Good Design, Good Designers and the Correct Budget Process
There are many decisions that a property owner or developer (let’s call them owner) must make when creating a plan to build a residential or commercial building(s) on land they own. None are more important than the determination of the project budget and the selection of the design team.
Whichever approach the owner employs to determine the amount of the project budget, the ability to achieve the budget target and the quality of the completed product, will be significantly affected by the process the owner adopts to:
- Assemble a good design team to include architects, engineers, interior and landscape designers
- Ensure intentional costs fall within the targeted budget and avoid unintentional costs which can increase total project costs dramatically
- Follow a process of maximizing good design and quality building materials by making selections with the design team that are thoroughly vetted; and minimizing total project costs by requiring detailed, complete construction documents and rigorous bidding
Good Design, Good Budget, Better Return on Investment
Good designers create attractive, functional and livable buildings with great curb appeal – all of which inevitably enhance the value of the property. Good designers also produce detailed and complete drawings which are essential for successful bidding and the avoidance of unintentional costs. It is almost always the case that people prefer to occupy and visit appealing projects; and those projects therefore enjoy greater occupancy rates and resale values than inferior designs and lesser quality buildings in otherwise comparable locations.
In order to achieve the best possible project budget, the owner must recognize that added costs are not limited to choosing more expensive materials or larger square footage. Added costs can occur unintentionally because:
- he construction documents, including plans, specifications and shop drawings are not clear, are incomplete, or are inconsistent with other drawings. As a result, the contractor, owner and subcontractors engage in disputes during construction regarding change orders; the project budget is increased and the completion date is delayed.
- The designers do not recommend alternative selections for materials and hence selections of very pricey items for which there are less expensive, equally acceptable alternatives are not available to bid.
- The owner’s representative does not require several bids from either the contractor or each subcontractor and supplier; or employs the use of allowances without detailed analysis of the assumptions inherent in the allowances.
How to Start
The process of building a residential or commercial project should start with an architect or where appropriate, a design-build contractor. Phase One of the process is to obtain conceptual exterior elevations and interior floor plans.
Armed with conceptual plans, the owner should add the interior design and landscape architect/designer to the design process
Once the owner has provided the architect and interior designer with general ideas of building material selections, (e.g. flooring, cabinetry, countertops, plumbing, appliances and woodwork preferences), and the landscape designer has received input regarding site design, the owner can obtain a rough estimate of total project costs.
This rough estimate provides the owner with feedback to better understand what the budget will likely amount to, at minimum, and information to develop a plan for final decisions and bidding.
Now, It’s Time to Build
Once the owner, design team and contractor have designed an attractive, functional, livable building, with curb appeal; and selected the best bids for the final budget, the parties can move into the construction phase of the project knowing they have enhanced the value of the project before it is even built.