Wondering how much architects charge in Kenya? Or perhaps, how much architects in Kenya earn per project?
By law (Cap 525: Architects and Quantity Surveyors Act), architects in Kenya are expected to charge a minimum of 6% of the total construction costs. And that’s not all. In some projects, the minimum rate goes up to 10% of the total cost of construction. Plus, as a client, you’ll be required to further cater for the 16% VAT.
On the flip side, though, some building developers argue that such fee rates are a bit exorbitant, and that Kenyan architects are unreasonably expensive. They feel that a 6% architectural fee for “just a house design” is extremely steep for the Kenyan market.
As a matter of fact, even the former president of Kenya Mwai Kibaki, at one point, went on record stating that construction professionals in the country are charging prohibitive fees. He reportedly challenged them to quit frustrating project implementation through their inflated, unrealistic fees.
Think he had a point?
What Kenyan Architects Think
Well, as you’ve probably guessed already, architectural firms in Kenya see things differently from their end. They maintain that the Cap 525 fee schedule is pretty fair to both professionals and building developers, especially when you consider the scale of services involved.
Ok, that seems like an understandable counter-argument.
But then again, what exactly are these “services” that are rendered by Kenyan architects? And, most importantly, are they really worth the cost?
Now, here’s the thing. While we admit that Integrum has its team of architects, we’ll play the devil’s advocate on this occasion.
We’re revealing the official schedule of fees for architects in Kenya, as well as the corresponding set of services you should expect in return. So, by the end of it, you should be able to draw an informed conclusion on the architect costs debate.
(Otherwise, check out this article to compare the roles of architects with construction project managers.)
Architects Charges in Kenya – The Complete Schedule of Professional Fees
Charges for Standard Architectural Design Services
When it comes to standard architectural design services, Kenyan architects across all counties (including architects in Nairobi and architects in Mombasa) typically charge the following rates:
- Designing a New Building: At least 6% of the total construction costs plus VAT.
- Renovating an Existing Building: At least 10% of the cumulative costs of the renovation works plus VAT.
Make no mistake though. “Architectural design” in this case doesn’t refer to just the act of drawing building plans. Rather, it’s a multi-stage process with different outputs at each progressive level.
The fee schedule for architects in Kenya is even courteous enough to distribute the total amount between the stages. That means that while you can go ahead and pay in one lump sum, it’s also acceptable to pay your architect in installments as the works progress.
Here’s a breakdown of all the details:
Standard Architectural Design Services – What You Get In Return
1. Project Inception (Typically Free of Charge)
This is the part where you consult a registered architect on your upcoming construction project. The architect subsequently analyzes your requirements and advises on the best possible approaches. (Discover the basics of feasibility studies here)
2. Outline Proposals (1% or 1.35%)
This is where you finally start working on the proposed construction project. Your architect helps you develop a detailed design brief, and then proceeds to come up with a relevant design concept.
At this point, you should expect a presentation on the direction your project will take, along with the accompanying cost estimates. You can think of the output as the overall master plan of your construction project.
And for that, the fee for new buildings is 1% of the total construction costs, while renovations will cost you 1.35%.
3. Scheme Design (1.5% or 2.25%)
Once you approve the outline proposals, the architect liaises with other design professionals (your structural engineer, quantity surveyor, etc) and develops small-scale designs of everything. (Find out how much the rest of the design professionals charge here)
You should get dimensioned drawings of your floor plans, elevations, sections, roof plans, and site plans. These are then submitted to all the local authorities for assessment and approval.
That’ll cost you 1.5% of the total construction costs for new buildings, while renovation scheme designs are charged 2.25%.
And why is that?
Well, the thing is, scheme designs only provide a small-scale layout of the buildings and spaces, plus their respective dimensions.
So, the most your contractor can do here is using the blueprints to get a good idea of their scope of work. Otherwise, proceeding to construct with the scheme designs would be risking potentially costly mistakes.
Now, to avoid that, your contractor will need large scale drawings of all the elements and fittings, as well as a detailed schedule of the proposed finishes and materials.
