The Master Builder

Previously, Jackie and Kofi went to see the architect together for the first time. She explained the various stages of her work to them so that they would understand the process and also know what to expect.

Today, they will be educated on the construction stage


The Construction Stage

Finally, after you have selected a contractor and construction is underway, it marks the 5th and final stage of the process: The Post-Contract Phase.

During this stage, our main role will be contract administration in which we administer the construction process to ensure compliance with building codes, conformance with the design, budgetary control, represent your interests to ensure that you get value for money. We will visit the site periodically and address any site condition as they arise.

These stages have been designed to ensure the smooth and satisfactory realization of your dream of owning your own home.



“Arc. Tekoa,” Jackie started while still trying to remember the word, “when you were explaining the process, you made mention of a ‘brief’ or something, what exactly is that please?”

“Oh, okay,” Arc Tekoa began with a smile, “the brief is basically a list of things or requirements you want in your design. It actually forms an integral part of the rules of engagement for your architect. So, basically, the design you finally receive will be our response to your brief (or requirements). There are 2 types of design brief. The client’s brief and the architect’s brief.”

“And what is the difference between the two?” Kofi interjected

“Well,” Arc. Tekoa continued, “the client’s brief is like his ‘shopping list’ for the design; and the level of detail of that will depend on his/her experience and exposure with regard to that kind of project. The architect then takes this list, examines it through the lenses of building codes, ergonomic functionality and other pieces of information gathered while interacting with the client, site visit, etc. and makes recommendations for other needs/requirements that will enhance the project and serve the client better. This modified ‘shopping list’ becomes the architects brief.”

The Quists were both nodding in understanding of this point.

“Arc Tekoa,” Kofi began, “I appreciate how you have taken your time to explain the process to us. It is obviously not just some pretty picture on a paper.” All three smiled in agreement: “But I’d like to know, how much all this is actually going to cost us, in terms of your professional services. What are our options?”

Dealing with Architects on Fees

“An architect’s fees are usually structured in one of 3 ways. The first is the percentage fee structure. In this the fees for the professional services rendered is based on a percentage of the total construction cost of the project. With this, both parties agree on the percentage amount and sign the contract off on that. The architect will usually require a part-payment or commitment fee as payment on account pending finalization and costing of the project. With this system, neither architect nor client knows for sure the actual figures in question until the whole process is completed, then the figures are arrived at based on the initially agreed percentage.


“There is also the lump-sum fee structure wherein the architect charges a fixed amount right from the onset. With this structure both the architect and client know the actual design fees right from the beginning, and this does not change unless significant changes are made to the brief and scope of the project.

“The 3rd type is what is called the fees by ‘man-hours’ or ‘time-charge fee structure’. With this system, the architect estimates the amount of time required to provide the service and proposes a fee using the Ghana Ministry of Works & Housing rates for professional services. With this system, both parties are aware of the actual figures right from the onset. The client also gets the benefit of knowing how the fee was arrived at” she concluded.


“So, in our case, which of these is going to be used?” Jackie asked

“Okay, looking at the size of your project, we will use the lump-sum system, and we will also furnish you with the payment plan so you can pay in installments. These installments will be tied to deliverables. So, you know what you are to receive from us at what stage and then you can also plan your cash flow”. “Is that okay with you?”  Arc Tekoa wanted to be sure both parties were on the same page. Jackie and Kofi looked at each other to figure out if they were both in agreement. “Yeah, sure,” Kofi responded. “So, what next?”

“Before we proceed, may I know how you came to your budget please?” Arc. Tekoa asked

“Well…” Kofi begun stuttering a bit so Madam Tekoa therefore elaborated more: “You see, you have only a limited amount of resources available for this project – i.e. time, money, energy. It will be very helpful if I know the volumes of these available for the realization of this project so we can plan and effectively give you the best solutions. Your budget must consider not only the construction cost but also the soft cost, possible loss of income and relocation expenses. This will help you avoid any needless surprises along the process.” Arc. Tekoa paused and allowed that to sink in: “How about giving it some more thought? We can discuss it again at our next meeting”.

Jackie picked up her bag, ready to leave. But it became apparent that Kofi was not quite done yet when he asked: “So, what can be done to ensure that we remain within budget and the project doesn’t end up being too expensive?”

Project Cost Management Techniques

“That’s a very good question Kofi,” Arc Tekoa replied, “and I am glad it’s coming at this stage in the process, though we don’t know the budget yet.  Well, first of all we’ll have to look at the floor area. The size of the project floor area is obviously proportional to its cost of implementation. We therefore have to ensure that this does not exceed a certain limit. If upon the initial sketch we realize it’s going beyond the limit, we may have to eliminate some of the spaces and merge others. Sometimes, one can get all dreamy and carried away by emotions and wishes, freely unleashing all their desires from childhood cartoons to soap-opera houses they’ve seen and so on…all in one house without any consideration whatsoever to the cost implications! So, even though you may have given us your brief, we may have to look at it rather closely since cost is a major concern to you.” She paused, allowing that point to sink in.

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Another thing we will have to look at is our material selection.

Arc Tekoa and the Quists also agreed to modify materials the Quists had originally wanted to finish the house with. They made changes from the selection of roofing material to the type of window, flooring, ceiling; and also the sizes of some items were modified.


Material Continuity

The purpose of this measure is to reduce the cost of waste that will arise due to construction material left over. Arc Tekoa thus advised that the various finishes and variances in the materials should be reduced, as using the same material will eliminate the problem of leftovers for several different products which cannot be used by her clients anywhere else.


Avoid Changing Plans Midway – Be Decisive!

After all these discussions, Arc. Tekoa entreated the Quists to avoid changing plans midway in the project execution, as those changes cost both money and time.

Spend on the Things That Matter

“I understand that this project is a baby and you want it to be special, reflect your personality; and you want it to be something you are proud of. But I’ll humbly advise that you spend the money on things that matter – you don’t want this project to leave you financially crippled. We will not compromise on things that will affect the structural integrity and safety of the project, though.”

Good Neighbourliness

“Another thing we can do is build good relationships with your neighbours. This certainly provides some peace of mind during the construction stage, and also in some cases save you some money. For example, in terms of material storage, security on your site, utilities etc. – things that you ordinarily would have spent more money to transport from afar.”


Arc. Tekoa reached out her hand and asked for a copy of their site-plan. “Now we’ll want to go to the site for a survey, like I mentioned earlier; but prior to that the accounts office will send you the bill, and once you honour the request for a commitment fee we’ll begin the process of translating your dream into a reality,” she concluded with an assuring smile.


About the Author

Karen Evans Halm is an architect and an Associate of the Ghana Institute of Architects, with over a decade’s experience in the field.

She is also a co-founder of Spektra Global, a company that specilises in Architecture, Interior Design and Construction.

You can reach her with your questions at , call +233 303 217241 / +233 55 133 2555 or visit her website at                                                 

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