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How Much?

We haven’t had many questions for our Ask Someone series of late, but here is a pretty good one. Should you have a question for the top people in the industry, designers, sailmakers, builders, etc., send them in and we’ll get them handled for ya. Today’s, about design cost is answered by Bob Perry. Enjoy.

Q: The Purple Haze project has been very insightful for the process of designing and building a custom boat, but it does ignore one key question (which the author has already pre-empted that he would not answer) – how much does it cost? Now, I know this varies greatly with the type of build, but I’m really trying to find out how much is the design process? If I take a design brief to say, Robert Perry what will I be looking to pay him for say a 38′ cruiser racer? cost for a concept design? Cost for actual construction documents? Does he get a cut of the total build cost? What if I want to build a couple of the same design? Maybe questions better posed on the forums, but I thought it might be interesting to put someone on the spot.

A:The answer is simple and I have no trouble explaining my own approach to the cost of design. Of course the cost of the design job will vary with the amount of detail required. I like to provide as much detail as possible down to electrical and plumbing schematics. The more detail we provide the more control we have over the project. But it does drive the cost of the design up.

Figure a well detailed set of plans will cost between 8.5% and 10% of the cost of the finished vessel.

We bill hourly at $100 an hour for most work. We start work with a retainer and we bill against the retainer. When the retainer is exhausted we commence monthly billings. We are happy to put a “cap” or a not to exceed figure on the design fees .

I will also design to a fixed fee based upon the cost of the finished boat. 9% would usually work and this would be broken down into progress payments. Although I have found over the years that most, not all, clients prefer the hourly rate. They feel more comfortable with it.

My philosophy towards design cost is that I want the design budget that allows me to do my very best work. Today this includes 3D modeling and a lot of the pattern making chores that in the past would have been left to loftsmen. But even this aspect of design is becoming obsolete as we work more and more with CNC machines.

Bob Perry

March 30th, 2007

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