4. Detailed Working Drawings (2.5% or 3.75%)
This is the stage where architects in Kenya really go to town on their projects.
While local authorities are reviewing the submitted small-scale building plans, your architectural firm will work on all the large scale drawings required to actualize the project.
These, in other words, are known as project working drawings or contract drawings. They include:
- Large scale drawings of your scheme design.
- Detailed foundation plans.
- Detailed floor plans.
- Detailed section diagrams.
- Detailed elevation diagrams.
- Roof framing plans.
- Plumbing plans.
- Construction specifications (descriptions of the work, materials, and products).
- Window schedule (drawings and descriptions of the materials and dimensions of all the windows plus the corresponding window openings).
- Door schedule (drawings and descriptions of the materials and dimensions of all the doors, plus the corresponding door openings).
- Schedule of finishes (drawings and descriptions of all the interior and exterior finishes in your proposed building)
- Architectural details (large scale graphical representation of the unique elements in your proposed building. This helps the contractor figure out exactly where and how best to build them).
All these drawings will cost you at least 2.5% of the total construction costs. And if you happen to be renovating an existing building, expect to pay a minimum of 3.75% of the cost of the renovation works.
Your obligations won’t end there though. As the architect works on your project’s contract drawings, the rest of the design consultants should be busy on their ends too, producing the following complementary working drawings.
- Quantity Surveyor: The project QS at this point should analyze all the elements and dimensions in your proposed building, then subsequently generate a detailed bill of quantities.
- Structural Engineer: Working drawings from your structural engineer should include; plans, sections, and elevations of the structural layout; reinforcement drawings detailing the reinforcement bars and materials in the foundation, slabs, columns, beams, and roof; the construction details of the column bases, pile caps, beams, concrete box culverts, and expansion joints; plus schedules of the columns and beams.
- Mechanical Engineer: Your mechanical engineer should provide detailed diagrams of your plumbing layout, drainage layout, ducts, plus ventilation and air conditioning systems.
- Electrical Engineer: Working drawings from the electrical engineer should provide explicit technical details of the building’s electrical circuit and power points.
Combined, working drawings from the architect and the rest of the design consultants are intended to guide your contractors and subcontractors through the entire process of construction. If you proceed without them, your contractor will be left to guess most of the specifications, and you can forget about holding them liable for their works.
So, in short, you could say that working drawings are undoubtedly the most important bit of your building design process.
5. Works Supervision (1.5% or 3%)
At this stage, the design process should be complete. Your project manager subsequently compiles all the architectural drawings, structural drawings, MEP drawings, plus the bills of quantities, and then proceeds to select the best-qualified contractors after due tendering and evaluation.
With that done, you can begin the actual construction of the building. The project manager will coordinate the project schedule, control building costs, follow up on the contract obligations, regularly evaluate progress and quality, plus prepare the necessary project reports.
Meanwhile, the architect is expected to supervise the construction works from time to time, as well as provide design clarifications along with other design consultants.
What’s more, your architect will liaise with the project manager and quantity surveyor to review your project’s progress each time the contractor raises a payment request.
By the time the project is complete, these architectural services will cost you an additional 1.5% of the total construction costs. Then in the case of renovations, expect to pay at least 3% of the overall building costs.
Final Verdict – Are Architects in Kenya Worth the Money?
Now, after exploring the standard architectural services in detail, do you think 6% is a fair rate? Are architects in Kenya really worth the money?
I don’t know your thoughts, but I’ll tell you this- you always get what you pay for. That much is indisputable.
If you choose to “save costs” by working with a quack who charges much less, you can expect services of the same proportion in value. They’ll probably copy-paste scheme designs from the web, and then submit the blueprints without their accompanying working drawings.
So, in the end, your contractor and fundis will pretty much be shooting in the dark.
Now that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you ultimately end up with a poorly-implemented project, and possibly even exceeding your budget by so much more than you had initially tried to save through the shortcuts. (Read about the 5 Early Warning Signs of a Failing Construction Project)
And with that, we leave the choice to you.