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AnneY

Rebuilding ? Architect Vs Builder Vs Designer

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We purchased an old semi-d in east coast early this year. Just before we purchased the house, I came across this forum and have benefited from all the information on rebuilding, and also got some contacts from other postings. One of the first difficult decision in A&A/reconstruction/erection of landed property is to whether to go with an architect, designer OR builder, and which one?? I like to share my experience about the pros and cons of the different approaches :

1. Interior Designer

Met 3-4 interior designers who have experience fronting and managing A&A projects. Fees range between 12-28K for the designer, and some times another 8-12K for engineers and/or architect’s fee to ‘sign-off’.

The ID is usually strong on the interiors, placing more emphasis on overall creative concept, color scheme, furniture etc. They will present 3D drawings, “mood board”, selection of materials, curtains, lighting etc well in advance.

From the photos and feedback I had from friends, some of the projects turn out quite well. However ID firms usually do A&A projects only due to lack of construction expertise or financial strength. Some ID call themselves “Design & Build” i.e you have to use their selected contractor. I feel that this approach is riskier. You usually pay in advance (30% the moment you sign up) and there is no architect/QS for check that the work is properly done.

This is a good option if (a) you find an experienced ID, (b) the A&A work is not complex, and © you care more about design & aesthetics – you want more “designer touches” in your house. Another advantage is generally the interior designer is more flexible on hours (work outside office hours) and can spend more time in discussions with you compared to an architect. One of the designer I met was great in communications/follow up. Another had a modern/minimalist design style which we liked.

A big disadvantage is the payment schedule: usually the fees and billing are “in advance” (eg 30% when you sign up) and hence you bear more risk. I also understand that suppliers (of tiles, marble, sanitary, etc) usually pay a “rebate” or “commission” to the interior designers if their clients make purchases – this means the prices you pay for material and fittings will not be the best prices when you shop with your interior designer.

2. Builder

I understand some people select the builder first, and the builder will get the PE and provide a quotation. I spoke to a builder who did very good work for my friend’s A&A project and he referred me to his usual PE firm to come up with the design for submission. The PE quoted about 22K, and 30% upon signing.

3. Architect

Architect fees range upward of 30K (may be 40-70K is typical for terrace/semi-d) if you appoint the architect directly. In addition, there will be separate PE fees (12K) and usually a QS (quantity surveyor) will also be appointed. The architect is a licensed professional and usually will run a formal tender process to select the builder. The contract signed with the builder will be the standard one recommended by the Singapore Institute of Architect.

It is worthwhile to mention that I actually talked to 2 guys who claims to be “architects” but I found they are NOT architects. There are firms who provide architectural services – these 2 people are very experienced individuals who have designed and managed many projects – but they do the work but get someone (an architect) to “sign-off”. If you engage this type of firms (usually called XX Design or XX Planners & Design), the “architect” fees are lower (10-20K) and some of the forum-ers have reported good experience as well.

An architect's name/firm must be found in the Board of Architects website directory http://www.boa.gov.sg/register.html . Do a check so you know.

In the end we went with the Architect approach and so far we feel it’s the right decision because

a. The tender process is transparent – we have five tender quotes. The difference between the lowest and highest is almost 500K!

b. The architect knows the good quality construction firms he worked with in the past and has leverage – the construction firms want to have future projects with him. The builder we selected (lowest quote) has been very good so far – very professional, very experienced project manager, good communications by phone/email, progress reports, proper documentation etc

c. The payment schedule – although the Architect approach is most expensive, the payment schedule is most favorable . Our architect did not invoice us the first progress payment till he completed the submission to URA and launch the tender. For the builder, we are billed monthly for the work they have COMPLETED (as certified by architect/QS). We have not been billed by the professional engineer!

d. In the tender approach, there is a performance bond (10% of contract sum) and $500 liquidated damages per day if project is not completed by agreed date (6 months for me). We don’t have to “chase” the builder and have peace of mind.

e. Our project has some complexities: an old retaining wall at the back which needs to be moved by 2m. A sewer line also runs at the back of the house and a sewer trench is needed. After the demolition, we found additional columns and columns not in position shown on old plans.

f. Our architect has good contacts to tiles, marble, sanitary, aircon, appliances suppliers – and these suppliers provided higher than usual discounts because architects do not take “rebate” from them.

There are of course disadvantages in working with an architect. Besides this approach being more expensive (more professional fees) and the longer tender process, the main issue for us is the architect works office hours, mon-fri only and it sometimes difficult to get a meeting with him. He needs to be “chased” in periods when he is busy. Reconstruction of a single house is a small project for an architect and sometimes accorded less priority. The interior design portion is more ad-hoc, and we did not have any 3D drawings to help visualize the interior layout plan. He accompanied us to shop for flooring materials only so far, although he recommended places for us to shop for the other items. Overall however, his experience in dealing with technical issues (no major delays in getting approvals), his guidance in selecting & managing the builder and the sia contract terms are important things we will not forego.

Edited by AnneY
 

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Nice.

Great info for the rest.

Although I was blur blur at first, but I knew I wanted a builder from the very start.

