Design Process 102A- Costs Brief

The first two posts of the Design Process of an Architect Collector Series, covered Programming and Schematic Design. You may notice an emerging ‘theme’ in this series, this stuff seems pretty basic. Yup, that’s the point. Architects tend to forget that clients typically don’t know the basics. If a client is uneducated to the basic process, they may be reluctant to voice their concerns or opinions. It’s their project and their voice needs to be heard, and valued. The next phase is Design Development. However, we’re going to take a short detour to Moneyville- it’s a short drive down Electric Avenue. BOOM! Eddy Grant reference for no reason whatsoever!

Stuff costs money. Architecture is stuff. Services are stuff. Clients want stuff. Architecture costs money. Clients have money. Architects need to be upfront about costs and have candid discussions throughout the life of the project. Costs change, issues come up, architect gets a bonus, revisions are made, etc.- budget issues need to be continually addressed.

We’re not going to discuss specific costs; there are far too many variables- project location, quality, schedule, materials, etc. This serves as a brief of the associated costs of a project. Keep in mind, the budget items below are not all encompassing, but rather a general listing of the typical items to be included in the budgets. It is crucial to the success of the project, and for the relationship between the architect and the client, that any budget discussed is also specified as to whether it is the Construction Budget or the Project Budget.


Construction Budget vs. Project Budget

It is important to note the difference between the Construction Budget and the Project Budget. The Construction Budget typically includes:

• Providing utilities to the site if not currently present
• Site Preparation (clearing away trees, stabilizing soil, cutting and filling to grade the site, etc.)
• Demolition
• Construction costs, including foundation, framing, electrical, mechanical, plumbing, interior finishes, exterior finishes, lighting, cabinetry, appliances, etc.
• Construction Management Fees and Site Superintendant Fees
• Sales tax
• Hardscape (exterior built items i.e. sidewalks, driveways, patio’s pools, etc.)

The Project Budget typically includes all of the above in addition to the following:

• Architect fees
• Professional Services fees (interior designer, structural engineer, landscape architect, etc.)
• Land Costs
• Financing Costs
• Water + sewer tap fees
• Permit fees
• Contingency monies
• Landscaping

This is worth restating- It is crucial to the success of the project, and for the relationship between the architect and the client, that any budget discussed is also specified as to whether it is the Construction Budget or the Project Budget. How will you handle the situation when the client thinks the $800k is the Project Budget and you thought they meant the Construction Budget was $800k…awkward!

To gauge the construction budget, once the Schematic Design drawings are formally approved, a Preliminary Construction Cost Estimate (PCCE) should be prepared. However, relying solely on the architect’s estimation is like throwing a baby in with the bath water. Or is it, taking a baby out of bath water? Making the bath water hotter for a baby? Oh crap, I’m not good with old timey stupid expressions! Your architect should prepare a cost estimate- but also have a contractor prepare a PCCE to compare against. We’ll discuss the specifics of the PCCE in our next post.

There you go. A brief of costs associated with a project. While no degrees will be issued, you should feel slightly educated about Construction and Project Budgets. If not, no worries, you’re only auditing this class!


Design On,

** Keep in mind this is how my firm works. Other firms will differ. However, in general, most architects will adhere to a similar design process. If they don’t, well… they’re just wrong. Are the babies a bit too creepy?

  1. Douglas McClure said:

    you forgot furniture and furnishings in the project cost…but this is a great primer.

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