Is an architect ripping us off!


12 Jan 2009
Reaction score
United Kingdom
We have employed an architect to do all planning, design & project management (stages C&D, E, F&G, H,J,K&L) for our single storey extension to a dormer bungalow in Surrey. There was an existing extension which was pulled down. A larger extension has now being built. This extension is to house a new enlarged kitchen. We have agreed to pay the architect in stages 14.5% of the total construction cost. Our builder's work is estimated to cost £40,000 inclusive of VAT. Therefore, we expected to be paying a fee of £5,800 + VAT to the architect. The architect has now decided that the cost of the kitchen units, appliances and work tops are part of the total construction cost. Is this normal industry practice? The architect did not do any drawings or design work for the layout of the kitchen. This was not his responsibility, it was the responsibility of the Kitchen company we are buying the units, appliances & work top from. It inherently seems unfair that the architect views the kitchen fixtures as part of the total construction costs given that we could get a cheap kitchen from Ikea for £4K or a handmade bespoke kitchen for £50K. Does anyone have any advice as how we should handle this with the architect?
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it depends upon how the costing, design and installation of the kitchen is integrated into the build.

if the architect is controlling and is responsible for the kitchen fit then he rightly has a claim to a percentage of the cost.

if however the kitchen is being independently designed and installed then i guess he does not.

also, if the architect liaises with the kitchen company regularly enough to warrant his presence then why not charge.

personally, i too would be miffed.

i as the builder oversee everything that goes on with the build up until the point where the customer takes control, i.e. non-contracted work. i have never seen the sense in paying an architect to control a domestic job. most will simply be in the way. :rolleyes:
If this guy is a proper Architect (ie RIBA) then he should be following the "Conditions of Appointment" for a domestic project - which state that

"1.5 make no material alteration to the Services or the approved design
without the consent of the Client, except in an emergency"

And on fees the following apply

"5.1 The Architect's fees shall be calculated and charged as set out in the
Letter of Appointment;

.3 Where a percentage basis applies, the percentage or percentages
stated in the Letter of Appointment shall be applied to the final cost of
the building work, excluding VAT, fees and any claims made by or
against the contractor or contractors. The percentages will be
applied to the current cost estimate, or the lowest acceptable tender,
or the contract sum until the final cost has been ascertained;

.4 Additional fees shall be payable if the Architect for reasons beyond
the Architect's control, is involved in extra work or incurs extra

You should have signed a contract, and the fees should be clearly stated.

If you don't agree, don't pay. Negotiate or use the provisions for Conciliation, adjudication or arbitration which are within the conditions of appointment.
Thanks noseall for your reply.
To answer your questions the architect is not responsible for the kitchen fit or design. We are getting the kitchen company to install it and they are offering a guarantee on the work. The architect did not design the layout of the kitchen or advise on any of the appliance brands/worktops/kitchen unit brands. All of this work was done by the kitchen co.
He does not liase with the kitchen co. For example when we needed to know when they could deliver it and for them to provide the electrics plan, I called them up to find out these things![/list]
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Hi woody,

The architect is using Architect's appointment Small Works (The revision July 1990).
The project is stated as "Single storey kitchen extension & associated works".
Under S2 Special conditions he has put "Fee Accounts to be submitted for work stages C&D, E, F&G on an estimated building works cost of £40,000 to be adjusted upon receipt of Tenders and then to be based on the total works when known".

The above is what we have signed up to.

Does his definition of "total works" mean to include work which he did not design, produce drawings for or will be project managing?

The Initial invoices (C&D, E, F) only mentioned the £40,000. They did not mention anything to do with the kitchen units/appliances/worktops. Then the later invoices for stages H & J have now mentioned the kitchen units & appliances.
it sounds like you have been 'back doored' by your architect.

they are not renowned for their financial transparency. a bit like lawyers.
I've quoted from the RIBA "Conditions of Appointment for a Domestic Project" 2006 edition - which I believe is the latest one, and the one which should be used for this type of job.

