An Architect and His Tools

Tools2“What are these plastic triangles, and why do you have so many?” I asked my boss one-day while cleaning out a filing cabinet. He said they were 45° or 30°/60° triangles used for drawing. I immediately flashed back to my high school geometry class – yuck! But seeing those rulers got me thinking… what other special tools do architects use? I found a blog by Bob Borson to get some more information on the topic.

The first thing on Borson’s list: A big ass desk. “While you don’t need to have a big desk, it sure helps,” he writes. Here at Architect Larry LaDelfa, we definitely have big desks – actually we have 3 big desks, and a couple small ones up in the loft. Space to work is essential, in any profession, but especially in architecture. Most days my desk is clean. But on filing days, the surface is lost in a sea of papers and file folders. Larry’s desk is usually in disarray – project drawings, invoices, check books, and pens/tools scattered here and there. But hey, he is an architect! And a very busy architect at that, so he can have a messy desk. He hired me to help clean, organize, and file – so lately the office has been looking spick and span!

Number 2 on Borson’s list is tracing paper. “At any given moment in time, I have 10+ rolls of tracing paper in my office,” he writes. “I use this semi-transparent paper daily and can’t imagine doing my job without having some on hand.” I also found a roll of this tracing paper this morning while cleaning out a filing cabinet. It was my first time seeing it in the office – but I knew what it was right away. Larry does not use this much, at least not that I have noticed. All of the drawing is done on the computer through web design! He got nostalgic on me after I showed it to him, pointing out the unused desk and the bar that held the paper in place. I could tell from the dust that it hadn’t been used in a while. Apparently the paper has several nicknames: onionskin, bumwad and trash paper, to name a few.

Next up: architectural and engineering scales. An architect’s scale is a specialized ruler designed to facilitate the drafting and measuring of architectural drawings, such as floor plans. An engineering scale is used in making blue prints in a specific scale. It is commonly made of plastic and is just over 12 inches long, but with only 12 inches of markings, leaving the ends unmarked so that the first and last measuring ticks do not wear off. “I don’t need this many and I can’t really explain why I have so many other than they secretly get together at night and reproduce (architectural scale + engineering scale = metric scale… I think),” he writes. I have one of these on my desk. I thought it was just a fancy ruler… well I guess it kind of is just a fancy ruler. I love how many new things I learn on a daily basis here!

The next tool on Borson’s list is his camera – a Nikon D90. “I love my camera and use it all the time,” he writes. “I’m pretty sure that the partners in my firm consider it the office camera since it gets used to take most of our project photos.” Larry also has a camera, but it is currently at home. He loves photography so it goes home with him a lot.

What other tools could an architect possibly need? Well we aren’t even half way through the list yet, so obviously a lot more! Next up are the tape measure, clipboard and a Fluke 416D Distance Meter. “We measure a lot of houses in the course of doing our jobs – even if we get architectural plans of the project we are going to work on, we verify everything,” Borson writes. “Having an assortment of measuring devices on hand makes the job go a lot smoother.” I have noticed a collection of tape measurers laying around the office. I even got to help measure one day on site! Larry has a snazzy clipboard too – it’s made out of some fancy type of wood with his logo engraved into it. I have not seen a Fluke 416D Distance Meter yet… but maybe I just discovered the perfect Christmas gift for Larry! Thanks Bob!

Up next are Architectural Reference Manuals. “Possibly the most boring thing on the list, but an important part of the process,” he writes. “Between code books, City requirement development code books, framing manuals, flashing guideline (SMACNA) manuals, etc. – half of the books on the shelf in my office are technical in nature.” The back wall of our office could be mistaken as a library. Larry has been in this business for 39 years – and he has definitely accumulated a book/manual collection to prove it.

Now here is something I can totally understand – a Measure Master 5 Calculator. As I have stated before, I hate math – mostly because I am not good at math. “I use mine all the time to add up dimensions,” he writes. “I used to do that sort of thing in my head, but once I realized that making a simple addition or subtraction mistake could cost a lot of money to fix, I don’t do it anymore.” Larry also uses a calculator when adding up dimensions. It’s better to be safe than sorry!

We are finally half way through the list. I bet you didn’t think an architect needed so many tools! I didn’t either! The next item is pretty obvious – pens! “Architects are nothing if not particular about the pens they use… and I am no exception,” Borson writes. “With the exception of two duplicated, I use each sort of pen shown here for a specific purpose.” The photo shows 8 different types of pens/pencils. Only a week into working for an architect, I noticed that many architects use the Pilot Precise V5 Extra Fine pen (in black and red). That is the specific pen that is used in our office, and I see it in Borson’s photo as well.

