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RE: Design fee guidelines

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I really, really want to give you my most sincere response. However, to be
precise, my most definitive answer would be "it depends".

It depends on how bad you need the work.
It depends on how high your overhead is.
It depends on the market you are in (geographical as well as project type).
It depends on your competition.

Here goes anyway (again, all my opinions):

If you do not have any competition and you have only one client, your fees
should be dictated by you and not your client (what's wrong with THIS

My original point was that ALL of our fees are too low including
(especially?) the statutory limit of total A&E fees of 6% for DoD work.
Especially considering all the B.S. we have to put up with doing these kinds
of projects. We should collectively refuse to do this work for this fee.

Based on my experience, my market, etc. a lot of architectural clients can
easily find someone to do the kinds of projects I do (medium sized
commercial/industrial) for 0.6% to 0.8% of construction costs (plus
construction admin). A lot depends on the project. I am currently working on
project types where there is a LOT of repetition, so it is difficult to get
a good fee with regards to percentage of construciton costs, although based
on hourly rates, the fees have been decent.

Personally, I'm shocked that engineers will do custom residential work here
in CA for anything less than 25% of the total design fee, but it happens all
the time. Needless to say, I don't do much residential.

Depending on the complexity, etc. I personally believe that 1-1.5% should be
our "floor" and we should be insulted by working for a meager 10% of the
total design fee (and you're doing construction administration for that?).
We have to do too much work (to do a good job that is) and take WAY too much
risk for such a small fraction of the design fee.

But, just because I say "it ain't right", doesn't mean that someone will
underbid you for a project (See: my original point).

Good Luck,
Bill Allen

-----Original Message-----
From: Mike Brown [mailto:mike.brown(--nospam--at)]
Sent: Monday, November 02, 1998 2:57 PM
To: 'seaint(--nospam--at)'
Subject: RE: Design fee guidelines


I agree with you 100%.

However, lets suppose that I'm in a socialist type situation where I do
not have competition and I have only one client.  Since I do not have
competition, my fees are dictated to me by this client.  I would like to
know if the fees I have mentioned in my earlier post are too low, too
high, or just right for a capitalist environment.  What are my
colleagues doing to survive?  BTW, the fees I mentioned in my earlier
post do include construction administration (shop drawing review, site
observations as required, answering contractor questions, solving
problems that arise in the field, etc.).

-----Original Message-----
From: Bill Allen, S.E. [mailto:Bill(--nospam--at)]
Sent: Monday, November 02, 1998 2:40 PM
To: seaint(--nospam--at)
Subject: RE: Design fee guidelines

The following response is merely my opinion and is not intended to
offend or
flame anyone in particular..

One of the reasons you feel "lucky" to get 1% is that either you are
to do it for that low of fee or your colleagues (competition) are
willing to
do it for that fee. Hypothetically, If NO qualified structural engineer
would touch a project for less than, say 2%, then you could get 2% on a
regular basis.

We are our own worst (business) enemy and we would rather worry about
graphically beautiful drawings (with shading), ponder rigid diaphram vs.
flexible and then decide to do the analysis both ways, perform a time
history analysis when it isn't really required, etc.

We deserve exactly what we get.

Bill Allen

-----Original Message-----
From: Mike Brown [mailto:mike.brown(--nospam--at)]
Sent: Monday, November 02, 1998 12:38 PM
To: 'seaint(--nospam--at)'
Subject: RE: Design fee guidelines

I'm interested in this information as well.  I have seen in the '97
Means for Building Construction Cost Data that the structural
engineering fees are 1% min. to 2.5% max. of the project cost.  But I
got to be honest, I work for an A&E firm and we're lucky if we get 1% of
the construction cost (Usually only for complex jobs like hangers and
pavilions).  Usually we're only budgeted for 10% of the total design
fees set by our architects.  This usually amounts to about 0.6% of
construction costs.

Of course the best way to determine structural design fees or any fees
for that matter is based on past experience for similar projects.

-----Original Message-----
From: Bill Coburn [mailto:bauengrg(--nospam--at)]
Sent: Monday, November 02, 1998 12:03 PM
To: seaint(--nospam--at)
Subject: Design fee guidelines

We are attempting to find design fee guidelines with fees determined as
a percentage of the construction costs, as designers, construction
manager and/or design/build.  Obviously a  percentage on a parking
structure would be higher than an residential or commercial structure.
Can anyone suggest a source for this type of information?  Naturally
these percentages could not be project specific and will be used as a
guideline/starting point only.
We would also be grateful to anyone who could provide information based
on past projects they have been involved with, i.e., cost for services
vs. cost of construction.  I can be reached directly at Bill(--nospam--at)
or Dan(--nospam--at)

Thanks in advance.