Design + Build: It cost what it cost

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There really is no way around the time tested adage; You get what you pay for.  Good things cost money and better things cost more money.  Where does one draw the line on good enough?  Cars, clothes, watches, diamonds, food, vacations… the list goes on and on.  However, when it comes to our home, do we really give it enough consideration?  Our home is where we spend a great deal of our time.  Our home is also our most personal possession.  It may very well reflect almost everything we do in our most personal times.  The quality of our homes could very easily parallel the quality of our lives. Simply stated, “if you don’t like going home, how happy can you possibly be?” However, if home is a place where you would rather stay, then you really have something.  Shouldn’t your home be your favorite place to be?

If you don’t like how much something cost, what are you supposed to do?

A- Change your taste so something cheaper will suffice. B- Save your money so you can afford what it is that you really want C- Squeeze your master builder to the point that you can afford to get what you want at the expense of him or someone else….

This is precisely where it starts to get a bit dodgy. And then the home owner wonders why things ultimately turn out the way they do. Quality cost money, time is money and there is no real substitute for either. The quality that you ultimately pay for is permanently in place. Poor quality will remain poor or even fail to perform over time (even though the price you paid for it felt good at the time.) Conversely, good quality, will not only withstand the test of time, but the cost of doing so will inevitably become inconsequential as time passes on.

The whole idea of a budget could go on and on. What really is the budget? Is that the price you intend to spend on the project? Is that the price you think you should spend on the project? Is that the price your brother or neighbor spent on their project?

Before I became a designer / builder I bid-out jobs the fabricated way. Three general contractors all trying to bid apples to apples based on the set of plans presented. The recurring problem that occurred was that the bid for the project by 3 different bidders was typically over budget and sometimes as much as 50%…..hmmm. How did that happen? O.k. says Mr. Architect, “either they are all charging too much for their services or you mister homeowner will just have to pony up some more money.

This is exactly where all #$%@!? hits the fan. One of four things will now occur:

  • A young, green, (and I don’t mean sustainable), over-achieving newcomer general contractor will be pulled into the sequence and raised up by the architect to be the hero because his price will “fit the budget.”
  • The home owner will hire his neighbor’s contractor because the neighbor is a good guy and likes his home. Oh yeah, the neighbor moved here from outta town and bought a spec. home because his wife liked the school district and was not going to build a house ever again after their last experience. Plus their kitchen had a Viking stove, granite, and a really cool faucet that comes way out of the countertop. The neighbor’s general contractor can also build for really cheap. This is probably why he is a spec. builder!
  • The architect will “cost engineer” the home to an acceptable and affordable price. Of course the house no longer looks anything like the original masterpiece, and is stripped of all the requested amenities, but that is the homeowners fault for not having enough money.
  • “Wait a minute” says Mr. Architect, “you seem like a really smart guy and you really appreciate my fine architecture. You be the general contractor or “owner builder” in this case. I’ll feed you all the necessary tradesmen to build the project. I know all the sub-contractors in town. What do you think?”
  • I won’t even touch that one – but it has happened and boy did that turn south AND go over budget. Way over.
  • Next week’s post: “Budget is what budget does”

    About this author
    Cite: Steve Lazar. "Design + Build: It cost what it cost" 08 Aug 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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