Next up on the list is a smart phone. “This phone has changed how I go about doing my job and I am always amazed by architects I see who are proud as they announce that they don’t use a smart phone… and that makes you sort of a dumb-ass (pardon my language),” he writes, matter-of-factly. “It is a handy, convenient, and powerful tool.” I whole-heartedly agree with everything Borson writes. Having a smart phone is just a smart move in today’s business world. It is the equivalent to having a computer, in your back pocket. You can use it for marketing, social media, email, a calendar, a calculator… the list is endless!

The next one isn’t really a tool specifically used in architecture – but it is a common item you will see at an architecture firm – headphones. “When I was in a communal work space, headphones allowed everyone to find their own “zone” and get down to some serious production,” he writes. “I listen to a lot of music while I work, but I don’t actually hear it very often, it just becomes white noise.” I am the designated music player most days at the office. I put on Pandora first thing every morning, but keep it at a reasonable volume. Besides, my music selection is so awesome that headphones are not necessary around here.

The next architectural tool is tape dots (aka drafting dots). Drafting dots are self-adhesive and firmly hold drawings, fine art, and blueprints in place while you work. They are easy to dispense and repositionable, and come in a convenient pull-tab box. “What can I say… I love drafting dots,” he writes. “When I was in college and barely had enough money to buy an egg roll, I used a roll of masking tape to hold down my drawings. Now that I make enough money to eat all the egg rolls I want, I splurge and get drafting dots.” This is another item I have not seen at all in our office. But, again, all of the drawings are done on the computer, so these are not necessary (for our firm) anymore. I am intrigued by them, however, and hope to come across a box one day. The look like flimsy poker chips!

Up next is a cordless mouse. “If you work on the computer all day and you still have a cord attaching your mouse to your computer… well, to put it nicely – you are a caveman,” Borson exclaims. Hey – to each his own! Maybe some architects like to have the cord to save money in battery cost. Or maybe that is just what they like! Either way, one this is for sure: in today’s world of architecture, a mouse is a must!

Another useful tool for architects are magazines. “Getting to take a look at the work of others, new products, techniques, and technologies is a productive way to spend 30 minutes a day,” he writes. Larry has several magazine subscriptions. I agree with Borson – they are a great tool for inspiration and education too!

The last tools on the list are toys… wait, what? I will let Borson explain this one: “Lastly are the toys – things that serve no purpose than as diversion follies whose singular role is to keep your brain creatively locking up. In my office I have Lego’s, basswood fish, robotic bugs, etc., and etc., and Cubebot. Cubebot was a white elephant gift at the company Christmas party – except I bought it and Scott Taylor in my office ended up with it. I used to steal Cubebot and put him in “compromising” positions, but it drove Scott crazy so I went out and got my own.” I do not see any toys in this office, but Larry does have a large amount of art hanging on the walls.

After reading this blog post, Larry pulled out a clunky electronic, that looked like a mix between a hair dryer and a drill. It was an electric eraser! Arthur Dremel of Racine, Wisconsin invented the electric eraser in 1932. It uses a replaceable cylinder of eraser material held by a chuck driven on the axis of a motor. The speed of rotation allows less pressure to be used, which minimized paper damage.

Even as long as that list is, there are still more tools out there that every architect needs! And every person is unique, so they won’t always use the same tools. What tools do you use that Borson didn’t mention?

Paper Cuts and Carpal Tunnel

File_000I had no idea being an Executive Assistant for an Architect would be such a dangerous job. Okay, maybe it’s not dangerous – I am just accident-prone. But the past few weeks have been a whirlwind of paper cuts and carpal tunnel, brought on by excessive amounts of filing large, out-of-control drawing files (24” x 36” bounded stacks that can weigh up to 15 pounds) and hours of blogging and social media marketing. Have I mentioned how much paper work we save here? Oh, I have? Well, excuse me while I complain some more about my paper cuts and dig a little deeper into the reasoning behind an architect’s borderline hoarding tendencies…

Filing paperwork is a business standard. It’s smart to keep records of orders, invoices and correspondence. I totally get that, and architects are a prime example of excellent record keeping. My inner journalist wants some answers – are all of these documents/drawings a requirement for architects? Or is my boss just old school and super organized? Or maybe both? My carpal tunnel wrought fingers diligently type away and discover the website for The American Institute of Architects (AIA), which features a complete section dedicated to Contract Documents.

