This is kinda funny to me. I work for a public agency in the Los Angeles area (sometimes considered a boondoggle of a bureaucracy), in the cost estimating department. I actually have before me a request for a budget (ROM) estimate where the 2 electrical plan sheets are completely blank - not even backgrounds. Apparently the electrical engineer hasn't gotten around to starting this project yet.
There are 10 types of people. Those who know binary, and those who don't.
The first thing you must understand is that my customers are repeat, loyal, and I have an excellent relationship with them. They trust me, and I trust them. Without this sort of relationship, I'd want a blank check to accompany the blank drawings!
If the design is left up to you, it is essential that you understand the customers' needs, and that you have excellent communication with him.
Sometimes, I "lose out" when one of these customers is forced to put out jobs for bids; in every such case so far, I have been hired after the job to put in the things the other guy failed to anticipate- things that were in my proposal.
Looking at the prints, and the codebook, is nowhere near enough to base a plan upon. The type of construction is sritical; with some types you'll never have the chance to make later changes- you MUST get it right the first time!
Getting to your question, I look at that blank sheet of paper, and first try to imagine what the place will look like when finished, and how folks will perform their duties. I then plan out receptacles, etc, as I would want them were I working in that space, doing that job. I have a bias toward things being very accessible, rather than hidden behind cabinets, etc. I then base my price upon my "best guesses."
Now, sometimes the customer and I will have a difference of opinion. For example, he may want all the lights to come off one switch, while I will wnat each room to have it's own switch. When that happens, I follow the customer's wishes....but I'll often have a conveniently placed junction box in the ceiling, for when he changes his mind in six months' time!
Finally- and this seems almost too basic- but, absent a real clear idea of what I need to do, there is no price! Nor schedule. If the customer can't find time to talk to me, or can't decide what he wants....well, I don't need that sort of challenge.
I'll get blank plans sometimes. The possibility of meeting the homeowner is very remote usually in the cases I come across. And there you have the crux. So what I do is pencil draw a simple code compliant layout with just barely above trac style lighting. I photo copy the plan I drew for later reference. I put together a price for the job. Then I draw a more delux plan for the lighting and appliances. Photo copy that one and submit a price. Then I submit a price for decora upgrade, dimming per unit cost upgrade, and anything else delux that comes to mind. I send both copies of plans back to gc along with my proposals. I give em a firm deal for exactly what is shown on my two drawings with absolutly no deviations period. They get two choices. Good or better but more costly. Some people are not happy unless they get to make some sort of choice.
I would approach this much the same as John has stated. However, the additional costs would need to be accounted due to the 'hand holding' and the extra work that you will need to do, unless this is a Code minimum type job.
I too like to discuss the clients needs and offer options. Unless I know the customer, I will not leave a plan that I have drawn up just so that someone else gets some free engineering. Why should other contractors get the advantage of my experience and knowledge?
Am I missing something? I think the guy owes you an engineering fee if you have to design this system. Put it in your bid and you certainly don't give him your drawings, just a summary, until he signs. I suppose there are places that don't have plan review but I bet you need some pretty detailed drawings to get a permit. Why would that be free?
Here in NJ (Class 1 Towns) comm jobs require plans signed & sealed by an EE or Arch.
SFD usually have a 'base' layout, compliant with NEC. I/we usually accept SFD plans from EC's. Additions/Renovations are same.
As an EC, YES, I have no problem with a "FEE" for any layouts. Depending on the client, I may, or may not provide drawings. Experience was/is the best teacher. Lay the job out, add the fee, and watch someone else walk away with it! Again, the relationship YOU have with the client/GC, etc has to be what dictates the rules you follow.
For me depends on the customer. If we have the job is sold and it's just a matter of laying out a few rooms for the customer I don't have much of a problem with that. If a get more than that or anything with a unknown customer then I charge for it. Many times for a homeowner doing a basement they have no drawings or electrical layout. They will call for an estimate and I ask if they have an electrical print. Allways the answer is no. I give a few sample prices for openings and tell them they need to pay to have us do the electrical layout. Then they call the next EC. At least it gets rid of the tire kickers. I have laid of a few basements when I first started. Cans, switching, outlest, smaoke, and explained all that is required. I think I just ended up teaching the HO just enough to try to do it them self.
Anyways you can waist a few hours if you meet the customer, walk thru the jop, drive time, drawings, etc. No cash no drawings.
If your talking about whole house plans for a builder that have no electric it's probibly the wrong builder to work for.
One other problem I have had is I would look at a job with blank drawings. Talk to the customer and do the electrical drawings. The job is won. A arkitect comes in and does his own electrical drawings. Now I need to rebid the job. Big waist of time.