Royal Architectural Institute of Canada

Creating a Competition Budget

The competition budget is developed during the pre-design phase of a building project.

Accurate estimating is difficult: Creating a realistic budget for conducting an architectural competition is crucial to a successful process. Yet, arriving at accurate costs is difficult. The RAIC strongly advises that sponsors get expert advice by hiring a professional advisor.

Maintaining a budget must be an ongoing process: A competition budget should be reviewed at each stage of the competition to determine if any of the assumptions and related risks require reconsideration.


Competition Budget Categories

The number and type of categories in a competition budget will vary by project. Here are five commonly used categories:

1) Sponsor’s Internal Costs

Organizer(s): Most sponsors require an individual or a team to direct and organize a competition. The sponsor determines the costs of supporting this individual or team.

Publicity: Sponsors determine how to publicize the competition. For example, costs may include a website and/or the production and distribution of printed materials.

Post-Competition Activities: After a winner is selected, sponsors may wish to celebrate the successful competition. Activities can include a reception, press conference, exhibition, and media coverage.

2) Professional Advisor Cost

A professional advisor can help the sponsor with the many decisions and actions required before, during, and after a competition.

Professional advisors are paid at least an amount equal to the prevailing hourly rate for consultation work recommended by the tariff of fees of the relevant provincial/territorial architectural association. Where there is no tariff of fees the professional advisor shall receive a per diem rate equivalent to senior professionals in the region. As well, all of his/her disbursements or out-of-pocket expenses are reimbursed.

For more information on appropriate rates for professional advisors, check with the RAIC or the relevant provincial/territorial architectural association.

3) Project/Facility Program Cost

Preparing the functional program: The sponsor funds the preparation of the functional program (sometimes called a “design brief”). This document is a description of the proposed project/facility, and its level of detail depends on the complexity and sophistication of the project. For competition purposes, the functional program is usually simplified to a level commensurate with the level of detail requested of the competitors.

Preparing the construction budget: The functional program also includes an estimate of building or construction cost so that competitors understand the financial limits of the project and will work within those limits. Usually, cost planning for a project at the pre-design stage is difficult and produces a budgetary range rather than one fixed estimate. Costs vary according to the size, complexity, site characteristics and location of a building. As well, building costs depend on market forces such as supply and demand for materials and labour. A professional advisor’s or cost consultant’s advice is strongly recommended to ensure a realistic budget and a successful competition.

4) Jury Costs

Jury costs include fees and expenses for jury members and, if required, the rental of space for the jury’s review and deliberation of the entries. Sometimes administrative costs are incurred in the preparation of documentation and/or audio-visual presentations for the jury.

5) Awards and Payments

Entering a competition is a costly process for architects. Financial compensation to competitors is both reasonable and a means of ensuring that the best architects will compete.

The cost to the sponsor depends on the number of prizes awarded. The RAIC recommends the following:

It is important to ensure provision for payments and awards are endorsed by the provincial or territorial association. Some provincial associations consider it professional misconduct to participate in an invited competition in which all architects are not equally remunerated.