The Ballard+Mensua Process

First Design Consultation / Interview

Prior to starting the master planning process ... we always have a first design consultation meeting. The purpose of this meeting is to learn the needs of prospective Clients and then draw some rough ideas, put together a realistic expectation of budget and schedule. We charge a basic consultation fee of $250 for this meeting ... and so far everyone has found this fee worthwhile, whether in moving forward on a project or not. (This fee is applied towards our ultimate fee in the event a project moves forward.)

All Clients are left with some sketches outlining ideas of what is possible and a very rough estimate of cost ... and a much better understanding of what to expect in working with an Architect and contractor to design and build a project.

Phases of Basic Services – Full Service Contract - Custom Homes, Additions and Renovations

Below is an outline of Basic Services for a medium to large size renovation or new home. Please scroll down to see further information about interior re-configuration projects.

Prospective Clients will benefit from reading through this section ... though by the nature of every project being custom, services can be customized on a case by case basis. We encourage you to contact us to talk this process through further.

Hiring an Architect typically faces an immediate problem --- a Client does not want to hire the Architect until the client knows what a project is going to cost --- but an Architect cannot give an accurate price until drawings are detailed and hundreds if not thousands of decisions are made and finishes are selected.

Throughout time, Architects have developed a reputation as expensive .. because a Client will retain an Architect, the Architect will develop a beautiful design and plans and a rough estimate. This cost estimate is usually based on square footage and may even come from a meeting with a builder. The Architect is not trying to deceive the Client .. however, what ends up happening is that the Client makes the decision based on an early rough estimate to tell the Architect to proceed ... and then when final bid and construction drawings are complete ... the buliders' bids come in and the price is double or triple the rough estimate.

This problem has given birth to design build firms. Clients hire a design build firm in order to have one group can give both pricing and design. However, as we have experienced from our time working with design build firms ... their prices are higher. They charge less for design, because it is built into the construction cost. The Client loses the advantage of competitive bidding. The additional problem is quality control. A design build firm cannot maintain independence. Therefore, the designer of the project, may have to overlook quality concerns in order for the firm to not lose money on the project.

Further, even in a scenario where we have a Client who is in a hurry and tells us they want our best General Contractor and therefore do not competitively bid a project ... We still believe that there is a significant benefit to the checks and balances of a traditional relationship between Client (owner), Architect and General Contractor (Builder). The Architect is free to give design and technical advice that is independent of worry of it effecting his or her bottom line. The Contractor is able to give their input and expertise about technical concerns and cost without worry about design. The Client has a greater benefit in this relationship.

This has all led us to develop a process that allows for the positives of design build, but maintains the competitive bidding and checks and balances of a traditional Client / Architect / Builder relationship.

In summary, we ask clients to make a commitment of a flat fee, in exchange for a preliminary design and cost study. In this first phase, which we like to call a Master Plan ... we develop a design in plan, elevation and 3-d .. that addresses all Client needs and goals. These drawings are not ready for construction .. .they are missing structural plans, cross sections, details, interior elevations, details and specifications. We convey a great deal of this missing information to a group of bidding contractors through a detailed bid spreadsheet, through job-site walk throughs with the bidders and their subs .. and through a cover sheet with notes.

At the conclusion of this first phase process, we prepare a bid analysis for clients. We usually recommend that the contractor is selected at this point. Below is essentially an outline that follows the form of our typical contract.

We believe firmly in developing a master plan for every custom home or renovation ... where we study all possibilities and what they will cost, before detailing any part of the plan. We have often had to undo work that Clients completed before we were involved and we always feel this is a waste. Our goal is to plan out everything our Clients will ever want to do to their homes and take the time to plan it all out. Then we develop the portions of the project which our Clients can afford now. This results in projects that are fully coordinated with future projects.

Finally, and most importantly... this process provides realistic budgets. A 10% overage is average for our projects... and since we build in a 10% contingency... our projects are coming in on budget. This is almost unheard of... but it is true.