If I have time tomorrow I will check whether an Architect is obliged to use it, or if he can pick and choose which contract to use. It would seem odd if they can pick one over another more appropriate one. After all, many RIBA guides mention the need for the Architect to help and assist the client, and advise the client in their best interests

You may like to put this question to the RIBA, or the Architect directly.

On the face of it, the kitchen would be excluded from the "works" and his fee.

But you really want him to justify his appointment and fees. If you don't agree, dispute them.
Thanks Woody for your reply and interest in our predicament. :D
Any further clarification will be greatly appreciated.
Not 100% if I'm correct on this, but think the gist of it is right (thankfully this side of things I leave to my boss :) ).

We, as consulting engineers, are basically free to follow whatever contract model we prefer. We use the ACE (association of consulting engineers) standard form of contract and pick the appropriate section for the work. This generally sees us through 99% of jobs and does the job nicely. We send a task letter which lays out the form of ACE contract and any particularly relevant bits of it, then ask for a signed pro-forma to agree to those tasks. I bet half the people don't even read the section on conditions - even though it's not small print hidden away but slap bang in the middle of the letter.

The other 1% is generally on larger jobs though not exclusively. It is often the client who stipulates the form of contract, whether that be JCT, NEC or in some cases (sub-contracting to larger companies) their own standard contract. For the latter this is sent to our insurers who give the thumbs up or stipulate exclusions/additions. It might also get a legal lookover before we sign up.

I'd assume that architects are similar - RIBA will probably stipulate that they must agree and sign a 'suitable' contract before work starts, and may recommend suitable forms, but doubt they'd force them one way or another. Membership of these institutions is basically just following codes of practice, which can be challenged if someone is unhappy, though common sense followed by arbitration is the way to go before trying to 'report' someone to their governing body (who would only point someone in that direction if approached).

There might be some difference in approach as we are linked with both IStructE and ICE (and MIHT IHBC for what it's worth), so if each institution tried to force a contract we'd have them coming out of our ears! RIBA is maybe a bit more exclusive in this respect.

What was your architect's response when you brought this to their attention? If you haven't approached them yet, mention it when you next meet then follow it up with a letter laying out what was said and how you want to proceed with resolving the dispute (even if that's just saying you don't feel that you should be paying him the percentage). Keep a paper trail...
Hi...i've been reading your post and In short they are ripping you off. For a single storey extension the price is way over the top. I run an architectural design service and would be happy to provide you with a quote for carrying out the works, including overseeing the works for you. I have references available upon request, from many happy clients.

Please just give me a shout and i'd be happy to give you a fixed fee quotation.

Many thanks....Paul
The Architect is not ripping the client off if there is an agreement in place in the form of a contract. It is the terms of that contract which are in question

Whether someone could have done the work for less is immaterial isn't it?

And I am sure that you are aware that for exactly the same work, an Architect can command greater fees than an unregistered designer.

BTW, welcome to the forum :D
The Architect is not ripping the client off if there is an agreement in place in the form of a contract. It is the terms of that contract which are in question

Whether someone could have done the work for less is immaterial isn't it?

And I am sure that you are aware that for exactly the same work, an Architect can command greater fees than an unregistered designer.

BTW, welcome to the forum :D

thanks woody, yes you are are right.....but it is still alot of money for a single storey extension, also 50k is alot for the build costs. What size the the extension, just out of interest? I carried out a 20msq extension for a family with a bungalow for a build cost of approx 25k. My fee's were also quarter of the price.

But getting back to the subject, i've always charged for the total build costs, exclduing the kitchen units, etc, unless i have been asked to design this and specify also. But it does depend on the wording of the contract you have signed. :?:
My fee's were also quarter of the price.
A lot depends on who you're employing, a Chartered architect in a fully loaded office with all the facilities that can be involved in that, printers, copiers, meeting rooms, employees etc, has to charge more than a one man band offering 'Architectural Services'. On smaller scale jobs its really not worth employing a fully fledged Architect. Bit like taking your 1984 Escort to a Ford Main Dealer.

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