“The AIA publishes nearly 200 agreements and administrative forms that are recognized throughout the design and construction industry as the benchmark documents for managing transactions and relationships involved in construction projects.” No, that is not a type-o. Nearly 200 different documents can be used in the architectural process. “The AIA’s prominence in the field is based on 125 years of experience creating and updating its documents.” The organization dates back to 1888, the year they published the first Uniform Contract, designed for use between an owner and contractor. They published the first standardized general conditions for construction in 1911. They are on the sixteenth edition of those general conditions, published most recently in the year 2007 (A201™ –2007). Some of the original documents provided include: invitation to bid, instructions to bidders, form of proposal, form of agreement, form of bond (more on the subject at; and general conditions of the contract.

“AIA documents maintain a symbolic relationship with the industry, each profoundly influencing the other. The AIA regularly revises its documents to account for recent developments in the construction industry. Standardized documents for design-build, sustainable projects, for different types of construction management, and for international practice have been published in recent years.” Of course, these documents are just suggestions for the architect – they are not required to submit them. They are merely guidelines to help them be successful. “AIA documents are intended for nationwide use and are not drafted to conform to the law of any one state. With that caveat, however, AIA documents provide a solid basis of contract provisions that are enforceable under the existing law at the time of publication.”

Another section of the AIA website provides information on how long you should keep project files: “From a legal standpoint, a primary reason to keep your records is to protect against risk of liability. Some state licensing regulations also may require that you keep project files for a certain number of years. In addition to complying with the applicable state regulations, you should keep project files for the number of years during which claims can be filed for damage on building projects. The state statutes of repose and statutes of limitation, which vary from state to state, describe that specific length of time. If any of your work was done out of state, the other state’s laws should be taken into account.”

According to Florida Construction Law Update, “In Florida, construction defect lawsuits typically must be filed within four (4) years from the latest of the following scenarios: the date of actual possession by the owner, the date of the issuance of a certificate of occupancy, the date of abandonment of construction if not completed, or the date of completion or termination of the contract between the professional engineer, registered architect, or licensed contractor and his or her employer (§ 95.11(3)(c), Fla. Stat.). If the action involves a latent defect, “the time runs from the time the defect is discovered or should have been discovered with the exercise of due diligence.” However, in an effort to avoid creating what seems like an unlimited statute of limitations for construction lawsuits involving latent defects, Florida’s Statute of Repose requires these construction law actions to be commenced no later than ten (10) years after the latest of the above-referenced scenarios.

Each new project we acquire immediately gets a set of folders to keep track of documentation: accounting, bidding, construction, correspondence, general and meeting minutes. Sometimes other folders are necessary (depending on the project) such as RFIs, CCCRs, and shop drawings. All of these folders contain important information relating to the project. I have learned that it is very important to keep these files handy because of questions from any party involved that may pop up.

I conclude that my boss is not showing signs of hoarding tendencies. He is only doing what is suggested to succeed in his field and by law! Eventually my dainty fingers will form callouses and get used to large amount of filing that is required in my position. For now, I might need to invest in a first aid kit – I don’t want to get blood on any important files!

10 Common Remodeling Mistakes (and Why You Need an Architect)

home improvementHow many people are guilty of bestowing themselves professionals of something they have watched extensively on television? I know I am – I watch Food Network all the time and tell people I am a Master Chef (obviously I am not even close to that). With so many television shows about home remodeling and renovation, there are scary amounts of people out there that think they can handle the daunting task on their own. Hey, I am not saying you can’t do it yourself! But, just in case, here are 10 of the biggest remodeling mistakes, with some helpful tips provided by David Baughman, Project Manager at BCK Custom Builders in Tucson, Ariz. (Read original article here).


Ignoring Safety Procedures: It is easy to ignore safety procedures when you are in the comfort of your own home, but it is really important to protect yourself. Wear safety goggles, don’t stand on the tops of ladders, and turn off the main breaker when fixing electrical problems – especially in situations where you are working alone.

“The biggest rule of thumb for any remodeling project is to make sure the job site is safe,” said Baughman. “Sounds obvious, but there are countless avoidable injuries from electrical lines being cut, because the breakers weren’t all shut off, or from structures falling in an unforeseen direction or area.”

Avoid injury by leaving some aspects of the work to professionals. An architect has a plethora of great contractors, plumbers and electricians in their address book. Take advantage of their endless connections. You can also take the help of
plumbwise to get your issues fixed without any injuries.