Rough Fee Structure

For full Architectural Services, our total fees average 10% - 15% of construction cost... so for a $400,000 project, fees would be $40,000 - $60,000... depending on scope of services and construction cost. This is very much in line with all Architects.

By using our master planning process, instead of paying most of this fee to find out what the construction cost will be... our Clients are investing on average $8,000 - $12,000 in hourly fee... and finish the process with a complete understanding of their design and budget options.

The project only moves ahead with an informed Client approving us to proceed.

This is in essence a financial planning exercise. It is a natural thing to pause the project at this point and there is no commitment to proceed.

A typical breakdown of a Master Plan or Phase 1 fee would be:

Based on $8,000 flat fee:

$2,500-- meeting to determine client needs and goals, measure and draw existing house, work session to look at design options$1,000-- meeting to review floor plans drawn to scale, rough 3-d sketch of roof lines and rough cost estimate$1,000-- 3-d computer model to study building mass and form$1,000-- 2-d building elevations$1,000-- electrical and lighting plans$1,000-- 3-d renderings, and preliminary bid package complete $500 bid analysis meeting complete

Many Clients choose to only complete part of the Phase 1 work... for example taking the design only through the completion of the plans and elevations. This provides the Client with a design that helps for future planning. This is always an option.

At the conclusion of the bid analysis, we will set our fee structure for the remainder of our services. This benefits our Clients as we are able to give fees proposals that are very informed. If giving a flat fee to a client before completing this process, we would always have to charge a higher fee due to unknowns.


Phase I – Schematic Design

For those Clients wishing to proceed beyond the first meeting, The Schematic Design Phase shall involve the following:

Measure and photograph existing house -- draw up existing floor plans, elevations and create a 3-d model of existing house.
Note: If custom home, instead, we spend more time looking at client program, needs for house and relationships, possibly measuring furniture that is existing.
Meet with Client with existing plans to have work session -- sketch out ideas, discuss rough costs -- enough to get direction for more detailed plans.
Develop to scale floor plans and meet with Client, together with sketches to communicate massing and rooflines.
Revise drawings and meet again until Client is happy with plans.

Phase I Continued– Preliminary Design and Bidding of Master Plan

Once Client is happy with plans ... we develop the 2-D detailed elevations showing windows, trim, and roof lines .. as well as
3-D computer models showing massing and rooflines.
These are revised at meetings until Client is happy and then developed into a preliminary design package, which includes:

Cover sheet with specifications and general notes, 2 renderings, 4 elevations, demolition plans showing what exists and is to be removed, and new plans showing basic dimensions. Together with these plans, we prepare an Excel spreadsheet outlining allowances for finishes, we use text to explain electrical, plumbing, and heating and cooling design, as well as structure.

This allows us to communicate a lot to our contractors, with less detailed drawings. The drawings at this point are not permit-ready ... they are missing detail, dimensions, structural notes, electrical, plumbing and HVAC ... but are enough to get decent pricing.

We take these drawings to 3 of our General Contractors and obtain competitive bids. We then put the bids into a bid analysis and present it to our Clients in order to make educated decisions on the scope of work that will be in the final set of drawings.


We then meet with our Clients and contractors to study the budget and options of how to best proceed ... getting the most value per dollar spent, and matching the Client to the most appropriate contractor for the project.

Often work is divided into phases, with portions of the project eliminated for future construction, other portions of the project are discounted as not worth the money. Then with the Client's approval, we proceed into the detailed drawing and design phases of Construction Documents and Design Development.

Phase II – Construction Documents/ Design Development

We will develop all preliminary work and decisions, during the Bidding phase, into a complete set of construction documents, including all structural, electrical, HVAC, plumbing and site information required by the local permit authority.

Consultants shall specify all building materials, such as siding, brick, roofing, framing materials, concrete materials, insulation, heating and cooling equipment, decking materials and railings.

Consultant shall assist Client to choose all interior permanent finishes – Client shall be responsible for visiting vendors' showrooms with Consultant.
Architect shall review at regular meetings and assist to put everything into drawings – and to put together the design elements. Note: Interior Decorator fees to assist Client to select furniture, window treatments, accessories and area rugs --are not included in this agreement, but can be performed as an additional service at the hourly rates listed below.
Documents shall be sufficient for obtaining bids from contractors for construction cost.

