Determining the Cost for Architectural and Scale Models


What will your model cost? This is a key question and completely understandable when considering the investment in a scale model. Each model project is uniques and although it is impossible explain exact prices without seeing and discussing plans, we can come up with some ballpark numbers.

Model cost is determined almost exclusively by the estimated time it takes to build design and build the project. Material cost is a factor, but almost always a fraction of the man-hour cost. Level of detail and complexity is much more of a factor in cost than physical size of the model.

Archetype3D is capable of building a 3D architectural scale model of any type, size or complextiy for just about any need- architecture, topography, engineering, trade shows or prototypes. 

After a discussion with a client, it is possible to give a cost range estimate, and once we see your sketches, we can narrow down the costs much more accurately based on our many years of experience building similar models. With an understanding of size, scale, and detail, along with your drawings, we can get an estimate and a firm fixed price within a few days.

Here are some general cost ranges based on on our years’ of experience.

●  A very simple model, something with limited detail and color, starts around $5000.

●  A prototype model can vary greatly, again depending on level of details, starting around $5000 for the most basic concept.

●  Mass models of a building or multiple buildings with topography, roads, and landscaping run $10000 and up depending on size and level detail.

●  A detailed topography model without buildings starts around $10000.

●  A single building in 1/8″ scale with full detail, landscaping and site work can run $20000 and up depending on size level of detail.

●  Very large developments with full topography, buildings, golf courses, ski mountains, etc, can vary widely in price. We have done incredibly detailed models, sized upward of 6 by 10 feet, that have cost over $90000.

Our pricing is based on the time it takes to build and assemble all the layers of detail that your project requires. If you have a budget established, we can determine what we can within that budget. Even the simplest model we prodcue is a product that you would be proud to display to the public and your clients. 


Model Repair and Refurbish


Mueller State Park Visitor Center in Colorado Model Repair and Refurbish

Lead Model Designer: Michael Steinkoenig

Project Info

A model of any type is a significant investment. Your model will undobably go through some abuse through the years, and we can certainly help in returning the condition closer to its original state. We did just this at the  Mueller State Park Visitor Center.

The Mueller State Park Visitor Center, located atop Big View Overlook, features a scenic panoramic overlook hidden below the shadow of Pikes Peak. In the heart of Mueller State Park, this information area features indoor and outdoor exhibits emphasizing the park’s natural habitats, wildlife and heritage. Visit the Watchable Wildlife Kiosk and learn about those who call Mueller home. At the Gazebo, hand painted panels of the surrounding mountains help you get your bearings before heading out on the Wapiti Nature Trail.

Three trailheads from the Visitor Center parking lot connect you to short family friendly or long connecting hikes. Don’t forget to pick up a trail map before you head out!

Display Elements For Your Architectural Model

What other display elements are needed (stand, cover, case)? How is your spectacular model going to be displayed?

The stand is an integral part of the model presentation. It can tie together the style of the model with the showroom design. There are several considerations that go into constructing a stand.

If you are building a showroom and working with a designer and carpenter to get it looking great, feel free to have them build the stand for the model. They can match the wood and finish exactly but we may need special considerations from this team. If we are not building the stand, we must work closely with those that are. The model has to fit comfortably but not so tight that you can’t get it out. If we are doing any lighting or electronics, easy access is needed for maintenance. Your stand maker is now part of the team and good communication is paramount.

We recommend dust covers on ninety percent of the models we build. Unless planned for, most models do not hold up well with people constantly touching them. Under a cover, we have models that have been on continuous display for over twenty years. Other models are built to be touched and they can hold up well but need to be built more durably.

The crate your model goes into can also be an important element to your presentation. If the model is a showroom or a trade show, the crate is simple, strong and heavy. Many models are taken to their audience and the crate needs to look more elegant to reflect what is inside. We have built custom wood crates with a nice stain finish, handles for easy carrying, and casters if they are a little heavy. We have also made “roady” style cases and “suitcase” models to be taken on an airplane. Answering question one “What is your model going to be used for” will go a long way to determine the best crate for a project.

Special Effects For Your Architectural Model

What special effects will enhance your model?
We add lighting to many of our models but that is only one way to enhance your clients’ experience. We have also created motorized components and sound effects along with interactive touch screens. These special effects add a completely new dimension to your presentation that your development may well benefit from.

  • ●  We built the interior of a McDonalds with actual spinning gears and fans complete until we made the gears and fans spin.
  • ●  We designed an interactive model for the visitor’s bureau at Lake Tahoe. Two touchscreen computers activated dozens of LED lights on the model. The screens gave specific information on hotels, casinos, golf courses, museums and other points of interest.

● We produced a lighting display for a residential tower in which the salesperson could shine a laser on a unit which would then light up. At the same time, the big screen behind the model showed the floor plan, price point and the precise view from out of the windows.

Programming interactive features have gotten easier recently and are now only limited by the imagination. The cost/benefit of interactive features is also easy to calculate. Do you need a sales person to talk to every visitor in your office? The model can act as a self-guided tour freeing up your staff to talk to the buyers with the most potential for closing. Get your important information across in an entertaining way and your model will pay for itself more quickly.

Determining The Best Scale For Your Architectural Model

What scale is best for your model?  We now know the area of your model and size that you want it to be. The scale is now easily calculated. Below is a guide to typical scales and the types of sales models that are best shown in each. If you are selling interiors, you are going to need a larger scaled model to show the details. Master plan models can be built in smaller scales to show more property in a smaller size.

