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Probable construction costs ?

  • 1.  Probable construction costs ?

    Posted 04-06-2022 12:22 PM
    To identify the sticker shock earlier in the process and to guide the project scope - how are firms handling - estimator ? sf  costs? roll the dice?
    Thank you!

    Kathleen Sullivan AIA
    Trio Architecture pllc
    Hastings on Hudson NY

  • 2.  RE: Probable construction costs ?

    Posted 04-07-2022 05:32 PM
    We are finding that our architect clients are requesting more detailed outline specifications, or early drafts of full-size specifications, earlier in the project. This can be a challenge for us if material decisions are yet to be made; sometimes we populate sections with default products with the idea that they will be close enough in cost to the final selected product that the estimator will be able to provide some guidance. Project size and complexity have more effect on cost than the difference between one product and another.

    Philip Kabza AIA
    SpecGuy Specifications Consultants
    Mount Dora FL

  • 3.  RE: Probable construction costs ?

    Posted 04-07-2022 05:34 PM
    I go with the roll the dice plan, or just double the highest cost I can think is even possible. With COVID and hurricanes and freezes if we can even get the materials for construction we generally become unconcerned at the cost. But I'm hopeful construction will get competitive sooner than later.

    David Brossett AIA
    Brossett Architects, LLC
    Lake Charles LA

  • 4.  RE: Probable construction costs ?

    Posted 04-07-2022 05:40 PM

    Good question!  

    I usually do sf costs, then add for bathrooms and kitchens.  Before this pandemic I would tell people around $200-250/sf then add $20 for bathrooms snd $40k for kitchens.  Flippers always tell me they can do it for much less.  

    Of course it depends on how busy the contractors are, which if they are any good, they are overbooked and not giving away their services in this climate.

    I used to pride myself on getting the numbers right, with a tight range.  More recently the prices are more varied, and preliminary estimates by the contractors prior to drawings are always higher once they are done.

    Might as well advise the clients beforehand about fluctuations these days.  They know what's happening so you'll both be on the same page early on.  

    Good luck!

    William Figdor, AIA
    Art & Architecture, LLC
    Maplewood, NJ

  • 5.  RE: Probable construction costs ?

    Posted 04-08-2022 11:04 AM
    I'd be interested in hearing other architects' experiences using 3rd party estimators for custom residential design.

    I've always provided clients with SD estimates that I've done myself using a combination of Cost/SF + increase by some percentage + increase for kitchens and baths + lump-sum allowances for special items like elevators, etc., but it's so challenging right now!

    I've considered asking the local lumberyard if they could start providing estimating services but I haven't don't that yet. Is that a thing in some places? 


    Sarah Mannes Homstad AIA
    Mannes Architects, LLC
    Yankton SD

  • 6.  RE: Probable construction costs ?

    Posted 04-09-2022 06:33 PM
    There was a local lumberyard that I was told did estimating, but when I spoke with them, they did not get involved in the labor costs- just  material costs.

    Kathleen Sullivan AIA
    Trio Architecture pllc
    Hastings on Hudson NY

  • 7.  RE: Probable construction costs ?

    Posted 04-08-2022 07:48 PM
    Edited by Elmer Lin, NCARB 04-08-2022 07:51 PM
    That is the eternal question. 
    I have learned to only offer sf unit cost for recent projects of similar size and complexity.  
    If someone asks me for a budget for a single story addition of around 1500 square feet, I would only quote a cost
    based on the final cost of last similar project.  I have lost potential projects with this approach but at least you know the prospective client is not prepared to spend what it actually costs and you won't need to beat around the bush.
    I have heard that people will trust their real estate agent on the cost question and not their architect.  AIA needs to do something about that.

    Elmer Lin, NCARB
    San Francisco CA

  • 8.  RE: Probable construction costs ?

    Posted 04-09-2022 11:16 AM
    Kathleen, this is a great topic of conversation!
    The issue is deeply flawed; In most cases, Architects rely on false or incomplete information and dare to make representations to their client, outside their area of expertise.
    I find this to be, on one hand, reckless, and on the other, from an Owner's point of view, not in his/her best interest.
    The problem is, especially with small projects and custom residential, Owner relies on the Architect's professional opinions and representation and seldom seeks a second opinion.
    The only way to estimate costs at any stage of the project is by doing exactly that: Estimating. What do Architects know about this?
    The Owner or the Architect should include either an outside consultant at an early stage and as the project evolves, or obtain budget / opinions from qualified contractors who will participate in the bid process.
    Yes, the Architect may rely on opinions from GC's for similar projects of the same magnitude / scope, but these should not be relied upon, they should just be a reference, and only with such disclosure should they be relayed to Owner.
    Though there is a higher initial cost, if a project does not have a realistic valuation when it gets to the bid phase, the cost of project rework, time lost, and bidders "wheel spinning" is even higher. Not to mention the potential conflict that could arise from a disgruntled customer, when he/she learns the improvement will cost double.

    Ivan Contreras, LEED AP, AIA
    Miami FL

  • 9.  RE: Probable construction costs ?

    Posted 04-09-2022 06:45 PM
    I agree with you about how architects can get ahead of their skis and use poor methodology or out of date numbers which leads to all the possible issues with clients.  

    I would like to find an estimator - contractors are too busy to give quotes and several have started to use third party estimators themselves due to the crazy cost environment.

    Kathleen Sullivan AIA
    Trio Architecture pllc
    Hastings on Hudson NY

  • 10.  RE: Probable construction costs ?

    Posted 04-14-2022 02:19 AM
    Ivan, I have a different opinion about this topic. In my experience, clients' expectations vary from market to market. And those expectations can be shaped by the relationship between the architect and the client and the way the architect guides the expectations of those clients who don't hire architects frequently. So, if a design contract requires an Opinion of Probable Cost (a frequent requirement that does not exceed the expertise of many architects and does not constitute a full Construction Estimate) and if the client understands what an Opinion of Probable Cost is (and how it differs from a Construction Estimate) and what it is not, I think the outcome can be reasonably positive, when the architect is well-trained and diligent.

    This is not to dispute the positive impact of full Construction Estimates, performed by well-trained Construction Estimators, including third-party estimators free of conflicts of interest and ulterior motives. This is just to say I don't believe they are necessary in every case nor in every market.

    Sean Catherall AIA
    Murray UT

  • 11.  RE: Probable construction costs ?

    Posted 04-14-2022 09:58 AM

    Hi Sean,

    I agree; yet I think the issue seems to go back to the inception: the setup of a project; the Owner's due diligence for project feasibility and a clear set of expectations in the programming phase. And this is where we as Architects could step-up our game, add value for truly professional services.

    Though it's the Owner's burden to determine upfront if a project is to be driven by budget, schedule, or performance, giving each a priority number from 1 to 3, it's often in the Architect's power to extract this information by asking questions, guide an Owner unfamiliar with projects on the importance of setting parameters and putting enough effort in programming. In the end, the Owner is only after a finished product, and in more recent years, a digital as-built twin.

    I would like my clients to look back and express that the greatest value of my contribution was in this, without which the project would have been a disaster. Establish our value from inception, construction, close-out, operation and subsequent improvements. A more holistic set of services.

    Does it sound too romantic?






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