Using Cheap Materials: Ever heard the popular expression “You get what you pay for”? Well, it’s popular for a reason: it’s true, especially in the realm of renovation. There are so many tools and materials out there, it is hard to even know where to begin. If you are doing a renovation on your own, do your research. Go online and read reviews for different products.

If the thought of doing research makes you cringe, hire an architect. They already have an extensive knowledge on great products, and might even get good deals on certain items for being a frequent customer.


Blowing Your Budget: It is important to create a budget before beginning a renovation project. You definitely do not want to run out of money midway through and get stuck with a half-done kitchen or bathroom. Estimate all costs, even small things like nails and screws – then add more money on top. If you are remodeling your bathroom and getting a new toilet then check out this new toilet that works for every budget.

“Have 30% more money than the budget begins with and start off with a wish list and a ‘must-have’ list,” advised Baughman.

Architects can work within your budget. They can come up with the most cost effective way to create the look you want. They can track down the perfect contractor for you – all while you don’t lift a finger.


Going Sledgehammer Crazy: Isn’t it scary how the people on T.V. make everything look so easy? They make it seem like every renovation begins with the swing of a sledgehammer. This is not the best idea.

“Swinging away with sledge hammers, as seen on TV, is not always the best method for demolition,” warned Baughman. “Identify bearing points (columns, posts, and even some walls) before removing unwanted walls.”

When you hire an Architect, they can usually get copies of the original construction drawing of your home from the local Building Department. They are able to figure out which walls can come down, and which walls can’t (because they are load baring). An architect can create a floor plan for you to see before the sledgehammer comes out. Instead of thinking that your design will probably look good, an architect can show you what it will look like.


Inaccurate Measurements: I hate math. And there is nothing more frustrating then realizing you measured something incorrectly, and therefor have to start over. Keep in mind the popular phrase “Measure twice, cut once.” Even being a half an inch off the mark is enough to derail the best-laid plans.

Architects have to take several intense math courses before earning their degree. They are equipped with the necessary skills to make sure the job is done correctly, the first time.


Avoiding Contractors: Even if you’ve seen every episode of a remodeling shows on HGTV, that doesn’t make you an expert. There are plenty of real experts out there that will do all of the dirty work for you. Projects like installing a roof, hanging drywall, and rewiring electrical are very critical to the value of your home. That’s a lot of pressure that should be sealed with help of seamless gutters company.

I know that finding a reliable and trustworthy contractor can be a nerve-wracking thing to do – that’s why you should hire an architect. They will once again pull out their handy-dandy notebook of great contacts and connect you with the perfect person to do the job. As Baughman puts it in the article, “Be the bearer of money for remodeling, not the bearer of expertise.”


Declining A Home Inspection: When buying a home to renovate, you should always get a home inspection from a professional. There are numerous reasons, but Baughman provides an especially compelling one.

“The other rule of thumb vital for surviving a modification of any building — do not trust the builder who came before you,” he cautioned.  “Just because a building exists does not mean it is sound and will be capable of sustaining any modification.”

Once the remodel is complete, it is wise to bring the inspector back for another look around.

For locks inspections visit the Top Master Locksmith website.


Not Getting the Right Permits: This is a very important part of a home renovation. It may seem silly, but if your nosey neighbors report your construction, you could be asked to tear all of your hard work down, and start over with the proper permits. Not to mention that if an accident happens, your homeowner insurance won’t cover it without proof of a valid permit.

An architect can take this mundane task out of your hands. They are up-to-date on all of the permitting codes and criteria, so you don’t have to worry about all of that. Plus, they do this often and will probably have a faster turn around compared to an average Joe first timer.


Focusing on Aesthetics Only: When doing a home renovation, most homeowners have one thing on their mind – resale value. Baughman writes, “Upgrading the kitchen cabinets and installing a new tub in every bathroom is going to increase the value of the house, but if you don’t pay special attention to the things that really matter, like structural damage, electrical wires, and busted pipes, your investment could end up in the toilet.”

While of course architects are going to want the final result to look good, they also focus on the things that most homeowners would overlook.


Not Going Green: Everyone knows that the most popular trend in home improvement is “going green” – being environmentally friendly in as many ways as possible. When remodeling your home, take that movement into consideration. It isn’t hard going green these days, as resources and projects are available in all price ranges and can even be found in a local home improvement store. And the best part is that you can reap the benefits in the form of lower utility bills, a healthier, cleaner environment, and lower insurance premiums.

