For Homeowner
Reducing Construction Cost Pre-permit: Contractor Consultation, Structural Info-gathering, Value Engineering
Dec 26, 2019
Design Everest

You know the old saying, “a penny saved is a penny earned?” This couldn’t be more true when it comes to your remodel or new construction project. Undertaking a big job like this in your home can be one of the biggest and most rewarding (financially and personally) projects in your life. Because of the importance of this work, these projects are not cheap - nor should they be. This is your home we’re talking about, and you want the best design for your value system.

Creative projects like this can sometimes get out of hand with new ideas and extravagant materials. It is important to set a budget going into the project, but it is equally important to assess the project at particular stages to make sure you're not making any frivolous mistakes that could add extra cost without adding equal value. Before you go to the city for a building permit, be sure to take these extra steps to ensure you are not permitting an outrageous project with too many bells and whistles, or a poorly thought out project that could be designed more efficiently.

Contractor Consultation

Bring your contractors into the loop early. Schedule a time to walk your site or home to discuss your project with your contractor. These professionals will be able to assess your project idea and discuss it in detail with you in order to determine areas of potential cost savings. In order to do this, they will need to know where your definition of value lies. Your team should listen to you to get a feel of what areas of the project add value for you, and what areas can be designed more efficiently. The objective of these consultations is to reduce the unknowns, reduce construction and maintenance costs, and add value to the project.

If you are building a home from the ground up, start with the Design Everest civil engineering team and a grading contractor. These specialists will be able to think critically about utility connections, existing conditions and demolition, and earthwork and retaining walls. With all of this expertise combined, the consultation could lead to a revised site plan that you had not considered which eliminates costly retaining walls and reduces utility connection costs with shorter runs.

As you move forward with your project, consult with an architect and an MEP (mechanical, electrical and plumbing) contractor. These specialists, along with Design Everest’s structural engineers, will be able to analyze your home’s design to determine if costly inefficiencies may be adding up. Things like the footprint or the number of stories planned, the materials used, the placement of walls in kitchens and bathrooms, and the overall volume of space inside the home can be designed in an efficient manner that reduces the construction cost, which in turn reduces the cost of the permit. Similarly, if you are building an addition, accessory dwelling unit (ADU) or junior accessory dwelling unit (JADU), or renovating a particular room, consulting with these professionals can bring inefficiencies and therefore potential cost savings to your attention.

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2. Structural Info-Gathering

Another step in refining your project to reduce construction cost is specific to the structural design. The first step in structural info-gathering is typically the geotechnical report that makes foundation, stabilization, and structural recommendations based on the existing soil at your site. This step cannot be overlooked, and in fact, the report is submitted along with your project documents for a permit. Often, the geotechnical engineers will be able to make recommendations that can reduce the cost of your construction. For instance, when it comes to pavement and foundations, you can reduce the size of these sections by amending the soil with stabilizing compounds like lime.

When it comes to the foundation design, the structural engineering team at Design Everest can use the recommendations provided in the geotechnical report to design the most efficient foundation type for your structure and the expected loads. Another cost saving measure is going to be the roof design. The structural info-gathering process will help determine the loads that define the roof design criteria and the Design Everest experts can create the most efficient truss design.

The structural engineers and the architect will work together to design your walls. In building a new structure, they will be able to ensure your design is not overly complex and materials costs are kept to a minimum. In a renovation or addition, this team will be able to reduce costly impacts to existing load-bearing walls.

3. Value Engineering

Armed with your contractor’s experience and knowledge, and your structural information, you can now brainstorm alternatives to your original plan that will add value and reduce cost for your project. Value is defined by function divided by cost. If you can maintain the original function of your design, but minimize cost, you are winning added value!

With the contractor consultation and the structural info-gathering, we have alluded to value engineering concepts. Now, you can formalize this process with a brainstorming session to kick things off. You may realize that design items you thought were important initially, are no longer on the top of your list. You may learn that some of the materials you were planning to use are more costly than the value they hold for you personally. You may decide to build a series of short retaining walls instead of one large one, or you may decide to change the layout of your home to keep plumbing and electrical rough-ins to a minimum. Everything you learned through the consultation and info-gathering process should be put to use in this brainstorming session.

Once you and your team have brainstormed several alternatives, each of these alternatives needs to be evaluated until you come to a conclusion on the final design direction. Now you are working with an efficient project and you are well on your way to permitting success!

How Design Everest Can Help

Our experienced engineers design efficient structures and are always looking for ways to reduce cost and add value. Design Everest has a team of highly experienced engineers with specialized knowledge specific to home renovation and construction, and we would be an excellent resource not only in this step of the process, but in coordinating with the other specialists involved in your project as well, and taking your project all the way to an approved building permit. Call us at (877) 704-6765 for a FREE consultation and quote.


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