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How Much Do Commercial Architects Charge?

Commercial Architectural Fees

Commercial Architectural Fees are around what individuals, organizations, and government agencies usually pay for different commercial architectural services at the standard rates. This website focuses, in particular, on industrial rather than residential styles of projects. It needs to be recalled, however, that residential projects fall under the complexity of Group 5.



This is a tried and tested way of understanding the relative amount of detail that an architect will contribute to producing a project design and collection of construction documents, and hence, the amount of work or hours. Working sketches and descriptions are typically composed of building papers. Additional contract documents still exist that provide the guidance and advice of the architect in establishing forms of arrangement between the owner and the contractor and other consultants and agencies.


The extent of architectural projects' complexity is demonstrated here:

Complexity Level of Architectural Project.


The reason this is relevant is that, depending on the project level of complexity, different organizations assign higher or lower percentage fee rates to the project form. It is therefore important to allocate a degree of complexity to the project under consideration first. The referenced map ranges from Group 1 to Group 5 (Least Complex) (Most Complicated). Understanding this, we can then start understanding the fee ranges on the different charts associated with the form of the project by organizations around the world and North America.


For a long time, for a lot of commercial architectural jobs, 6 percent of the construction cost was the magic fee rate. However, due to the continuing complexity being designed into buildings these days, this has changed, moving into the 8 percent range for several project forms and even higher. However, the higher the construction cost, the lower the fees are since it simply costs more to build a project at the lowest level due to the simple tasks that an architect must perform to provide a fair collection of documentation and design effort for any project.


US state governments are a reasonably rational standard for assessing fee rates because they want the usage of state money to be of good value, and they also recognize that certain state taxpayers are working to design the projects. Therefore, for many commercial projects around the USA, North America, and probably worldwide, the rates developed to seem like a reasonable median range. The wide cross-section of fees and project complexities tends to be accepted by such individuals.


Architectural projects of all kinds of complexity (including SFR (Single Family Residential)) are seen in the above graph since SFR falls under the range of Group 5 (the most complex).


The following levels of architectural fees result from the above map for these different categories of BASIC SERVICES project (excluding optional additional services, depending on the policies of the organization) for these different project types.:



(Single Family Residences, specialized decorative buildings, custom furniture):

6.5% architectural Basic Fee for Over $50 million construction cost,  to:

12% architectural Basic Fee for $100,000 construction cost and under.

this means, using this chart, that a:

$500,000 house may have an architectural Basic Services Fee of 9.8%

$750,000 house may have an architectural Basic Services Fee of 9.5%

$1M house may have an architectural Basic Services Fee of 9.3%

$1.5M house: 9.1%

$2M house: 8.9%

$3M house: 8.7%

$4M house: 8.5%

$5M house: 8.4%



(Aquariums, auditoriums, art galleries, college buildings with special facilities, communications buildings, special schools, theaters and similar facilities):

5.5% for over $50M construction cost to:

11% for up to $100,000 construction cost.



(College classroom facilities, Convention Centers, Prisons, Extended Care Facilities, Gymnasiums, Hospitals, Institutional Dining Halls, Laboratories, Libraries, Medical Schools, Medical Office Buildings and Clinics, Mental Institutions, Office Buildings withe Tenant Improvements, Parks, Playgrounds, Recreation Facilities, Police Stations, Public Health Centers, Research Facilities, Schools (elementary/middle), Stadiums, Welfare Buildings, Central Utility Plants, Water Supply Facilities, Sewage Treatment Plants, Electrical Sub-Stations and Distribution Systems, Roads, Bridges, Major Site Improvements as independent projects):

4.5% for over $50M construction cost to:

10% for up to $100,000 construction cost.



(Armories, Apartments, Cold Storage Facilities, Dormitories, Exhibition Halls, Hangers, Manufacturing/Industrial Plants, Office Buildings without tenant improvements, Printing Plants, Public Markets, Service Garages):

3.5% for over $50M construction cost to:

9% for up to $100,000 construction cost.



(Industrial Buildings without special facilities, Parking Structures and repetitive garages, Simple Loft Structures, Warehouses without automated apparatus, other Utilitarian Buildings):

2.5% for over $50M construction cost to:

8% for up to $100,000 construction cost.


RENOVATIONS: It might be a fair rule of thumb to Raise the percentage fee for the project form by maybe two changes to the right (increasing the degree of complexity) to result in a fee increase of at least 2 percent to handle some of the increased criteria for reconstruction projects that almost always require more effort than new projects.

Renovation projects often require some sort of analysis and experimentation, which takes the architect more time to consider what is present in order to incorporate or move or eliminate it. From the architect's point of view, it is often simpler to create new ones than to have to consider what exists, and how to carefully modify some parts of it to have new features built and added.


Therefore, renovation projects will almost always add to the complexity, because an architect will need to spend hours on a project, and for that reason, the figures for renovations are typically higher than for new projects. There is no complicated and fast rule about this percentage rise, but this might usually be somewhere on the order of maybe 2 percent to 5 percent higher than for New Projects for debate. According to the project, this can and may vary. For example, hospital renovation projects may be considerably more than refurbishing a warehouse.



There is an additional wild card service that can and will raise the above-mentioned percentages: RECORD DRAWINGS. For an overview of Record Drawings, see Architect Services. For most renovation projects, these are required. These are nearly always offered at an hourly rate, above and above the provision of other services. This is one of the reasons why restoration projects are always more demanding than new projects, and therefore more costly in terms of architectural fees.

Regarding Record Drawings: Even if the owner has current paper sketches, in order to have functional electronic drawings, the architect would still have to redraw them, usually from scratch, on the architect's computers. Very few architects draw anything on paper these days, definitely few papers that end up being used for real sketches of construction. 

Most architects build on computers their designs, drawings, and specifications. Therefore, if the current project arrangements of features are not correctly described by electronic construction records, the architect would have to conduct work to calculate and understand current conditions, typically by field measurement, then translate those field notes into computerized drawings that become available to the architect during his or her development of the refurbished design.


It is the rare owner who actually has electronic drawings, particularly for a residential project, and compatible (usable) with the latest software of the architect in the software, and that they actually show what was constructed. During construction, there are normally several changes and the new architect would generally need to update any documentation issued by the owner for the new project in order to provide a fairly accurate representation of the current circumstances from which the new design work will start.

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