Going green may seem easy, but as soon as you realize the many different options you have, you may become overwhelmed. An experienced architect for home remodeling Tulsa, OK will be able to provide you with a list of their most recommended “green” products. All you have to do is decide which one you like best!


So please, put the hammer down and call an architect.

How Does FEMA’s 50% Rule Affect Home Renovations In Tampa Bay

By Grayson Silver

On December 31, 1974 the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) established specific guidelines, the National Flood Program (NFIP), pertaining to substantial improvements or damages to existing structures  whose lowest habitable floor does not meet or exceed the current Base Flood Elevation (BFE) specified on the Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM).  These guidelines are referred to as the 50% Rule or the Substantial Improvement/Damage Rule.

To put it in its simplest terms, any structure that is to be improved or has been damaged by any cause for which the renovations or repairs will cost 50% or more of the assessed building value, that structure must be elevated and brought into compliance with the existing FIRM.  This means if the lowest habitable level of your home is below the current Base Flood Elevation you must raise that level above the BFE or you may only complete renovations or repairs to your home for the cost of 50% of the structures assessed value (i.e. if your structure is worth $100,000 you may perform renovations not to exceed $50,000 in cost, but you also want to use all fancy equipment like the best MIG welder, right?).  It is recommended that anyone attempting to renovate their existing home, whether they are below the existing flood plain or not, contact a reputable architect to help guide them through the nuances of the process.  As we discussed in earlier post, if your renovation requires structural work or exceeds a particular value you or a contractor will be required to hire a design professional and have them sign and seal your construction documents.  Why have someone else’s architect when you can have your own. (see earlier post: “When Do I Need An Architect” & “What Comes First, The Contractor Or The Architect”)

In addition, many communities also implement additional “free-board” requirements.  For instance, St. Petersburg where our office is located, enforces a 1′-0″ free-board ruling. This means that an additional 12″ in elevation is required to meet the local municipality flood plain (i.e. if the FEMA flood plain is at elevation 10′-0″ the local flood plain elevation requirement will be 11′-0″)

This ruling is a potential cost that home owners and buyers need to be aware of in the Tampa Bay area as many of our existing structures fall below the current benchmark established by FEMA.  Here are a some of the frequently asked questions pertaining to the 50% Rule:

1 –    What is considered to be substantial improvement?

Substantial improvement is any reconstruction, rehabilitation, addition, or other improvement to a structure whose cost exceeds 50% of the market value of the structure before the start of construction of the improvement.

2 –    What is the market value of my home?

Market value is the assessed value or depreciated appraised value of the structure.  The City of St. Petersburg determines the market value by either adding 20% to the Pinellas County assessment for ad valorem taxation for the structure only or the home owner can provide an independent appraisal for the structure only, prepared and certified by a Florida licensed appraiser.  It is very important to note that the market value is assessed for the structure only and does not include the value of the land.  Many new home buyers who seek to renovate their newly acquired home are often surprised to learn that they can only renovate their home for a fraction of their perceived value. This refers to roofing services, too. Check at:

3 –    Are there any items that can be excluded from the cost of improvements?

Items such as plans, specifications, surveys, building permits, architectural fees, contractor profit & overhead are exempt.  Also improvements to the land such as; driveways, pools (note: keep in mind the best service for pool, pond, lake care – Commercial Lake Maintenance & Repair Company | Lake Management Inc), seawalls, etc. are not included in the 50% rule value.

4 –    Are substantial improvements cumulative?

Yes, depending on your municipality’s by laws.  In St. Petersburg, structures located within a special flood hazard area can be improved up to 50% of the structures value without becoming base flood elevation compliant cumulatively as long as the renovations do not happen concurrently.  In other words, you can complete a renovation to your home based on its current market value.  Once that renovation is complete, you can have an updated appraisal of the newly renovated structure performed and then begin a second renovation based on 50% of the new appraisal value.  Other municipalities may require a 12 month interlude between renovation projects.

5 –    How is the value of an improvement determined?

The City of St. Petersburg uses a form for additions and modifications specific to 50% Rule applications that must be completed and signed by the contractor or owner-builder.  This form includes copies of the construction contract and subcontractor bids.  Based on the answers and information provided, the city evaluates the cost of improvements to determine if they are fair and reasonable.

6 –    What is the Base Flood Elevation (BFE) and how do I determine my property’s BFE?

The BFE, which has been determined by FEMA, is informally referred to as the 100-year flood and is the national standard used by the NFIP and all federal agencies for the purpose of requiring the purchase of flood insurance.  Copies of FEMA certificates on all buildings within the City of St. Petersburg’s boundaries can be viewed at  Other municipalities BFE can be accessed by visiting the city in questions official web sites.

