LA Fees

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    I’m looking for industry standards used to establish:


    +Landscape Architectural fess as a percentage of the overall A&E fees for any given project.


    For example if a lead Architect receives a contract to design a new school project…what percentage are his total A&E fees for the design of the project?….let’s say for example purposes he receives a fee that is pegged to a maximum allowable percentage of 8% of the overall construction budget….what portion of that fee is standard for the Landscape Architectural services?


    My second question to the group is: 


    +What percentage of the overall construction budget should be set aside for the landscape related components…planting, irrigation, exterior hardscapes, etc.


    If anyone has some standard…even rules of thumb…or cited requirements for these I’d appreciate it.


    It seems that these percentages may be in flux after the recession.  Is that a potential industry wide change?  Are our professional fees eroding or is it the hyper-competitive nature of the recession?


    I’d appreciate your comments.


    Thank You,


    Fred Ogram, ASLA, RLA

    Principal, Landscape Architect

    Abbotswood Design Group


    Thomas J. Johnson

    I’m a rookie and know nothing but from what I’ve read 8% is standard for public projects. If the project is $10m and there is $1m budgeted for landscape you’ll get an $80K design fee. Meanwhile, the architect would be getting 8% of $10m or $800k… I’m not a RLA or a principal, so I would defer to your expertise…

    I really like your work by the way. Very realistic water features and that skate park looks like a lot of fun! Need any help with this school project?



    Hey Fred,

    My experience has been 8-10% of the construction budget is typical for soft-costs (Design).  But that is for all disciplines combined, of which Architecture and Civil seem to warrant the most labor/time.  I have found that Landscape Architecture fees on municipal projects (except when LA’s are the Prime Consultant) are still relatively low due to limited scope(s).  

    A few years ago, in Southern Nevada, I was preparing Planting and Irrigation CD’s for high schools for around $12-15K.  The profit was very high because of the boiler plate nature of the projects, and that kept the fees down too.  I believe the time costs were around 80hours, total.

    On a landscape budget, I’ve always heard of allocating 10% of the improvement costs to landscape (soft scape).  But rarely did/do I see that happen …except on rare occasions.  However, I did see a contract go out today for $260K for a couples front yard in N Idaho, I doubt the home was worth $5mil.

    I believe the competitive nature of the recession is causing us to work harder and accept less money.  Developers are ruthless to us but municipalities seem to still pay for qualifications.  The truth is: if your not on the boards, you’re marketing or cleaning up the office because you let go of the cleaning crew …a long time ago.

    That’s my experience!




    Thanks Barry,

    I appreciate your comments.  See my response to Thomas.  I agree with your observations.  I’d like to know who originated the 10% rule?  How did they get there?  What was their basis?  Who reduced it?  When?  and why (if they did)?  Why do builders, owners, architects, governments, school districts etc. use percentages in this way?  Every site is different.  Every site has its own set of unique challenges.   Every owner has there own preferred process.  Some are More labor intensive and some are Less….but heaven forbid your process foresees a realistic 12% fee.  Just trying to stimulate a smart discussion on this taboo topic.

    Thanks Again,


    William Sinclair

    Good topic.


    While I don’t know where the percentages originated, it seems that at some time a standard project was historically averaged, percentages were then derived off of it for A&E soft costs, and the market accepted those costs.


    Where I’ve seen percentages used most effectively is in a public bidding process, as per your example.  If you have put together an accurate estimate for construction, it is a quick way to attach soft costs and contingencies that are readily comparable with other bids.


    Of course, one can try to justify a higher percentage based on the work, but that’s where the competition comes in; it seems a higher percentage is more justified on a smaller, non-public project.  


    Though, if one is to achieve the higher percentage in a public project scenario, it would most likely be done inside the project team, where the architect or engineer you’re working with agree that your work load is significant enough to garner a higher share of the proposed soft costs without raising the overall market-approved ceiling on soft costs.


    My 2 cents!

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    I had an interesting conversation with an engineer/surveyor principal regarding landscape architecture fees today. He actually wrote a guide and conducted a seminar for a surveying professional organization about fee structures for surveyors, so I regard his knowledge in this even though he is not an LA. He discussed with me the general approach of two different firms that he has had recent dealings with. Both firms are well known here in New England.

    One claims that 40% is the correct portion of the budget that should be dedicated to the landscape and 20% is their contract administration fee …ie, $5m house, $2m landscape, $800k contract administration fee (extreme from what I have ever heard of). The other LA did not design to a budget number, but simply designed to meet the needs of the client with design fees that totaled up to $10k on a $2m property – I don’t know if or what the contract administration rate was. The plan that I saw would not have made it close to the 10% threshold, but was quite a nice landscape that fit the situation as a higher end landscape.

    The whole premise that there is a % of the value of a project or property that is a standard really goes against how I think we as LAs are supposed to think – client analysis, program, site analysis … = what it costs. That formula always seems to work and the thought of how it compares with the value of the property does not seem to me to have a place in it.

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