Localized situations and the special features that define any given project make it very difficult for an Architect to estimate construction costs. The only person that should communicate exact costs is the person who is going to build it: The Contractor.
In no way can an Architect guarantee that what they design will be built for any specific construction cost. Architects may have an idea of a range of Construction Cost, but no rule of thumb can determine actually cost. There is however one very certain thing about construction costs: the owner(s) will never believe that their project is going to cost what the number(s) come in at. Until the owner sees the construction cost breakdown, owners don’t realize the true cost of construction. Owners planning on building a custom house, building an addition, or renovating their existing home in New England should expect estimates to be double their initial desired construction cost guess. An approximate average is $200+ SF; and it can be upwards of $300 SF depending on location, topography, desired features, materials, size, etc.
In my previous blog: A Fee Based Expertise, I wrote about the way in which an Architect structures their compensation. This blog elaborates on how that relates to the Cost of Construction. An Architect will base their fee on the range of Construction Cost based on their better knowledge of construction costs (which will be higher than the owner’s much lower anticipation of costs). For the Architect to have an understanding of what their fees should be, they may conduct their own guesstimate of what they believe the cost of construction might be based on Basic Services, past projects, and the understanding of specific project needs.
On Residential projects in New England, it is common for Architectural fees to run between 8 and 15 percent of the cost of construction. The range in percentage has to do with the specifics of the project and the quality and level of services offered. A smaller percentage reflects the minimum requirements to obtain a building permit while the larger percentage reflects full architectural services and a robust drawing set required to build your ideal project with fewer surprise costs during construction. If you want a Pinterest worthy house / addition expect a higher level of service.
The best approach for a homeowner is to first know how much they can spend. This will sever as the limiting factor for size, materials, customization, etc. When trying to estimate architectural fees, and preparing for a realistic cost of construction, owners should anticipate realistic numbers and understand that the more a building or home project costs, the more work involved to design it.