7 –    How do I find out the elevation of the lowest floor of my house?

In order to determine what elevation a structure was built at, you need an elevation certificate.  You can visit the City of St. Petersburg web site listed above to determine if there is an elevation certificate on record.  If there is no elevation certificate on record, you will need to contact a state registered land surveyor to provide an updated elevation certificate.

8 –    Why should the home owner suffer what seems to be a penalty for renovations?

Per the FEMA website ( “The underlying principal for counting extra cost associated with more expensive materials, labor, or design is the added real property that would be located in a special flood hazard area and that would be at risk to flood damage.  It should be noted that in some form, the Federal Government (the NFIP, FEMA, or various disaster assistance programs) would likely be obligated to pay a portion of or all future damage to these more expensive improvements.  In addition, structures located in a special flood hazard area that are not elevated to or above the BFE pose threats to the health and safety of the occupants of these structures.  Over time it is not only important to protect the property of the existing structures through substantial improvement, but also to protect the health and lives of the public citizens that occupy them.”

Each municipality has its own variance of FEMA’s 50% rule.  It is important for a home owner or home buyer to understand the requirements for improving your existing or newly acquired home.

Perspective home buyers should ask their realtors for additional information concerning any potential new home’s flood zone risk.  If a home is deemed to be below the BFE, they should ask for an assessed market value (which a ballpark figure can be deduced by adding 20% to the county’s assessment for ad valorem taxation for the structure only) and they should factor the potential cost or limitations of any new renovation when making a decision as important as their next home.

In this field of real estate investing, waterfront properties and special flood hazard areas, realtors, developers, contractors, and architects should work diligently together in order to provide the new or existing home owners with the best possible scenario for their investment.

Anyone with additional questions can feel free to contact the office of Architect Larry LaDelfa at 727-821-5779 or at  Please feel free to visit our website @ or download our eBrochure to view some of the projects completed by our office.

A.L.L. eBrochure



What Is The Cost Of Hiring An Architect

By Grayson Silver


There are many variables that affect architectural fees, most of which include building type and services to be provided. As an example, renovation/addition projects are typically more complex and time consuming then new construction, custom buildings or homes can require more detailing for specialized construction methods or product research, or projects with an undefined scope or budget may require up front feasibility studies, site analysis, and programming.  An architect must weigh each projects fee structure compared to the scope of work, design intent, and the owner’s expectations.


Architectural fees are a matter for negotiation. There are no set design fees but there are different methods for establishing compensation that make up the Basic Services fee. Basic Services are the services and responsibilities the Architect is to provide as described in the Client-Architect Agreement but do not include additional services or reimbursable expenses.  The most commonly used payment structures include:

  • Time Basis
  • Stipulated Sum
  • Percentage Basis
  • Combination Basis


Time Basis fees are calculated by multiplying the labor rate (including wages, benefits, overhead and profit) for designated personnel by the hours of service provided. This fee structure is suitable for the following:

  • Small projects
  • Projects where the scope of work is not well defined
  • Preliminary design phase
  • Construction phase services
  • Additional services
  • For projects expected to exceed several months, the Client and Architect should agree upon a time period for adjustment of the labor rates to account for increases in labor costs and overhead.


Stipulated Sum is a fixed price negotiated with the Client. To accurately calculate a stipulated sum fee the scope of work, and services to be provided, must be well defined prior to establishing the fixed fee. Under this compensation method if the parameters of the project, or the scope of services increases or decreases, the stipulated sum fee should be adjusted.


Percentage of the cost of the work fees are calculated by multiplying the actual or estimated cost of the work (construction cost) by the percentage fee rate agreed between the Client and Architect. When calculating the Architect’s Basic Services fee on a Percentage Basis it is important to clearly define the Cost of Construction.

The percentage will vary by firm, complexity of the project, and services provided but generally, for full architectural services, the fees range from 10% to 12.5% for new construction and up to 15% for remodels and additions.

As with Stipulated Sum contracts, the Percentage Basis method is suitable for projects with clearly defined programs and services to be provided.


The Combination Basis is a combination of the Time Basis and either the Stipulated Sum or the Percentage Basis methods. Frequently, under this method, the Time Basis is used for the design phase and sometimes the construction administration phase, while the Stipulated Sum or Percentage Basis are used for the construction documents phase.

