July 26, 2022

How to work with your German architect

You’ve done all your checks, the property has been acquired, and now, it’s finally down to the designs. But how can you ensure that you get exactly what you want?


The money is either made or lost in the design phase. Ensure that you know how the German system works, make sure that you provide the architect with as much information as possible, and regularly check the designs as the quality of work may differ significantly from architect to architect. The workflow for each stage can be complicated; to keep things easy, I’ve listed the responsibilities without the correct working order (workflow).

Understanding the German methods

In Germany, architects have worked with the HOAI (Honorarordnung für Architekten und Ingenieure) for a long time, since 1977 actually. This means that a basic understanding of the HOAI and its phases, so-called Leistungsphasen, is essential if you want to collaborate with your architect successfully.

Not only does it describe the scope of work, but it also describes the fee structure. Until not too long ago, there were price limits within that structure, but those limits have now been eliminated.

“The Fee Structure for Architects and Engineers (HOAI) is a legal regulation issued by the German Federal Government to regulate the fees for architectural and engineering services in Germany. The HOAI applies to all persons working in Germany on domestic civil engineering projects, irrespective of their actual training” – Source: Wikipedia

HOAI and its phases

The HOAI exists in 15 editions, which handle different sectors within architecture and engineering. I’ll only describe the steps within the sector that are relevant for us, as I am assuming you want to build a building and not bridges.

Below is an overview of the different phases. For this article, I’ll assume that you have awarded your architect the works from LP1 up to LP5. This extensive article will go through all the phases and describe the responsibilities of the stakeholders.

LP1Grundlagenermittlung mit Prüfung des Kostenrahmens vom BauherrenBasic determination with an examination of the cost framework from the building owner
LP2Vorplanung mit KostenschätzungPreliminary planning with a cost estimate
LP3Entwurfsplanung inklusive KostenberechnungPreliminary design including cost calculation
LP4GenehmigungsplanungPermit Design
LP5AusführungsplanungDetailed Design
LP6Vorbereitung der Vergabe, einschließlich Ermitteln der Mengen und Aufstellen von verpreisten Leistungsverzeichnissen (Kostenvoranschlag, LV)Preparation of the awarding of contracts, including determination of quantities and preparation of priced bills of quantities (cost estimate, BOQ)
LP7Die „Mitwirkung bei der Vergabe“ beinhaltet die Koordination des Vergabeverfahrens und den Vergleich von dem Kostenanschlag (Ausschreibungsergebnisse) mit den vom Planer bepreisten Leistungsverzeichnissen oder der KostenberechnungParticipation in the awarding of the contract, including coordinating the awarding procedure and comparing the cost estimate (tender results) with the bill of quantities or the cost calculation priced by the planner.
LP8Objektüberwachung – Bauüberwachung und DokumentationObject supervision – construction supervision and documentation
LP9Objektbetreuung inklusive GewährleistungsverfolgunProperty management, including warranty tracking

LP 1 & 2

The very beginning of the design phases.

Your architect can’t know all the ins-and-outs of all the different industries, so make sure you have plenty of meetings with the architect to communicate exactly what you need. Just providing the architect with a functional description will not be enough if you want a design that is made to measure. Describe how a customer would walk through your building and detail the looks, the technical functionalities, and the overall experience you want your customer to have.

This, combined with the functional description, will help your architect develop designs and solutions that will give your building the best customer experience.  

With that foundation, the architect will then be able to create the first rough cost estimate. You can provide a rough number, but don’t share your detailed estimate until the architect is done to ensure an objective estimation.

The architect’s responsibilities:

  • Development of a preliminary planning concept
  • If necessary, preliminary building application
  • Visual representation of the overall planning
  • Explanatory report and area calculation
  • Cost estimate according to DIN 276, planning schedule
  • Completion of the preliminary planning documents

PM’s responsibilities:

  • Specifications of the space utilization program and functional planning
  • Alignment with schedule and budget
  • Review of the preliminary planning documents
  • Commissioning of work phase 3 (design planning)

LP 3 & 4

In these phases, the architect can show the first designs. This time, let them walk you through the building. Let the architect explain why he designed it as he did. We use extensive checklists to ensure that technical basics are included in the design and our experience to spot any details that could be optimized.

