How much is that doggy in the window?

Most of my work in architecture is new projects, ground up construction. In my previous life, I did a fair amount of remodel work. With government work, typically I have to pull together a cost estimate during the design. There are several types of cost estimates I do. Even when contracts under way, the government wants a general idea if a change from the contractor is fair and reasonable. Last week I was working on a change order presented by the contractor which was caused by an unforeseen condition.

This really got me thinking where do I get my data from when I do a cost estimate? The answer is… it depends on what phase of the project I'm working on. Let's break it down to the 3 camps I work in, the Concept, the Design and the Construction Administration.

During the Concept, I rely on recent past work. Sounds like an oxymoron like Jumbo Shrimp. But let's keep our focus. If I'm doing a tenant finish out for 3,500 square feet I will look at the final construction cost of recent projects plus a few other similar projects. But that number would be completely different from a new administration building for a university. So, what happens when I get a new project type? I will dig into similar types of construction and size, the benefit of working on a variety of project types. I'll take those construction cost and divide by the square footage. This way the client will know what they can design to, if they are on a shoe string budget doing a tenant finish out it might only be $40 a square foot, but if they know that the investment in the space will drive clients and profit, it will probably be higher.

Then the design, this has become quite involved. While I could do a detailed cost on a smaller project. Typically, it is best for the client if I hire a Cost Estimator. The Cost estimator will go through drawings in the same process as a contractor. Counting quantities, applying cost per unit via area, linear or square feet. Working closely with the cost estimator is great. They find areas in the drawings that may have a bust. Since it has not gone out to bid, I can add the information and get even better proposals from the potential contractors. Once the project bids, we select a contractor (by we, it is normally the owner with advice from the architect) and the fun begins.

Finally, the Construction, or in my case the Construction Administration. This one is different depending on 'why' I need to do a cost estimate. But let's focus on the main reason a Change Order. Yes, they happen to me for different reasons, typically for an unforeseen condition. I have several approaches depending on what the change is. If it is similar to a past project (within 6 months) I can use that cost data. If there are similar elements, I can go back to the original cost estimate and extract out the relevant data. Another option, which most Architects keep in their back pocket is using RS Means. The last one I do is leverage my CSI network and get real world material cost, if I can't do that I will search the internet. Once I get the real cost impact, I'll add in labor, taxes, profit and overhead. This approach gives the client a sense if the contractor is being fair and reasonable or just trying to make another payment on his boat.

…and now for something completely different.
The citrus soda 7-UP was created in 1929; '7' was selected after the original 7-ounce containers and 'UP' for the direction of the bubbles.


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The Erector Set


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Monday, 05 December 2022