What does an architect cost?

We often get asked for a quote to do a custom design, but unfortunately the answer is very complex and we have to consider many aspects before we can actually give a quote.  

SACAP's Guideline Fees

The South African Council for the Architectural Profession (SACAP), has a standard fee guideline document.  It is recommended that the ‘standards service’ is charged as a percentage of the construction cost of a project.  The complexity here is that one does not know what the estimated construction cost would be.  
Herewith their table (last updated in 2015)
For a more elaborate explanation, see our page on architectural fees.  Architectural fees are discussed under the following headings:

Architects work for free!!

This means architects either have to do (undefined amounts of) free work in order to be able to tell a client what their dream house would cost or the client must be willing to pay a deposit so an architect can spend the time to do a basic design and related cost estimate.  Unfortunately neither architects nor clients are completely happy about this situation.

Architects charging per square meter

The alternative is that some architects charge per square meter.  For additions and alterations this becomes even more complex.  
Let’s say you want a 25 sqm room added to the house at a very low fee (for documentation only) of R 300/sqm.  This translates to R7 500.00.  Inevitably though clients now make changes to other parts of the house as well, changing floor finishes: “We just need you to give us a specification please. Oh and we want to paint this room, what colour would you recommend?” And then the after hour whatsapps start - this is exactly when home owners discuss their planned changes with each other, so a quick message to the architect seems harmless.  

Architects charging per hour

According to SACAP a Registered Professional Architect with more than ten years’ experience, can charge roughly R 1 800 per hour.  If that is set-off with the R7500 example above, then that architect can spend 4.17 hours on your project, in total.  That would be just enough time to go to your site (if it is within 10kms from their office), get your requirements, attempt to obtain the existing documentation of the house and maybe do one sketch plan.  But you are expecting a complete set of construction drawings for the builder, building plan approval, a price and a few inspections from the architect while you are on site, not to even mention all the telephone calls.
It does, however, make sense for an architect to charge per hour, because at least then he gets paid for all unforeseen delays, client’s changing their minds, additional requirements from council, additional meetings on site, etc.

Architects charging as a percentage of the construction cost

Again, if we use the 25 square meter example and use a construction cost of R8500 per square meter (which is very low), the total cost would be R 212 500.00.   If we use the table above, then the basic fee should be R46 000 + 13,5% of R12 500 = R47 687.50.  
For R47 687.50 you can expect a full service from an architect.  But remember, for it to make sense for the architect, he has to translate it back to his hourly rate (remember this include all his overheads, his IP and his time)..  even if that architect is willing to work for R 1 000 per hour (almost half of what he is entitled to) then he can still spend only 48 hours on your project - that is basically one full work week.  Unfortunately projects often take years to complete.  

You get what you pay for

As you can see there is no perfect answer when it comes to architectural fees.  In short: