Architects Michael Menn and Andy Poticha of Design + Construction Concepts, Northbrook, Ill., started their remodeling firm in order to do design/build. They figured clients would be willing to pay more for an architect-led design team. Sounds simple enough, but that didn't overcome the problem that clients often have when it comes to paying for design services. Menn and Poticha charge 9% of project cost, a fee that puts them in the middle of the range of what Chicago area architects charge for design services, which is anywhere from 7% to 16% of cost. Still, prospective clients sometimes balk when they figure out that design fees on a $300,000 project will equal $27,000.

Michael Menn (left) and Andy Poticha recently instituted an option for clients to pay 2% of project cost to receive a feasibility study. If clients continue, they pay 9% for design drawings.
Photo: Courtesy of D+CC Michael Menn (left) and Andy Poticha recently instituted an option for clients to pay 2% of project cost to receive a feasibility study. If clients continue, they pay 9% for design drawings.

"It's still hard for people to accept the idea of design/build," Menn says.

Last year the company began offering an alternative. For 2% of project cost, D+CC will do a feasibility study, as opposed to a complete set of design drawings. At the initial meeting, clients are provided with a ballpark cost. If they agree, the remodeling company will proceed with a zoning analysis, a detailed project description, a single design sketch based on measurements and photographs, and a construction budget.

"If they do go ahead, we charge 9% on top of that for a complete set of structure drawings, including three or four preliminary designs. We spec everything out and we do the technical drawings required in this state," Menn says.

So far the company has built four projects this way. "They don't want to bite off that 9% up front," Menn says. "But at 2% they can see whether or not it's worthwhile to go ahead."