Don’t Give Away the House

Cost Recovery for Architecture Firms

Remember that fickle client who hired you to build an addition on his company’s office building and revised your plans almost daily? You know who I’m talking about. Remember how you had to reprint the plans each time a wall moved or a window became a door? Chances are, the costs for those changes were unintentionally assumed by your firm as overhead.

Dollars Stairway
Image Courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at

An occasional print or even set of prints here or there might not hurt – or even touch – your bottom line, but those minor costs can quickly become thousands of dollars when you do it for hundreds of clients, so it’s important to track these costs in order to recover them.

Cost recovery is simple: your firm pays for resources, assigns the costs to the appropriate project, bills the client for those resources, then gets paid back. It’s a common and ethical way to recoup expenses like printing and scanning costs.

An easy way to recover the copies/prints you’re creating for each client is to secure a reprographics company to provide in-office services, such as equipment leases, tracking systems, and even personnel. That company will then bill you for the exact number of copies/prints and you can simply forward their invoice onto the client.

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Image Courtesy of Phasinphoto at

It might seem like you’re nickel-and-diming clients if the page count is low, but it all adds up. If everyone in your firm is tracking and charging for prints more regularly, then the firm’s monthly operating costs have a better chance of being fully recovered. Of course, prints that are unnecessary should not be charged back to the client. For example, if you get a set of drawings reprinted because you spilled coffee on it at the site, that’s on you, not the client. But if your client changes specifications and the design needs reworking before then printing the revised plans, that’s a billable cost.

If your client changes the plans again and you frustratingly throw your coffee on the plans, well, that might just be a wash.


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Ian Gattie