There are several reasons that justify the use of the Time Basis method for the design phase. The program, which serves as the basis for making most design decisions, may not be clearly defined or fully developed. Authorities with jurisdiction over the design of the project, such as homeowner associations or planning department design committees, do not always have clearly defined guidelines and may require several iterations of possibilities. Some clients are not as readily available or able to make prompt decisions and require more guidance and meetings throughout the design phase.

Once the design is established the scope of work is well defined and the construction documents could then be compensated on a Stipulated Sum or Percentage Basis.

The construction administration phase of the project is often compensated using the Time Basis method. The Architect may provide many different services during the construction phase and the Time Basis method gives the Client the flexibility to use the Architect’s services and oversight of the work at the Client’s discretion. This also protects the Architect from contractors that do not perform to the expected level of competence, which can place additional time demands on the Architect.

Caution! If compensating construction phase services on a Time Basis method it is important that the Architect provide complete, accurate and well-coordinated construction documents. Otherwise, the Client may be paying for work that should have been included as part of the Construction Documents phase compensation.


In addition to the Basic Services fee the architect incurs out-of-pocket expenses, in the interest of the project, and on behalf of the Client. These expenses typically include but are not limited to:

  • Cost of reproductions
  • Transportation, lodging and meal expenses in connection with out of town travel authorized in advance by the Client
  • Long distance communications
  • Postage, courier service and shipping expenses.
  • Renderings and models
  • Fees paid for securing approvals from authorities having jurisdiction over the project
  • Overtime services authorized in advance by the Client


To help the Client plan for the financial requirements of the project the Architect should provide a payment schedule. When using Stipulated Sum or Percentage Basis fee methods the following guideline of fee distribution ranges can be used to break down the total fee into portions of phases of services:

  • Schematic Design 10 – 15%
  • Design Development 15 – 20%
  • Construction Documents 40 – 45%
  • Bidding / Negotiation   2 – 5%
  • Construction Phase Services 25 – 30%


Not all firms provide the same services, or even the same level of services, as part of their Basic Services fee. Therefore, it is important, in order to compare “apples to apples,” to obtain an itemized proposal that clearly identifies the services and responsibilities of the Architect. The proposal should clarify whether the following services are included or not:

• Does the fee include normal structural engineering services? Special foundation design necessitated by soil conditions may be an Additional Service.

• Does the fee include normal mechanical engineering services? Some Architects will leave this to the contractor to provide as a design-build item.

• Where required by code, does the fee include energy calculations?

• Does the fee include power and lighting design? Some Architects will leave this to an electrical engineer, lighting designer or interior designer.

• Does the fee include the selection of all interior finishes and fixtures including flooring, wall finishes, tile, paints and stains, cabinets and cabinet hardware, millwork, doors and door hardware, appliances, plumber job fixtures, bathroom accessories, countertops, lighting fixtures and devices. Often these materials and fixtures are selected by an interior designer, or the Client in a few cases, and are not part of the Architect’s Basic Services fee.

• Does the fee include bidding and contractor selection services?

• Does the fee include contract administration (construction phase) services? If so, which construction administration services will be provided? These services may include attending regular field meetings with the contractor, preparing progress reports, monitoring the progress of the work for compliance with the contract documents, review and processing the contractor’s applications for payment, responding to requests for information, interpretation of contract documents, review of shop drawings, review of product data/samples, review and processing of change orders, client consultations, punch-list walkthroughs at end of project, substantial completion report and certification.

• Surveys, soils investigation reports, geologic studies, special site studies, special testing/inspections and landscape architecture services are typically not provided by the Architect and should be supplied by the Client at the Client’s expense.


Architectural fees represent a very small percentage of the overall cost of a project and should not be the primary criteria for selecting an Architect. The best Architect for most projects is the one that has the best balance of design ability, technical competence, professional service and cost. A Client will realize the greatest savings by selecting an Architect that can design an efficient structure that meets the program requirements, and produces a good set of construction documents that contain the information required to build it efficiently. Inefficiencies in the construction of the project will cost a Client several times what he/she may have saved in design fees. Inadequate construction documents and services will leave a Client vulnerable to construction change orders and delays in construction.

Anyone seeking additional information about architectural fee structures in the Tampa Bay area can feel free to contact the office of Architect Larry LaDelfa @ 727-821-5779 or @

Please feel free to visit our website, or download our eBrochure below.


What Comes First, The Contractor or The Architect?

By Grayson Silver

The classic question; which came first, the chicken or the egg.  Well, when it comes to construction projects you may be asking yourself a similar question.  Who do I hire or speak to first, the contractor or the architect?