Different scales are used to sell different aspects of your development. A master plan can be on a small scale like 1″=100′ to sell properties and community.

1″ = 100′ (Size 6′ x 7′)

Land Development Design Model


1″ = 8′ scale (Size 4′ x 5′)

Used to show individual units, interior detail or detailed sections of a building. We build whole buildings in 1″ = 4′ scale but the size is large and they are usually built for a showroom setting.

Resort Construction Model


1″ = 4′ scale or larger (Size 4′ x 2′)

Interior Architectural Model

The model is a very personal and interactive sales tool. It immediately demonstrates a commitment to the project and the professionalism of your company.

This is the most popular scale for exterior detailed architectural models. It is easy to see most textures and other subtle details in this scale. Colorful people and cars are available from the hobby industry and most of the models are a good size for showroom display.

If you still want well-detailed exteriors but you have a larger site with multiple buildings. 1″=16′ scale might work well for your project.

1″ = 16′ scale (Size 5′ x 5′)

Beach Resort Architectural Model

Another reason this is a commonly used scale is again the hobby industry has ready-made cars and people that can populate the model.

If your focus is on the immediate site surrounding your larger development. 1″=20′ may be the best scale.

1″ = 20′ (Size 4′ x 4′)

Hotel Design Model

We can still show textures on the buildings but they are getting smaller and less easy to notice. This scale is still good for colorful (though small) people and cars.

Typically, the focus is more on the site and a little less on the buildings in this scale. 1″ = 30′ is too small to show people so cars are the only items used to give a sense of activity.

1″ = 30′ (Size 5′ x 6′)

Resort Development Model

Landscaping and water features are often as much of a focus as buildings in this scale.

1” = 50’ scales are good for showing a larger master plan designs. Building again is usually (but not always) shown as mass models. This has been a good scale to show entire golf course layouts, complex highway interchanges, and phases of master plan developments.

Scale 1″ = 50′ (Size 6′ x 7′)

City Architectural Model

Buildings are often shown as mass models when they get this small but as you can see in the image windows, doors and colors still show up well. 3D Landscaping is more limited, mostly trees, grasses, and forests although we use a lot of colors to represent different ecological zones.

1” = 300’ / 400’ / 500’ scales are mostly used to show detailed topography over a large area of land. The building can still be seen but they are little more than extruded footprints. We have used a much smaller scale on models done for the National Park Service of Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons these are done with some vertical exaggeration.

1″ = 500′ and smaller (Size 4’x 5′)

Topography Scale Model


Architectural Model Uses

What is your model going to be used for?  Knowing the use of the model helps us visualize the final product while we are discussing the details. Often, the simpler models will get the needed points across without every detail displayed, and at a much lower cost. We need to know who the audience and what they are looking for.

Mass Models
One great example of the use of a mass model is for a design review board meeting. Perhaps all they are interested in the relative heights of the surrounding structures. This is something that is very hard to convincingly convey in an animation or rendering. A model showing nothing but the building masses will instantly demonstrate the issues and allow the right questions to be asked. Mass models are also used for internal design reviews and study. Going over a project with a client during the design process can be challenging if your client has trouble visualizing based on drawings. A quick and relatively inexpensive model can save valuable time and instantly resolve any elements that are in question.

It is a completely different story when bringing a model before the public. When you have an audience that is looking buy, it is good to show every element that can help sell your concept. At that point, a DETAILED MODEL is what you may need.

Detailed Models
The public can be very literal. When they see a model the brain sometimes translates it into a very small reality.

Any questionable elements become issues. A detailed or “realistic” model shows every design element and color in an accurate fashion. When selling to the public, you can never know what elements will close the deal. Perhaps it is the location of the swimming pool or the view from the balcony or access to retail space. Including all of the important marketing highlights of the model is essential to successful sales.

There is room in-between these two extremes. With careful planning, we can work with you to create what we call a Semi-Detailed model.

Semi-Detailed Models
Often the premium sales tools are desired but the budget just isn’t there to afford that kind of work. We often bida project as a full detailed model only to find out that we need to make compromises to hit the numbers. Your model maker can guide you to areas that can be simplified without completely losing the character of the model. Perhaps instead of clear reflective windows, we make them from a grey opaque material saving us a layer of information. Perhaps the textures of the brick or siding are not as critical as the color, eliminating another layer and saving us more time in construction. These choices must be carefully selected and written out specifically in the bid so that everyone is on the same page and understands what the finished product will look like.

2. What size will your model be?
Don’t worry about the scale of the model at this point, just think about the size. Points to consider when picking a size include: Where is the model going to live? Will it be in the same place for the entire sales cycle or will it be moved? Will your audience come to the model or do you have to bring the model to a trade show or boardroom for the presentations?

Answering these questions will help to put an overall size on the physical model and determine the type of case needed for shipping and presentations.

Some models, like this one that we did for the Presidio in San Francisco, needed to be large for a showroom but sections of the development also needed to be taken to individual meetings. The solution was a four-part model with each section shipped in easy-to-handle, rolling cases that are light enough to be taken to meetings. After the meeting, the section could be reassembled and locked together. If the model is being displayed in a showroom or trade show, a heavy wooden case with pallet skids is more appropriate for safe travel. We have also built models that fit in a small suitcase-sized case to be carried onto an airplane for safe travel around the country.

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