Be sure that your architect explains the technical installations to you as well. It is quite easy to make changes in this phase, but it will cost a lot more time and money in the next phase.

If it’s a complex building or the architect is unsure about the permit feasibility, they should seek advice from other experienced colleagues. However, this is sometimes easier said than done, especially in major cities where the clerks are completely overloaded with the number of permits and requests they receive.

In LP 3 & 4, your architect should also finetune and expand the cost estimation he made in the previous phase. Check if the costs are realistic and let your architect explain how he arrived at those numbers.

After you’ve checked and approved the designs, the architect will hand them over to the authorities… and the waiting begins. In Germany, there is no deadline for the clerks, and as previously said, some cities are facing a significant workload with waiting periods of up to 6 months possible.

The architect’s responsibilities:

  • Design concept M 2 : 100 interior M 1 : 50, M 1 :20
  • Negotiations and approvals with the authorities
  • Leading details of the shell, facade, roof, wall, floor, ceiling
  • Elaboration of the design, determination of the floor, explanatory report
  • Design concept M 1 : 100 HLSKE
  • Cost calculation according to DIN 276 and time scheduling
  • Completion of the design planning

PM’s responsibilities:

  • Check and approval of all the designs and costs
  • Optimizing the design both technically and financially
  • Commissioning of work phases 4 and 5

LP 5

You’ve received the permit and are now finally ready to begin with the so-called “detailed design.” In this phase, the architect and all the other engineers finish their designs so that the contractor knows exactly what needs to be done. There is a lot of communication between the architect, the engineers, the PM, and the client. Below is a simple listing of all the tasks (the actual workflow is much more complex). We use our checklists and workflows to ensure that all the critical information is in the designs, communication flows as it should, and the best possible quality is achieved.

The architect’s responsibilities:

  • Checking, and if necessary, correcting, the design with comments from the approval.
  • Working plan 1 :
  • M 1 : 50, ground plan, section, elevation
  • Details of shell: M 1:20 to M 1:1
  • Slit and through planning, building services engineering
  • Drainage plans (basic lines)
  • Static calculation and position plans
  • Formwork plan 1 and continuation of static calculations
  • Construction plan 2
  • Formwork plan 2
  • Formwork plan approval by the architect
  • Reinforcement plans
  • Test statics
  • Correction and parts lists
  • Work plan 3: Detailed planning for finishing
  • Execution planning and building services engineering
  • Correction, integration of technical planning, completion of documents

PM’s responsibilities:

  • Checking the timeline, alignment of the framework schedule
  • Constant checking of the designs on a technical level
  • Looking for improvements financially and technically
  • Checking and creating the test area, updating the schedule
  • Coordination and placing of orders

LP 6 & 7

The tendering (preparation) phase.

All documents are collected, and bills of quantities are produced. A bill of quantity is a booklet that describes all the products and elements that will be needed for the construction of the building; it will list the quantity of each product. Generally, each trade has its own bill of quantities (booklet) that is sent out to different contractors with the request for proposal. The contractors then fill out the prices and multiply them with the quantity the architect provides. This will give the total sum for each trade.

Contractors who take the job seriously will have questions about specific topics and may even propose alternatives that would benefit the client.

The architect’s responsibilities:

  • Compilation of the planning documents
  • Positioning and quantity takeoff, preparation of the BOQ concept
  • Revision of the BOQ concept
  • Final Revision of the BOQ and compilation of the documents

PM’s responsibilities:

  • Consultation and review
  • Checking the LV concept for conformity with the planning
  • Checking and comparison of cost and schedule planning with the actual status
  • Reconciliation and compilation of the list of bidders
  • Dispatch of the LV/publication
  • Bid opening (submission)
  • Checking the offers (economic/technical) and price comparison list
  • Proposal for the award of contract
  • Award negotiation, internal award decision
  • Award of contract
  • Rejection of other companies

After Phase 7, you’re done with the designs! The next phase would be signing your contract and starting work on the actual construction of the building. The following post will show you what to look out for when signing your contract.

Up Next

What to look out for when you sign your contractor