Working With An Architect

Design and construction is a process. It is the conversion of an idea into a physical reality. Conceiving a building or a renovation starts with sometimes vague ideas, but these ultimately have to evolve into form and space.

This begins rather abstractly. Architects are trained how to explore design, sometimes quickly with just a pen and roll of trash paper or more methodically through field survey, building research, and sophisticated design software systems.

Early in design, the goal is to develop vision, identify outstanding information, and define important early decisions. Our 4D»2B tool is a detailed road map through the entire process with hundreds of individual stops customized according to the project specifics. Please reach out to learn more.


Historically, architects worked at an hourly rate or as a percentage of construction cost. Both methods are attempts to roughly equate the amount of effort against the overall complexity of the building.

A more precise method is to determine the actual services required, from finding a site to developing an architectural expression and documenting the requirements for construction. Different kinds of projects are more complex than others, requiring more engineering and time to resolve. New construction may have different difficulties compared to a renovation, addition, or rehabilitating new life into one expired—each demands different efforts.

So after we establish how the project is defined and what services it needs, SteveHallArchitecture proposals usually are arranged as a single lump sum fixed fee. Break-outs for optional services can be provided. Invoicing and payments are based on progress and only accrue as the effort moves along. Even limited investigations and initial programming are proposed by fixed fee against the task at hand to correctly quantify the effort.

Architectural and contracted consultant service fees will then range dramatically, from 8% to 25% of the project's construction budget. For example, an initial survey or Jump Start study might be $5,000, design and engineering drawings for a small renovation $20,000–$50,000, with large or sophisticated projects somewhere above and beyond. These scopes are all adjusted by numerous variables:

For more perspective, see how fees are calculated.

Specifics are everything, so contact me directly with questions about a particular project.

Architects and Contractors

Architects design and Contractors build. And the law separates their respective licenses, business entities, qualifications, and legal status, too.

Becoming an architect requires a minimum bachelor's degree in architecture plus a professional or master's degree, a minimum three year internship which usually takes five, and passing the Architectural Registration Exam (ARE) (formerly just one two-day exam, then nine parts with 16 sections, then seven parts, now six). Statistically, most architects don't get through all the requirements and get licensed before 30-35 years old, but the industry is trying to improve.

You can verify architectural licenses online at the NC Board of Architecture license search. (SteveHallArchitecture holds firm license #52833 and Steve Hall individual #9868.)

North Carolina General Statute §83A-13 exempts certain buildings from requiring a professional architect's seal:

North Carolina General Statute §87-1 requires a general contractor license for any project larger than $30,000.

Becoming a contractor requires proof of financial stability and a qualifying individual in the firm to pass an exam. In North Carolina, there are five primary classifications of license certifications: Building, Residential, Highway, Public Utilities, and Specialty (sub-contractor, of which there are many). A Building classification is allowed to building residential, but a Residential classification is not allowed to do anything else.

Financial stability is arrayed in three levels depending on the firm's assets which limits the contract size of the construction project:

Architects are legally restricted from recommending unlicensed contractors, who are more common in residential work than commercial. You can verify license and limits online at the NC Licensing Board for General Contractors license search.

Incidentally, the 1972 Federal Brooks Act Legislation prohibits the selection of design professionals by price or bidding. It requires qualifications-based methods. This is implemented in North Carolina by G.S. §143-64.31, called the "MiniBrooks Act," for architectural, engineering, and surveying. See also the NC Board of Engineering FAQ and the NC Board of Architecture article.