Very early in a project, when I first meet a residential client, the topic of budget comes up. More specifically, an important first step for me to establish is finding a realistic connection between the owner's needs and their ability to afford those needs. This may be the home owners first experience in working with an architect, remodeling a home, planning a project or all of the above. Some clients are very sophisticated and know exactly what they want. Others need more guidance. An architect is trained to listen to the client's needs and through the design process, distill those desires into a realistic set of priorities, eventually leading to a buildable and affordable project.
Understanding the project scope and knowing the client's budgetary constraints should be established very early in the architect/client relationship. Questions like, "How much can you realistically afford for what you've just asked for" may seem initially intrusive, however, it is vitally important that we are on the same page, matching desire with reality. Knowing the client's budget helps the architect design toward an achievable goal.
Seattle has become an expensive place to live and work. Things are simply more expensive here than in, say, Omaha or Buffalo. Construction costs unfortunately follow suit, with square foot costs averaging over $200.00 a square foot. One of my least favorite tasks during the design process is to keep reining in the client's expectations. It's not unusual to have clients requesting to add space despite my efforts to design towards the budget I was given. "But I had my heart set on that second family room, fourth bathroom and six car garage"!
In building projects, there are static costs and dynamic costs. Static costs are things that show up in every design. They are the essentials, like studs, wall board, electricity, plumbing…in other words, infrastructure. Dynamic costs are typically the finishes you choose. These can range from Pay n Pak bath fixtures to gold plated toilets and everywhere in between. Finishes can tremendously effect the final budget. I often tell my clients that they are often the ones most responsible for creating project budget creep.
The design process is a thing a beauty if done correctly. Through it we can establish a preliminary design, a budget, and a set of construction drawings that can be both permitted and built from. If we stick to our goals, I promise that your project will be as stress free, affordable and functional as possible. It will also, hopefully, be something that is truly fun and rewarding for all concerned.