How to Save Money During the Design & Construction Phase
Determining what part of the construction cost is due to the architectural aspects and which is due to the engineering elements such as the structural framing and the foundations is definitely not an easy thing to do because of a vast number of variables. However, before the article dives further into the analysis, let's set the tone by assuming certain basic parameters.
First, the object of this analysis is a typical house built in a traditional style with a wood frame structure. Second, some aspects connected to the construction costs are flexible and prone to vary more than others depending on the design choices regardless of the size or the project type. Finally, this analysis will not consider the cost of the land as it is not directly related to the construction cost.
Let’s start by looking at the elements which constitute the cost of construction:
Approximately 45% of the construction cost is represented by the architectural parts and finishes (windows and doors, wall siding, drywall, flooring, painting, roofing, cabinets and countertops, insulation, various finishing touches), 30% of the cost is represented by the structural elements (wood framing and foundation), and 20% of the price is represented by the plumbing, electrical and mechanical systems. The remaining 5n usually be attributed to the landscaping even though the size and slope of the lot can increase the cost considerably (sloped lands may require retaining walls, which can be rather expensive).
Of course, you will see that in some areas, the price is mainly driven by expensive raw materials, and in other construction categories, it is because of labor requirements, for example, painting work. Once we have established generalized assumptions of cost percentage, saving money while not going overboard with the predetermined budget should be our next goal. Money can be saved at various stages of construction, namely - the design phase and construction phase.
Let’s look into those stages in order.
Designing a house with unique and complex shapes impacts the cost of the structure for one simple reason: whenever there’s a corner, material waste can be a factor. However, extra corners require additional foundation forming, wall, and roof framing materials, trim, seems, etc. This means that the architectural design can affect the cost of the house in a significant way.
Another aspect that can impact the house’s overall cost during the design phase is the wasted space. Sometimes wasted area is just for looks and utterly non-functional. Function should always be more of a priority, so every space in your home serves a purpose. When designing the house, it’s important to understand where the square footage really counts. For instance, instead of having a huge foyer, it could make more sense to add some space to the kitchen or, instead of having an excessively large bathroom, more space could be given to the living room. Another good way to avoid wasted space is to consider eliminating hallways in favor of open areas or at least find ways they can serve an additional purpose aside from just being passageways like incorporating storage or shelves.
An important element to consider to keep the budget under control is associated with the construction documents, which consist of calculations, drawings, specifications, and any other data that are needed to indicate compliance with the governing building code. These documents are necessary for obtaining a building permit and administering the contract for its construction.
Hiring a professional to prepare the construction documents can guarantee that every aspect of the project has been considered and that no untoward surprises pop up during the construction or the inspection. An accurate set of plans puts the general contractor in a better position to make a more precise estimate of the construction costs limiting the variables and the unforeseen aspects.
Even the CalGreen checklist required for most California projects can turn into a waste of money if not prepared by a specialist. The reason for this is that designers can often err on the side of extra caution to fully meet the regulation and energy code, tending to tick all the checkboxes and include items that may not be useful or required, leading to increased construction costs.
Cost efficiency during the construction phase can come from choosing appropriate material finishes, lighting fixtures, windows, doors, etc. Some costs (like flooring or drywall) vary with square footage, while others (like appliances or mechanical equipment, etc.) are single-item costs. Furthermore, some costs are more dependent on the labor than on the material price itself.
Certain types of construction material may require more time and effort to be installed compared to other options meaning more labor cost. Therefore it’s imperative when choosing a product to consider not only the price but also how fast and easy it is to install. In any case, choosing a cheaper product can help to save a lot of money, especially when it’s about large quantities or when there’s a lot of square footage to cover. At the same time, it’s important to be aware that cheaper products can be less durable and may require higher maintenance costs, while more expensive materials are usually designed to have a longer life. Selecting products that have a good balance in terms of price/quality may be the best choice in the end.
Finally, operational efficiency is another aspect that can be very helpful to save some money, especially when applied to larger projects because more materials and more labor are involved. However, it can still be useful for smaller projects where there’s less room for error. Operational efficiency is the ability to deliver the final product in the most cost-effective way possible without compromising quality and profit. As an example, hiring a professional and experienced contractor who can correctly identify and solve issues during the designing process rather than fixing them during the construction phase can certainly make a huge positive difference to the overall project costs.
In conclusion, there are several ways that can be used to save money when building a house. The suggestions described above can be very useful and effective, but it’s really up to the client and their needs, goals, and priorities, which options to choose. Design Everest’s team has skilled professionals familiar with the home building process and can help you analyze the cost while suggesting cost-efficient methods for constructing your dream home. Call (877) 959-5914 for consultation and a free quote.
*Note: The content published above was made in collaboration with members of Design Everest.