Friday, November 30, 2012

Design vs. Budget


Understanding the budget goals of the project requires a good understanding of construction costs, something that many designers are not qualified to do. Conceptual and preliminary estimating should be available during the design process to prevent surprises and manage the design to the budget. Many projects have remained on the drawing board when the owners discover that the cost to build is over their budget.




Designing to a budget is an effective way to ensure that a design gets built. Once again, by beginning the estimating process during the design phase, surprises can be minimized. When establishing a conceptual budget, we have some tricks that help us understand the owners' needs:
  • Architectural Digest, Southern Living or DIY magazines
    Depending on the type of design magazines that the owner prefers, we can get a hint of where we should establish a budget. The high-design and details shown in Architectural Digest are demanding and some builders may have difficulty achieving the level of quality; Southern Living magazine demonstrates attention to detail but is not as demanding, and; DIY is usually about achieving bang-for-the-buck at the best price.
  • Aluminum or Wood-Clad Windows
    There is a broad range of window preferences among many home buyers, from: specific name-brand high-end products, to; no preference at all. While the wood-clad windows are more expensive, the preference is often driven by demand to achieve a high level of quality and performance. These expectations can influence many of the other products and systems within a home.
  • Appliances and Plumbing Fixtures
    Appliances and plumbing fixtures can be large ticket items within a home's budget, but the customer selection has more to do with the overall budget than just the appliances or fixtures themselves. It's been our experience that when buyers want specific appliance and plumbing fixture brands, they won't compromise otherwise. We can reduce the size of the home or make other cutbacks to save money, but they often will not consider other brands.
Did all that make sense? These are our observations after working with dozens of owners. Establishing a conceptual or preliminary budget can be more involved that just adding up costs. A good estimator can help establish a realistic budget, and then a good designer can design within the budget.