Years of working on all kinds of construction projects has taught us just how greatly clients’ already busy lives can be affected by this process. We know how important it is from the outset to set realistic expectations about how much your project will cost and how long it will take.
When we talk to new clients about their prior experience with architects, designers and builders, one of the most common complaints we hear is that the team they worked with paid too little attention to timetable or budget. We hear stories of major additions, new kitchens and even smaller projects, like new or renovated bathrooms, growing in cost and too often taking months longer than originally planned.
Of course, sometimes delays or cost increases simply cannot be avoided, but we find that working with an experienced architect and communicating throughout can help keep surprises to a minimum. Here are eight tips we live by to make sure that our clients’ projects come in on time and on budget:
- Put your wish list and priorities in writing; then reconcile your means and dreams. Through thoughtful, probing questions and open communication, we guide you on establishing “nice to haves” versus “must haves,” and help you achieve the balance between your wish list and your desired budget. As designs proceed, we’ll check in early and often on what we’re trying to accomplish together and adjust priorities as necessary.
2. Develop a careful, detailed plan with the homeowner and the builder. We provide a schedule for the delivery and completion of our services and help you manage the scope—the amount of work that needs to be done to get your project completed as planned. Time invested in exploring details up front will help eliminate costly changes during construction and keep you within your budget.
3. Include all line item budgets with great specificity. We understand budgets are a primary concern. Every one of our architecture and interior design clients—no matter how much money they intend to spend—expects us to help them invest their budget wisely, making choices that will be the best for their lifestyle. We’ve earned the confidence of our clients by providing a clear understanding of cost and respecting budgets. Our detailed budgets reflect every project component–from construction costs to architecture fees, to finishes and furnishings–and are a critical element of overall cost management.
4. Make sure you (and your builder) can fully visualize the finished project. We’ll provide you with all the detailed visuals you need to understand exactly what your home will be… not just floor plans and elevations, but detailed 3D renderings to help you weigh pros and cons of certain “budget buster” wish list items. We also provide the builder with extensive construction drawings: If something is not drawn, it’s an opportunity for the contractor to ask for more money.
5. Choose building materials early on. Your builder should provide a calendar of when you need to make decisions in order to keep your project on track. We’ll provide you with timely recommendations on carefully selected materials and products that offer the right combination of price, aesthetics, and performance. We’ll also make sure your choices are available so you don’t waste time waiting for a specific tile or wood floor that will take two months to arrive and disrupt the calendar.
6. Address any permit issues at the start of your project. Your architect, and attorney in some instances, should work with you to handle any paperwork or submissions needed for permits required by your city or town. As project leaders, we’ll be sure all permitting requirements are anticipated, addressed at the outset and handled in sequence so that you don’t have delays down the road.
7. Be on site with the builder at critical times throughout the project. As architects who care deeply about our clients and their homes, our practice is to work closely with the builder, review the project status each week and show up on site at important stages of the project. This insures that we can anticipate and resolve any issues that may arise during construction, and give advice on the time and cost consequences of design and construction decisions.
8. Communication is key. Perhaps most important, is good, open communication between architect, builder and client. The entire team must align around timetable and expectations so there are few surprises as your project progresses. We pride ourselves on anticipating the rhythm of a project and asking questions throughout, keeping everyone informed every step of the way. If the inevitable issue comes up, we help you make educated decisions so that we can find the best solution as a team.