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Principle #8 – Cost Control

Additional Detail Without Additional Cost

The contractor is on the team, your loan is approved, and now it’s time to create detailed drawings for construction.  You have defined the cost before fully detailing the project in order to keep your options open about phasing without spending the entire design fee.

.. Now…

How can you make sure the contractor allowed for unforeseen building conditions?

Is there a way to protect yourself from the problem of scope creep as allowances are converted to detailed drawings?

How do you protect you from yourself when converting allowances to specifications?

Our 8th Principle: Cost Control, uses a check and balance system and parts of a commercial building process known as The Bridging Project Delivery Method to control cost.

Unforeseen Building Conditions

The Bridging Project Delivery Method, developed by the Atlanta architectural icon George Heery, is a commercial process we adapted for our residential work.  In our residential process, after the contractor is selected the owner provides a letter of intent and a small fee to the selected contractor contingent on providing a design-build package for the main systems of the house and working towards a mutually agreed upon pricing goal. This is based on the criteria of the pricing set and approval by the design architect (that would be us).   Benefits include:

  1. The Owner participates in the subcontractor “buy out” that happens after a project is typically awarded. During this process, the contractor reanalyzes subcontractor’s bids ensuring that the sum on all the parts provides adequate coverage for the entire project as specified in the drawings. This is also an opportunity to enhance the bottom line of the competitive subcontractor bids.

  2. Shielding the Owner and design architect from unforeseen building conditions.  The design-build package is provided by the contractor, the venders, and the subcontractors for the main systems of the home. The package is based on the design criteria in the pricing set. It is up to the contractor during the permit document phase to expose and identify unforeseen conditions before providing the fixed price. This is covered by the small fee paid to them upfront.

  3. Lets the Architect get out of the contractor’s way and allows the contractor to work with their resources to build the homes “hidden” systems not seen in the house in the most efficient way.  As long as the construction satisfies our design criteria and specifications, it’s up to the contractor on how it’s built.

Scope Creep

While the contractor is working on a fixed price for the construction contract and nailing down the cost of the “hidden” parts of the house, we will work on final drawings for items that are seen such as interior elevations & details, lighting plans, finish plans and fixture selections. Since the contractor is on the team, we will work with their vendors and subs to check and balance the design to confirm what we are drawing is not increasing the price already given to you.

Protecting you from yourself

In our experience, constructions overages do not happen with a few big numbers. Instead, they happen through incremental increases over many items.  We have also seen clients get excited by fun finishes, appliances and features, and not realize they are out of the budget allowed.  During pricing we have worked with you to align the allowances with your taste and goals. When we convert the allowances to specifications, we work to the contracted allowance amounts on each item.  It is fine to get excited on a certain items and go over the allowance budget. However, we want to first get you happy with the original allowances. If you want to increase the quality or fun of an item, it will be up to you.

The horror stories about over budget project experiences don’t have to be true. Following our principle protects our clients during construction from change orders and the unforeseen costs that should have been seen. Meanwhile, it also manages the excitement of final design and allowing you to buy cool stuff.

Bryan Jones, Principal Jones Pierce Inc. An Atlanta based Architectural firm specializing in custom home transformations and custom retirement homes in fun places.

A tailored design with a winning process creates life sustaining result.

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