The Architect's fees for design may only be a small part of the costs for your project, quite apart from the actual building work. Depending on the site, scale and type of project there could be other significant costs, some of which may have to be met up front.

You may need to undertake additional surveys and preparatory work. Some may be avoided by careful design.  Clearly a site subject to requirements for extensive surveys, mitigation measures, developer contributions etc. will have a lower intrinsic value than one that does not.  There is a general recognition that for small domestic works 'non-construction costs' can be disproportionate with a slightly more permissive view sometimes taken by development control authorities. 

The list below is long as there are numerous circumstances to building projects.  It may appear daunting.  It is better to know about these matters before you begin than to have them suddenly appear at a later stage.   A few projects will need all of the items shown and more, some almost none at all, with most needing a few.  They should all be considered at the earliest stages when preparing your brief, whether you do this yourself or in discussion with your Architect.  If they apply to your project they could have implications for your budget and for time-scales.  For the most part the ultimate responsibility for compliances rests on you as client, employer, developer.  It is important that the advice you are given is reliable. 

Any figures given below are intended to give you some idea of what costs you may incur, some ideas on how they may be avoided (where they can) and a very rough feel of what they might be.  One thing to bear in mind is that most consultants will build a 'safety factor' into their fee calculations for 'unknowns'.  The more that is known about the work that they will be required to undertake the more economical their fees are likely to be.

  • Site and associated surveys:

  • There are two types of site survey. One is a topographic survey which is essentially a measurement of the site and its principal features including height information.  This is particularly valuable when the site is tight or sloping.  Some clients choose to rely on Ordnance Survey maps rather than paying for a full topographic survey.  This can be risky as Ordnance Survey mapping is not accurate enough to be relied on for detailed site planning.

  • A soil survey involves invasive analysis of the underlying ground beneath a site to establish its ability to support the proposed building.  Some soil types are easier to build on, others, for example clays and silts, can present more challenges.

  • On some sites where there have been previous uses, particularly industrial processes, there can be contamination of the ground.  It maybe necessary to take remedial action to remove or stabilise the contamination.  The appropriate action will depend on individual circumstances.  Removal of contamination can be expensive and can thus have a major impact on the development value of a site.

  • Over the last few years there has been an increasing concern over the loss of trees to development.  Where trees exist on a site it is often necessary to have a tree survey undertaken.   This should differentiate between trees that are valuable and those that are in poor health or of little intrinsic merit.  The survey should be carried out by a qualified arboriculturist who will also identify tree root protection zones.  For small domestic projects it is normally sufficient to show trees that are within falling distance of the proposed works.  One unfortunate effect of the tendency of some planners to give great weight to the avoidance of development that could affect trees, is that developers are tempted to remove any 'awkward' trees not subject to statutory protection before any planning application is made.  There has been a consequent unnecessary loss of trees on a number of development sites.

  • It may be necessary to carry out an ecological survey if protected species may be present or if the site could have ecological importance.  Overgrown sites may fall into this category. It is important to remember that legal protection is granted to some species.  An ecological report should contain recommendations for mitigation if disturbance of the species is necessary.

  • H.S.E. and Site Safety:

  • For each development there has to be a principal designer.  The aim is to have one person who can draw together, oversee and assess the project design and consequent safety implications.   (Construction(Design and Management) Regulations).  For small domestic works the builder may take on the role of principal designer by default.                                      

  • There are some independent consultants who are offering to take on the role of Principal Designer, although not actually designers of the development as one would normally think of that role.

  • The code of practice requires the appointment of Principal Designer to be made significant design work is undertaken (i.e. before sketch design starts).

  • Engineer:

  • On some small projects you may not need an engineer at all.  However as the world has become more litigious, most construction professionals will want an engineer to be involved to cover their own backs.  Similarly warranty providers want someone who they can sue if there is a structural failure.

  • Some Architects design wonderful spaces without any concern for structure whilst others will have a very clear strategy and understanding of it.  Which Architect you choose could have a major bearing on how much you need to pay an engineer and how much it costs to build the structure the Engineer has to design.

  • For some jobs the engineer needs to be involved at the outset, for others it can be once the bulk of the construction drawings are in preparation. Which applies will depend on the project.

  • Engineers fees may be as little as a couple of hundred pounds for a simple beam design. As designs become more complicated costs rise accordingly.  Quite a few engineers quote fees as a percentage of total build cost, particularly for medium and larger scale new-build. You could be looking at 1-3% of build cost depending on complexity.

  •   Party Wall Surveyors:

  • If your works fall within the remit of the Party Wall Act (see information sheet) you will need at least one Party Wall Surveyor.  This does not just apply to party walls but also to excavations within either three or six metres of a neighbours building, depending on circumstances, and some other instances.

  • You will have to pay for a Surveyor appointed by your neighbour.

  • If your neighbour agrees to the detail of the works and informs you within the short time allowed after service of a notice you will not need a surveyor (but see implications in the information sheet).

  • If your neighbour agrees to share a surveyor you will only need to pay for one.

  • The surveyors represent The Act of Parliament not the individuals or organisations who appoint them.

  • If you have to appoint two surveyors you also need to appoint a third to sort out any squabbles between them (most commonly about fees). However the third should only charge fees if his services are used.

  • Surveyors do not come cheap.  Allow about £1,000 each for a small project with costs rapidly rising with scale and complexity.  Remember that your neighbour does not need to take fees into account when appointing 'his' surveyor as you have to pay the bill.  You may have more than one neighbour affected by the development so you may need to pay for more surveyors.

  • You may be able to avoid Party Wall matters through design decisions.  On some schemes there will be a calculation of the trade-off between the Party Wall Act costs and the benefits gained by building close to your neighbours.

  • Quantity Surveyors:

  • Quantity surveyors advise on cost implications of design decisions, create the Bill of Quantities required under larger contracts, provide cost information through the design process and valuations of work done once the work is on site.

  • They are not normally involved in small projects unless being undertaken by corporate bodies.

  • The cost information is based on historic data and current market conditions and may vary from tender returns.

  • Fees are often, though not exclusively, based on the final contract value of the project, often as a percentage.


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