreiber: He should have precise ideas and, so to speak, have agreed and specifically defined his needs, wishes and future plans with his partner, spouse, family and all users. If the client has drawings, as-built plans, floor plans, site plans, old building permits, he should make these available to the architect.

Self-made: Before a house can even be built, one should buy a piece of land on which it stands. Do you help with the search for a property or does the customer already have to own one?

Henriette Schreiber: No, we don't help with that. With us, the client is already the owner of the property.

Self-made: During the planning phase, a customer may want to have something built that is not provided for in the region's development plan. For example, he wants a house with a flat roof, but only pitched roofs are allowed. Is that taken into account by you, or does the customer have to struggle through the regulations alone?

Henriette Schreiber: No, he doesn't have to. This applies to the second service phase, the preliminary planning, and is included in the architect's fee. Here we check the building regulations.

Self-made: If such a house is planned, it needs craftsmen to put this building into practice. Do you also support the contracting of construction companies?

Henriette Schreiber: Yes, we often recommend construction companies and, together with the client, ask them to submit an offer for the desired construction work. In order to be able to compare the offers, we create specifications in which the desired construction work is precisely described. The offers submitted by the companies are checked and evaluated and given to the client with a recommendation. The company that the client chooses is commissioned.

Self-made: Construction is now in full swing. Suddenly it occurs to the client that he would like to have this or that change. How long can changes be made and to what extent does this affect the architect's fee?

Henriette Schreiber: In fact, changes can still be made until the respective construction project has been completed.

The later the decision is brought to us, the more the architect fee increases. There is much more leeway in the design phase.

But if a design is to be fundamentally changed again after the third time, additional planning costs are mentioned.

Self-made: The individual work phases of an architect can be roughly divided into a planning phase and a construction phase. What is the maximum time between the planning of a new building and the actual construction?

Henriette Schreiber: The better a house planning is from the outset, the fewer disruptions there are in the construction process. Of course, the planning phase is directly dependent on the scope of the construction project. The more complex a construction project, the longer it has to be planned. Then there are the planning phases of the specialist planners involved, and a time factor that is unfortunately no longer calculable: the official approvals.

Self-made: Let us assume that an architect's house is planned. The construction phase does not start until six months later. By then, the prices of some building materials may have risen. Could this increase the architect's fee? Are there fixed prices with construction companies?

Henriette Schreiber: It all depends on the type of assignment. According to the fee schedule for architects and engineers (HOAI), the architect fee is determined after the cost calculation. However, since there are always changes and additional costs in the course of the construction work, all changes and the associated additional expenses must be determined as supplements on a fee basis. This is hardly manageable in the process. If the contractor is hired, his prices are binding. The contractor can only claim increases in material costs if the construction times have been contractually agreed and there is a delay in construction. However, these must be announced and documented in advance.

Self-made: What advice do you give our readers to prevent an increase in construction costs as much as possible?

Henriette Schreiber: The architect should draw the client's attention to the fact that the building prices are based on market developments. Compared to the previous year, construction costs have risen by almost five percent *. So much is being built at the moment that it is becoming difficult to even find companies that are interested in executing it and then submit halfway economical offers

Self-made: When exactly can the architect fee increase?

Henriette Schreiber: If we proceed from the process, first of all the draft planning including cost calculation takes place on the basis of the usual market prices of the last building projects or of preliminary offers. This is followed by the building permit phase, which also takes some time. If the construction company is commissioned after the approval phase, prices may have increased in the meantime. This situation always puts us architects in an awkward position. It is not possible to guarantee the client a cost calculation that will last until the end of the construction project. The architect is wary of contractually agreed cost guarantees.

Self-made: Now one last question: Who is liable if something goes wrong on the construction site?

Henriette Schreiber: That depends on what goes wrong and who is responsible. In the case of planning errors, for example, if the architect plans something against the client's wishes, improvements and rescheduling may have to be made. If, on the other hand, the builder changes his wish, the builder has to pay the effort for the change in planning at a certain level of planning. Several people are involved in property surveillance.

Self-made: Thank you for the interview!

* According to the construction price index, the increases in construction costs between 4/2017 and 4/2018 are given as 4.7 percent.


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