Consultant shall coordinate drawings with and manage work of Civil Engineer, Soil Engineer, and Structural Engineer. Each of these Consultants will be liable and responsible for their work under a separate agreement with Client.

Consultant shall meet with Client at the following progress points during the CD phase:

  • Electrical / Finish coordination: With a draft of the electrical and lighting plans – to discuss lighting, electrical, phone and cable outlets and furniture layout. Ideally Client would have started shopping for finishes such as cabinets, appliances, fixtures and tile so that Consultant can assist in putting everything together, and so that selections will be coordinated into electrical plan.
  • 80% drawing review – with completed electrical plans, elevations, floor plans, and start of structural plans – to review all of design, as well as any issues that have arisen during the detailing of the plans. During this meeting, Consultant will discuss and plan out bidding process and schedule with Client.
  • Note: Structural designs will be prepared by a licensed structural engineer; electrical, mechanical and plumbing systems requiring engineering will be engineered by either licensed subcontractors when pulling their own permit, or by a consulting engineer under a separate contract.

Phase III – Bid Negotiations

If the contractor is not selected during preliminary bid, we shall oversee another competitive bid with a minimum of 3 General Contractors bidding on the final documents.
These documents will now be sufficiently detailed to obtain a fixed price bid from the contractors.

In the event we have selected a contractor based on a preliminary bid, we will work with that bidder during the completion of the Construction Documents, to make sure that the bid remains accurate as we complete the drawings.

Phase IV – Construction Administration / Management

Construction Administration Phase shall include the following:

  • Consultant shall visit site as required to inspect for quality and to ensure that Contractor is building as per the Construction Documents.
  • Consultant shall assist Client by reviewing all Contractor payment requests against progress.
  • Consultant shall assist Client to update estimated total budget.
  • Consultant shall assist Client to coordinate any design changes during construction. Client understands that all changes during construction must be coordinated with Consultant.
  • Consultant shall assist Client and Contractor to project phasing and scheduling for the project, though Consultant shall not be responsible for not meeting a schedule. Schedule responsibility shall lie solely on the Contractor and subcontractors.

Assistance in purchasing materials if required (this will depend on the contract signed with the Contractor).


Additional Services shall be defined as any services requested by Client not included in the Basic Services outlined above. Additional Services are available upon request for an additional fee at the hourly rates, as outlined below, or for an agreed upon flat fee, if such flat fee is agreed to by written amendment to this Agreement.

Additional Services include, but are not limited to:

Building models
Substantial changes to Construction Documents after Preliminary Plan is approved Construction Management – involvement in Contractor’s schedule, assistance with material or product purchasing, and/or weekly (or more often) project meetings to review progress and schedule (Construction Admin. Phase includes site visits every 2 weeks).
Presentation model showing finishes, materiality and details
Computer 3-D modeling or artistic color renderings (note – cabinet/millwork company will provide 3-D drawings of kitchen/bath areas if they apply to this project)
Filing for building permit
Variance application and Representation of Client at Variance Hearing
Civil, Mechanical, Structural, Plumbing or Electrical Engineering Services
Finish sample boards showing finish color and material schemes and coordination
Interior decorating -- to include non built-in furniture, area rugs, art selection and window treatments (Paint color selection included in agreement).
Landscape design and installation -- to include plant selection and specification (please note hardscape design is included as outlined above)
Stamp and seal of a licensed architect -- note: review of our work by licensed architect is included, but stamping and signature of plans puts liability on the architect and is offered as an additional service.


Essentially we apply the same process to small projects as large projects.

We still belive in the importance of using preliminary drawings and meetings with bidders to obtain competitive pricing for the proposed project.

We believe it is important to complete this cost study before spending too much time on the project.

By nature of a project being smaller, we can usually comlpete this in less time and more accuracy..

A fee structure for an interior renovation usually works best as hourly with a not to exceed of 15%.