In most cases, the average consumer will contact the contractor first.  This can be attributed to the fact that most consumers do not realize that an architect will be required (depending on your municipality) as the professional of record for their project.  As we have discussed before, the Tampa Bay area requires an architect’s seal of approval on any project that requires structural components.  In many cases, an architect is required for any project whose cost is greater then $25,000.  As a result of not realizing their project requires an architect’s expertise, most consumers assume they are doing right by contacting a contractor first.

Often the contractor who is contacted or selected fails to inform the consumer that an architect’s seal of approval will be required.  Instead, the contractor elects to hire an architect of his/her choice in an effort to control the extent of the design or manner in which it will be constructed.  Many times a draftsman is hired to complete an elementary set of construction documents with the bare minimum of structural details which in return are signed off by a structural engineer.

Here is the reason that this approach is a bad idea for the consumer.

The alternative of hiring an architect first allows the consumer to truly vet a pool of qualified contractors and get the best construction cost of their project.  Heres how it is suppose to work:

1.   Hire an architect that will provide you with a detailed outline of the projects program. During this process, you will have the opportunity to express the size, concepts, needs, and budgets of the project.  A trained professional will be able to guide you through the endless possibilities of how to approach your individual goals.

2.  The architect will work with the client on an intimate level and provide multiple design concepts for the consumer’s review and approval.  There is no my way or the highway budget constraints that an individual contractor may impose on the client.  Throughout the design process, the architect should keep the client informed of budgetary concerns and the group as a whole will make decisions concerning budget vs. design.

3.  An architect is going to be required to develop the construction documents no matter who the consumer contacts first, so why would you want the contractor’s approved architect when you can have your own.  In this respect, your needs are placed ahead of the contractor’s.  A set of construction documents based on your design goals are completed independent of a singular contractor’s opinion.

4.   A good architect will offer his/her clients the option of providing interior design elements.  These elements will be introduced to the construction documents so that every contractor that bids the project will know exactly what is required of the project.  This protects the consumer when bids are requested because each contractor will be expected to bid the same finishes & the same construction technique.  We call it bidding apples to apples.

5.   In the end, the architect will invite as many contractors to bid the project as requested by the client.  Instead of a group of contractors meeting the clients and giving multiple quotes that are not based on a final set of drawings, the clients can be assured that each contractor is providing a fair estimate based on a level playing field.  What often happens is that, without a set of construction documents to base their bids on, a contractor under bids the project at the start and increases the price throughout construction because the client is making “decisions that were not part of the contractor’s vision at the initial client contractor meeting.”  This will not happen with a set of construction documents already in hand.

6.   Finally, when a consumer hires the architect first, they have an advocate on their side.  An architect’s job should not be complete after the construction documents are completed.  A good architect will provide on site inspections throughout construction and will review finish selections to determine that the consumer is indeed receiving the quality of products they have selected.  This is another reason why many contractors would prefer to select their own architect, they want the documents and they want to be left alone to do as they please.

In the end, if you know you are required to hire an architect, you might as well hire one you like and trust.  You should receive multiple construction bids from multiple contractors all based on a singular design and construction method.  You should always have a professional advocate on your side.  After all, the cost of constructing a new home, business, or public works is one of the largest investments you will make.  There is no municipality, no school district, no dioceses, or large corporation that will hire a contractor without soliciting multiple bids from multiple contractors based on a defined scope of work and construction documents because they know the value of competition.  Shouldn’t your project be as important to you.



When Do I Need An Architect?

By Grayson Silver

This is a question asked by just about every consumer that is not regularly involved in construction practices.  While each municipality has different requirements, for the purposes of this blog, we will be focusing on the regulations that govern construction in the Pinellas County, Florida area.

The answer is pretty simple, whether you are preparing to embark on a residential or commercial project, the Building Department will require that a licensed architect or structural engineer sign and seal construction documents on any new structure, addition to an existing structure, or interior renovation that involves any alterations to load bearing walls.  In short, if your project requires the evaluation of or modification to any structural elements of a building or dwelling you will be required to hire an architect or structural engineer.

While residential interior “redecorating” does not require an architect’s seal so long as structural modifications are not required, commercial interiors do require an architect’s involvement and seal unless the interior renovation does not (a) require structural modifications and (b) the value of the interior renovation is less than $25K.  The commercial projects have a greater responsibility because these buildings serve the general public and thus must meet additional requirements such as ADA Compliance, a stricter Life Safety Compliance, and depending on the value or amount of the interior renovations that are taking place additional site requirements may be applicable.