You get what you pay for. This is a primer on what you can choose from for architectural design services and most of my projects fall into one of these three categories. 1. I will often do very small consulting jobs on an hourly basis. These are usually brainstorming sessions, structural consults, maybe a simple photoshopped rendering showing what something may look like without hard construction drawings. I enjoy these jobs but tend to lose money on them when I put more time and effort into it than I can reasonably bill for.
2. Most of my addition/renovation and new house jobs are of the second category of basic design services. This is what you get for 6 – 10 % of construction cost from most architects. We start with a basic analysis of needs/desires/budget and enter a process of design (which is lots of fun) there is usually extensive use of sketchup modeling early on. These projects are tough on me as an architect because there isn't time in the budget to explore all options and really flesh out all the possibilities in a scheme. I go into the finished project and see lots of little things that could have happened with more rigorous design. Missed opportunities, changes from the drawings for the worse etc. I often see changes that were due to the builder saying “it's easier to do it this way” without understanding the ramifications either aesthetically or structurally or my personal fav Simplifying the framing in a way that makes finish work more complicated later. At this level I try to get all the big things right and rely heavily on the builder to make good detail decisions. I try to build a lot of flexibility into the design so if, for instance, the concrete sub screws up and pours a wall wrong, (often happens) the plan can adapt. I have been fortunate to have worked with many very good builders. I tend to lose money on these projects as well because I am a perfectionist.
3. At 10 to 15% you get into full bid services and/or construction administration. This is the fun stuff that I rarely get to do, mostly due to where I live and the type of clientele I attract. The design process is as thorough as it needs to be. Subcontractors are utilized in the design process in a more integrated fashion - lighting, kitchen, interiors, landscaping, structural etc. Less is left to the discretion of the builder. This is where I would design the built-ins rather than just leaving room for them as in the second category. We more fully explore material and finish options, appliances and lighting, analyze methods of construction and perform energy modeling. This is the arena for clients who, regardless of budget, understand the value in such rigorous design. These are often people have have built a house before and want to do it right the second time around and are willing to forgo a few luxury items (the standard granite countertop argument for those in the industry) in the budget to pay for full architectural services. This is the standard level of service for many larger and more established firms where there is often an in-house team of experts working on every project. This is also the standard for non-residential projects.
I seem to usually have a mix of the first two project types on my desk at any given time and every few years the third type comes along. Hopefully in the future I will be able to focus more on full service projects.