When planning a home remodeling or new construction project, one of the first things homeowners usually want to know is how much the work will cost. While costing is squarely in the domain of the contractor and decidedly not within the realm of the architect, explaning how contractors structure the means of costing is part of the job of the architect in educating the client as to the available approaches, and quite often advising which might be the most appropriate for their particular project. Continue reading
Controlling construction costs is among the most important things an owner can do in order to realize a successful project. The best resource available to the owner in managing the cost of construction is the general contractor. Construction cost projections presented by the contractor generally include: Continue reading
When executing a lease, most tenants will need to renovate an existing space. The scope of this work can range from new carpet and paint to the complete build-out of empty shell space. It is important to have a very clear idea of what it costs to design, permit and construct the new improvements for the new space. What may seem initially to be a simple remodel can grow in complexity and cost as unforeseen complications emerge. Continue reading
New homes can be a superior value.
Newly built homes are often priced higher than resale, but, with a new home, everything inside and out is brand new. Conventional thinking is that a new home will cost more than an existing home. The rule of thumb seems to be that buying a new home from a builder might run you 15 percent to 30 percent more than buying a comparable older home in an existing neighborhood. Continue reading
We all want to add more space to our home, yet it is a luxury and can be a particularly expensive one. Many of us dream of the day when we can expand our homes, add an extension or convert an attic. It takes no effort to imagine how life could be less chaotic and better organized if only we had a bigger living space, room for a home office, an extra bathroom or a guest bedroom. Continue reading
The Department of Energy (DOE) defines Integrated Design Process as “[a] process of design in which multiple disciplines and seemingly unrelated aspects of design are integrated in a manner that permits synergistic benefits to be realized. The goal is to achieve high performance and multiple benefits at a lower cost than the total for all the components combined.”
The Whole Building Design Guide (WBDG) describes Integrated Project Delivery as “an approach to the design and construction process that is based on shared risk and reward, and open exchange of information that is intended to optimize project results. IPD unifies the Project Delivery Team at the beginning of the project with the shared goal of project success.”
While in the public’s mind IDP is generally associated with larger, multi-million dollar projects, such are the benefits of Integrated Project Delivery that in our firm’s practice it’s now the norm rather than the exception, with applications for all our clients, whether institutional, corporate, or residential.
In the case of the homeowner planning a new custom home, a second unit (ADU), or simply a substantial addition, the philosophy and mindset of IDP has important practical benefits.
First and foremost, the IDP mindset entails bringing an experienced builder onto the project team as early as practicable in the design process. Involving a builder in the capacity of professional estimator allows early and accurate tracking of project construction costs. This eliminates guesswork, reducing the uncertainty surrounding the most important factor in construction, the Project Budget.
As importantly, factoring costs-benefits as early as possible into the design decision process eliminates uninformed design decisions, re-thinking of previous design assumptions, backtracking, and associated wasted effort.
Regulatory requirements in California are such that the Project Team for anything but the most modest residential project can typically include not only the Owner-Architect partnership but also geotechnical engineer, civil engineer, wastewater specialist, structural engineer, and energy analyst.
With this many professionals working in coordinated fashion towards a common goal, one can see that targeting those resources towards an uninformed goal, without clear comprehension of the construction costs attached to that goal, can be disastrous.
For this reason in our practice for all but the most modest residential projects we typically recommend that the homeowner engage a professional estimator and incorporate them as part of Project Team formation. Thus we collectively target the design objective from an informed position as to construction costs, and not shoot for that objective twice.
In other words, quoting the carpenter’s aphorism, “measure twice, cut once”.
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For an architect, the three key components informing the design process from day one forward are: what is the client’s program, what is the schedule, and what is the budget.
Establishing and then tracking the project budget is often the most underrated of these three considerations, and yet it is equally if not more important than any of the others. For it is the most assured of follies to proceed down the design path without knowing how much money is available to the project, design the project, and only then come to terms with the actualities of construction cost. For this reason, including a construction estimator on the design team is essential to the success of the project.
This is not a hard and fast rule, of course. Surely for the average residential bathroom or kitchen remodel ball-parking the construction cost may not be so difficult. But it is the rare case where the residential client has the wherewithal or the luxury to dispense entirely with obtaining periodic and reasonably accurate estimations of the projected cost of construction along the way. The old saw, “a fool and his money are soon parted” pertains especially to construction, and it’s the height of foolishness to ignore the realities attending to any construction budget.
Our firm’s small business, corporate, and institutional clients know this, and so it is routine for our firm to refer our private and public sector clients to 2-3 professional estimators, knowing that they will select among them to find the one most qualified to manage their construction costs on their proposed project from the moment of inception of our design. In that manner, working with the estimator to run budget figures at each phase of the design process we can be relatively assured that when the design is completed and is let to bid – having done our homework along the way – there are unlikely to be any surprises on the day of bid opening.
The homeowner is in a more challenging position in this regard. Often, the margins of their budget are thin and so, to shave costs, they refrain from retaining an estimator, avoiding what they might perceive to be an unnecessary expense. Inevitably in these cases they ask the architect to ballpark the costs for them. Being eager to please, all too often the architect is all too willing to accommodate this request. But architects are eternal optimists, and this well-meaning optimism can undermine the objectivity necessary to the task. More importantly, we architects are not as acquainted with the vagaries of the marketplace nor do most have the resources necessary to produce an accurate estimation of cost.
What is the necessary resource? For most builders, this resource is their network of local subcontractors. These are the “antenna” of the contractor, the eyes and ears on the ground. By relying on his/her subcontractors the estimating contractor is in a position to obtain up-to-date information and then furnish an approximation of the construction cost likely to accrue to the latest iteration of the design.
By analogy, the estimator can be thought of as the navigator charting the fog-shrouded waters of the construction budget. And that being the case, who would ever leave the anchorage of a safe port towards the farther shore without having a navigator on board?