5 things they don’t tell you about designing a building


Ever hear someone say, “I’m going to design my own house…”?  Well, most times it is said with great excitement and enthusiasm.  Unfortunately in most cases, when you ask the same person how it’s going 4 months later their enthusiasm seems to have waned.  They usually hit you with something like, “yea well…we’re still designing” or “yea well…we’re having some troubles finding a contractor” or dozens of other negative responses.  Here are a few things to keep in mind when you are thinking about designing a building:

Expect the unexpected:

This mantra goes towards every phase of the project from napkin sketch to certificate of occupancy. During the design phase there can be changes decided by the owner that can delay things, during construction there could be delays due to weather or other extraneous circumstances,   sometimes the price of FFE (furniture, fixtures, and equipment) can go up during a project simply because of inflation, concrete and steel prices can vary depending on the time of year, gas prices, and industry trends, etc.  These are only a few examples of what to expect.  The best thing to do is to go into the new project knowing that there will be things to overcome but that is OK.  It is part of every project and nothing to stress over (especially if you come to Balber Architecture, Inc. of course!) 🙂

Expect the project to cost more than you think it will:

Most people know this just by talking to others who have designed and built their own buildings. fiveThis concept even applies to small modifications, alterations, “facelift”/façade renovations, interior build-outs, etc.   I’m sure most people either know someone or have remodeled some part of their own home.  I’m sure the project exceeded the budget by at least 10%.  This is usually because people underestimate the cost of labor, and they also underestimate the coolness of products that are out there in today’s design-oriented world!  For example:  if an architect and/or contractor shows an owner two floor tiles…one being $3/sf and the other $25/sf, most people see the more expensive one and their jaw drops and they just have to have it.  There is nothing wrong with this phenomenon, but realize that when it is all said and done those little things add up quickly to the bottom line of the project.

Designing and constructing a building from scratch is easy:

Yea…um…no. It isn’t easy.  There are a lot of moving parts, a lot of people that are involved, a lot of codes, overall just a lot of stuff that goes into projects.  If someone ever tells you this they are oversimplifying the process.  Now obviously I do this for a living so it isn’t necessarily hard for me to do, but it takes a lot of experience, knowledge, and dare I say “talent” to be able to execute the final product.

Picking a style is easy:

Well for some people this saying actually holds true. Some people know exactly what they want…what they like, what they don’t like, what they love and what they hate.  Then there is the remaining 98% of people who like a myriad of things; this is where honing in on a style becomes more challenging.  For more reading on this topic please click here.

Take your project schedule and double it:

This pretty much applies to all projects. The biggest reason I see projects not moving as swiftly as they could is because of the turn-around time from clients in terms of making decisions.  I always tell clients that they should never feel pressure from me on how fast they need to answer my questions…but alas, the slower they get back to me the slower the project gets permitted, and ultimately the further the completion date will become.  Instead of feeling pressure from me, I try to gently nudge clients in directions that I know will benefit them in the end because I know better than they do that time is money and I want their project to get completed sooner than later.  Also along these lines is the actual construction process.  Design changes come up all the time during construction and every time they do they add time to the build.  Most times it isn’t anyone’s fault, it is just that during construction the client may change their mind, or the contractor or architect may come up with a better way to accomplish the design intent.  All of these things are in the client’s best interest but do tend to take more time when they occur.

These are just a few things I could think of just off the top of my head.  If you aren’t sure about what it will take to bring your project from start to finish please contact me directly here to discuss.  I’m always more than happy to talk personally to prospective clients about their thoughts on their projects.