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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

I am starting a project....and the question is?

The most asked question I get as a designer and builder is...........wait for probably guessed it by now........"How much will it cost?" This question is asked at all stages of a project and rightfully so! However, most owners want this question answered before the project has even started! "I'm not going to hold you to it, but what do you think it will cost?" Every project, especially renovation projects have their own unique issues or owner desires that affect cost. For example, if I asked you 'how much does a car cost?' Your answer would would probably start off by asking details about what kind of car, what size engine, etc. Same for a building, there are so many variables that it is unrealistic to ask cost before the details are known. In reality the owner should state their budget initially and let the designer/builder develop a program to that budget. This process will let the owner know if their desires match their budget.    

Any project should have a process to develop the project successfully. If it doesn't, that's when things go wrong and it all starts to unravel for the owner. After 27 years of developing, designing and constructing, here is a 3 step outline of a process to develop an accurate cost for your project with the right builder.

1. Develop a 'Program'. I define architectural programming as the research and decision-making process that identifies the scope of work to be designed. This can be as simple as a list of the spaces you want to develop for your project. Or it can be more complex for a new home or commercial building. For design programming for a new building, we propose a six-step process as follows:
  1. Research the project type
  2. Establish goals and objectives
  3. Gather relevant information
  4. Identify strategies
  5. Determine quantitative requirements
  6. Summarize the program
Ultimately your program should reflect a list of spaces with sizes and finishes you want in that space as well as the relationship between them. Once a program is developed it is now more realistic for the builder to start putting budget numbers together based on square footage. But more importantly it allows the designer/builder to start developing a preliminary or schematic design for your project.

2. Develop a 'Preliminary Design'. From the program that has been developed, it is now easier to develop a design which should as a minimum a floor plan, building elevations and site plan. This will allow the owner to visually see the program that was developed as well as the aesthetics of the proposed design. From this preliminary design the builder can now develop a more specific construction budget. At this point the owner can make decisions based on his original budget. Is the original budget realistic for the program we desired? This is where you can adjust your budget and/or your design. It is a lot less expensive at this point to know that your desires don't meet your budget!

3. Develop "Design Development Drawings". These drawings will now develop the preliminary drawings in more detail. There should be wall sections describing the construction type as well as finish schedules describing finishes selected such as flooring, wall finishes (tile), etc. Finish selections can be one of your projects most varying costs based on what selections are made. There should also be descriptions of structural, electrical, a/c and plumbing designs as well as exterior finishes if applicable. From these DD drawings any builder with experience should be able to develop an accurate construction cost for your project. This is the point you will have a realistic cost for your project and can make the final decision on your budget and design.

Once you have approved the DD Drawings you are now ready to get started in the construction process which will first require developing 'Permit/Construction Drawings' to submit to your local building department for approval and receipt of a Building Permit to commence construction. 

So there you have it, three steps to get an accurate cost for your project before you spend alot of money on permit/construction drawings and construction. As anxious as you may be to start construction on your project, a little planning goes a long way in saving you money and headaches down the road!     

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