Did invite two ID companies to view and quote, but as expected... they have the highest quote and the least building knowledge (save for the interior stuffs).

No money to engage architect and do re-con or rebuild. So not fated to that option.

This Wednesday will be Demolition Day for my A&A... Huat ahhh!!!!

Cheers,

Ken

 

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Yes, our current builder is very experienced so if I had known them before, I guess I would consider engaging them directly if I know exactly what i wanted to do and if it is not complex. Although $40K for architect is a lot of $$, but I observed actually it is quite a lot of work for the architect so far. He met us weekly in the "design phase", and we are meeting fortnightly after construction starts. The architect did the full specifications (thick book & drawings) and managed the tender. Besides progress meetings, he has to attend to technical issues separately with the builder and engineer, and ad-hoc meetings on selecting finishes and interior.

 

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Yes, our current builder is very experienced so if I had known them before, I guess I would consider engaging them directly if I know exactly what i wanted to do and if it is not complex. Although $40K for architect is a lot of $$, but I observed actually it is quite a lot of work for the architect so far. He met us weekly in the "design phase", and we are meeting fortnightly after construction starts. The architect did the full specifications (thick book & drawings) and managed the tender. Besides progress meetings, he has to attend to technical issues separately with the builder and engineer, and ad-hoc meetings on selecting finishes and interior.

Hi AnneY,

I have just bought a 2000 sqf landed and have gotten a childhood friend who is an architect to come up woth the design and the full spec. I was advised that a tender is more expensive than a design and build process whereby he will come up with a design and we get contractors to quote on that basis. Any thoughts on this?

Also, may i have the name of your builder?

 

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hi all, may i know if there is any industry practice to hold back a certain % of payment to builder, architect and designer after the project is completed? and what's the % and how long are we entitled to withhold payment?

 

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hi all, may i know if there is any industry practice to hold back a certain % of payment to builder, architect and designer after the project is completed? and what's the % and how long are we entitled to withhold payment?

There is a defect liability period usually for a year. Some people hold back 5% of the contract value for 1 year. I didn't do that. I paid my contractor in full when the job is completed.

 

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Hi AnneY,

I have just bought a 2000 sqf landed and have gotten a childhood friend who is an architect to come up woth the design and the full spec. I was advised that a tender is more expensive than a design and build process whereby he will come up with a design and we get contractors to quote on that basis. Any thoughts on this?

Also, may i have the name of your builder?

Hi siaw8, if you are referring to the contract sum, I am not sure why a tender might result in more expensive quotes. The professional fees (Architect, QS) might be higher and it will take a few weeks longer. The performance bond cost $2K in my case (contract sum ~600K). My architect and another architect i spoke to (HYLA) both use the tender process. Also pay attention to the payment schedule in a design & buid contract.

 

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Forgot to mention that i was told the following affects the quotes you get from a builder:

a. Does he have a lot of jobs now? If not, he will be pricing lower as he has available workers. So timing places a BIG part.

b. Some builders price higher (put in more buffer) if they sense that you are a demanding customer. If they feel that they can work with you, you are reasonable, they will price will more reasonably.

c. Builders price in "risk" of a project - are there areas where possible delays or issues will happen? That depends on the scope of work, and things like is your plot on a slope, is your house is on a main road, your neighbour's property etc

d. Sometimes if an familiar architect or designer is in charge of the project, the builder will price lower as he knows the architect or ID will manage the customer communications.

As for my builder, my project is <15% done, i have not seen the finished quality so i hesitate to recommend. For builders, you can check up on the BCA Directory of Registered builders.

Edited by AnneY
 

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thank you so much.

unfortunately, all I contacted with till now are not registed architect , but they all asked me above 40k arch fee not included PE fee.Is this normal?

If you are looking to use the services of the architect and then tender out the rest of the works to contractors in building your house, you could contact an architect directly. There are really plenty of practising architects around.

On fees, I think the architect will not be helpful towards you if your fees are low. They would probably not be able to devote too much time to help you as they would need to chase for other businesses. There is one forumer who used the architect route and paid close to about $100K for the fees. Hence, in comparison the fee of $40K is quite modest. You will need to provide more details of your house so as to better assess if the fee quoted is reasonable. To pay $40K fees to an architect to design a very luxurious good class big bungalow is cheap compared to a little terrace house.

 

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thanks for your reply.

I read a lot from you, but when I DIY , I :bangwall:

I'm going to rebuild a two and half semi-d 4500ft built-in with simple design and modest quality.I prefer arch & tender mode as I don't know any friend with construction experience. I have three quotations from practising architects that it will be 80k-10k needed till BCA approval including PE,QS, is it reasonable ?

One of the practising architects asked 6% of the construction fee, I'd rather pay 8% to a REAL architect. Because of the limited budget, I'd like a responsible architect who accept flat rate not exceeding 70k, is it possible ?can you recommend me some ?

thanks.

Sure, I can recommend you an architect. There are a lot of architects around. You can review whether the architect is good based on your call.

If you are on budget and you don't need very fanciful design and very high quality construction, you may want to re-consider getting a builder.

 

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