Why you should get a Needs and Options Review before you hire an architect

This post follows from my explanation of the Needs and Options Review here.

The idea is that all clients at the inception stage of a project need to develop a realistic budget before you proceed to hire a professional. It avoids the trap of trying to hire a professional on the basis of price only, which tends to end in a building or service experience that is less than desirable.

If you ask professionals to quote for a job on the basis of only a basic brief, or schedule of accommodation, that has not been costed, it is inevitable that one of two things can happen;

  1. The best architects who deliver comprehensive services, including for example, PassivHaus modelling, or really detailed design drawings, or thermal-bridge-free detailing, know they are in fee competition that won’t cover the extra services you require (and they always provide), and the other professionals (who do things the old way) will not be charging for. Therefore the good guys know they can’t get the job, so why bother? If you truly want to get this level of service, you have to trust the professional when they tell you there is a different way to start the discussion, that puts the cards on the table for everyone to see in a safe framework.
  2. The guys who do things the old way will offer their lowest fee proposal to get the job, which given the current state of the building industry will be unsustainably low (i.e. a loss-leader). On getting the job, they now have to make a profit, so either they give you a product that is as simple as possible, with old-school construction methods that haven’t changed for 20 years, or they argue for extra fees for every single service that they can paint as an additional service, which they knew you were always going to need, but you didn’t ask for at the start, because you didn’t know you were going to want it.

Guess which bracket the PassivHaus Architecture Company falls into?


We have been using the Needs and Options Review method for years, and it has allowed us to form great client relationships that deliver fantastic high-performance buildings.

The three correct steps to hiring the best architect

It happens in three stage, and you only ever have to commit to the next once you have completed the previous and appreciated what you have received.

1 Initial scoping meeting

Cost; €150 per hour for the meeting, plus vat (plus €50 per hour travel).

This allows us to meet you at your place of work, or the proposed site, take an initial brief, and explain the Needs and Options Review (NaOR) to you and your colleagues. You get to meet us and build up a relationship. We can then quote for the NaOR, which will include a fee proposal for actual design services.

Having met with you and reviewed the scope of your project, you will receive the following;

– your invoice for our initial meeting

– your quotation for your Commercial Needs and Options Review, which has been tailored to you specifically.

– an invoice for 50% of the Commercial Needs and Options Review fee.

Once this is received, we will schedule a time for a second site visit, to take some measurements, and photos as necessary and commence the analysis.


2 Needs and Options Review

Cost; The fee is proportional to the cost of the construction project in the following bands;

Up to €300,000 plus vat €1,050 plus vat

€300 – €600,000 plus vat €2,150 plus vat

€600 – €900,000 plus vat €3,350 plus vat

€900 – €2,000,000 plus vat €4,550 plus vat

From time of instruction to issue of report takes 10 working days. This includes the initial site visit/meeting, production and issue of two hard copies of the report.

Additional services if required are charged at €145 per hour plus vat – for example;

– a second meeting to present the report to a Board of Management with overhead display presentation and preparation

– a second site visit with specialist consultants to view a particularly complex issue.

Typically these are not necessary but are available. Download a sample CNaOR here


3 Fee proposal and appointment

Now that you have a document that lays out all the costs foreseeable in an independent manner, you and all prospective architects have a baseline against which to price.

Our NaOR will have a fee proposal from us, for all the services you are likely to need; architectural services, PSDP (Health and Safety – obligatory appointment), Assigned Certifier (Building Regulations), Design Certifier, PassivHaus design, PassivHaus Certification. It will include hourly rates for additional services, and a list of typical expenses and what they typically work out at.

You can then share this with other professionals you wish to consider, and ask them to provide a fee proposal based on this realistic scope of work, and a realistic budget. You can ask them to quote for all the bits we have itemised, so that even if you choose someone cheaper than us, you are less likely to be ambushed by unforeseen costs that make them end up costing more than us in the long-run.


Oh yes, don’t forget, we are probably the only architectural practice in Ireland that has delivered all of the following;

  • certified passivhaus commercial building (Pharmacy, RIAI Award for Sustainable Building 2015) Download articles here
  • multiple certified passivhaus residential projects (Ballinteer House and Clonmel Apartment)
  • certified passivhaus retrofit, Enerphit house in Cork (completion July 2017).

THis means that when we say we will deliver a certified passivhaus commercial building, we can actually deliver on it. 

And once your passivhaus commercial building is working, all the cost savings that accrue from it will dwarf the reasonable fees we charge, the rest is for you and your staff to enjoy!