By Cymon Allfrey
Since deciding to take on a building project myself, I have found I now have an interesting advantage when advising clients on the importance of budget setting.
Although in some respects, this new viewpoint has made me re-think my professional perspective around cost control, how I understand cost hasn’t differed. However, I have found I am more alert to the incidentals that are attached to any project and are indirectly linked to cost control and budget setting.
When finalising a budget with clients, it is critical that they determine the figure for their project on their own terms. This way their ability to raise funds and the relationship between their investment (capital) and the finished cost of the build can be fully understood.
Once the client is comfortable in their own mind with that figure, I look to bring parity between the budget and the brief. As is human nature, the wish list is often greater than the budget, always wanting that little extra on top.
This is all a normal part of the process, but what gives? Does the brief condense or does the pot expand?
There is no right or wrong answer; my aim is simply to never put pen to paper until there is a comfortable degree of parity between budget and brief; the two need to be united in order for the project to be a success.
In all projects, there are three principal components that inform building costs. The most critical being the size of the build. I endeavour to clearly demonstrate the direct relationship between size and cost early in the engagement phase, as once in construction, the size is set and there is no turning back.
The complexity of the build also impacts greatly, but similarly has a deadline for cost-saving changes. Decreasing the quality of fixtures and fittings – the tactile things that are used every day – has the least financial impact. And, unfortunately, at the tail end of a project when the home is largely built, quality is the only real area left to make cost savings.
The cost control process is tailored to each individual project. If a client’s budget seems out and out achievable, there may be a less rigorous cost control than if the budget was lean.
One critical point to note is that an architect isn’t a cost expert. There is only so much support they can give before there is a need to bring in other professionals such as a quantity surveyor.
Early contractor involvement can also be an option when working through a constricted budget, as the cost of the build and construction methodology can significantly impact the overall cost of the project.
There are some clients who can be reluctant at this stage to commit funds to a contractor or quantity surveyor when their budget is yet to be finalised, however, a small investment in this early stage ensures the client isn’t making a rod for their own back in the future.
In the last 6-9 months, whilst working through my own building project, there have been many lessons to learn. One of the most important, I have discovered, is to always consider the incidentals and where they fit into the budget.
The designer kettle to sit on the designer bench, the new TV, the $10,000 couch… all the new ‘things’ the client has always dreamed of buying to put in their new home.
These are the contents that make the home feel complete to the client, but the cost of which aren’t necessarily able to be considered by the architect. Although not part of the building budget, these purchases are part of an overarching budget for the client and including this in budgeting conversations with the architect can ensure all are reading from the same song book.
It is critical to think holistically when setting a budget and to be realistic and honest with yourself about how much you are truly willing to invest.
Being mindful to consider all the things that go alongside the actual building of the project; the landscape, the fixtures and fittings and all those ‘things’ you wish to purchase to make your new house a home.
Allowing for all these elements will assist in setting a feasible budget for your project and ensure a successful result.