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Ask IONIC #6 – Project Cost?

Ask IONIC is a napkin series of questions that we often hear from our client and others that may assist those who are also seeking answers.

No question is dumb… just the ones you don’t ask.

We hope these will help you understand our industry just a little better so you can make informed decisions on your project.

Information that leads to knowledge is the key to success.

How much will my project cost?

This is typically one the first questions owners ask our design team–and understandably so. Constructing a new building or renovating your current facility is a huge investment and commitment. A structure that hopefully accommodates both present and future needs. Unfortunately there is quite a few answers to ask before we can work towards an answer for you. An accurate answer not just a guess!

There isn’t a simple one-size-fits-all answer.

We are sometimes asked for a “cost per square foot” ballpark figure. In England they call it “a wet finger in the air.” I love that phrase. Ballparks are a big area. You can get a number from several different contractors that are all over the place. It simply wouldn’t be as accurate as you might think. But it can be a starting point and we do recommend it.

The next BEST step is to produce a development set of documents. The more complete the better but at a minimum 30% should be used for a detailed break out. Further estimates can always be provided for further detailed pricing at 60% or even 90% complete. A friend of mine, a trusted contractor, uses the example of a camera lens:

“More detail provided, the more focused the picture is.”

Each project starts with the coordination with a general contractor that has a strong history with the project’s type. Thorough understanding of the schematic designs, often taking hours to fully comprehend the project scope will need to be facilitated between the architect and contractor.

The general contractor’s estimators and project managers calculate the project’s materials down to the number of bricks, blocks and rebar required. Cost analysis is completed on sitework, carpentry, masonry, roofing and drywall, all to narrow in (or focus in) on the exact cost of a project. Bid requests are then submitted to subcontractors and tradesmen who then send in proposals for their services. This stage requires immense attention to detail – and lots of phone calls and meetings. To avoid costly change orders, each subcontractor proposal is reviewed to ensure every aspect of the project is addressed and that estimated costs are accurate.

This is critical at these early stages of estimating since the “complete” picture hasn’t been formed yet.

Every building is unique and the type of construction methods and materials will impact the cost of construction. Availability of labor can have an extreme impact as well. A shortage means we won’t get as many competitive numbers. Or higher proposals because they are all too busy.

A building’s location, size, purpose, and features all contribute to the project’s overall costs. Although the estimating and pre-construction process can be time-consuming, we’re able to provide our clients with an accurate project cost without hidden fees using our trusted construction partners. We encourage an “open book” on actual costs from a general contractor during these negotiations and IONIC considers it our job to help you navigate design costs and design decisions that directly impact construction costs.

If your contractor is going to charge you for these pre-construction services…STOP! and call me right now! I mean it! 757.343.2461

IONIC believes in being forthright, prepared and to provide our clients with clear options that they can make educated decisions…so our project together can be successful and we end with a handshake and a smile.

As mentioned above, there are many factors that influence the cost of construction. Some are obvious: land acquisition, permits and construction costs. Then there are the future costs or life-cycle costs to consider: maintenance, repair, replacement—the cost of keeping the facility and its systems up and running. Many design decisions affect the life-cycle costs and we make sure our client’s have all the information needed to make those informed choices.

Construction Options:

DESIGN BID BUILD – The traditional method of construction delivery, the owner commissions an architect or engineer to prepare drawings and specifications, then separately selects a contractor by negotiation or competitive bidding at a later stage in the project’s development.

DESIGN/BUILD – In contrast, to the Design Bid process is to establish early involvement between the owner and the contractor. Design/Build process has the ability to streamline project delivery through a single contract between the owner and the design-build team, creating an environment of collaboration and teamwork between the designers and construction team.

Both are great ways to price a project. It simply depends on how you as owner what to work through the project.

Give IONIC a call and we can walk you through all the pros and cons of both of these common methods for your project so you can get the best value.

Ask IONIC #4 – MEP Services

Ask IONIC is a napkin series of questions that we often hear from our client and others that may assist those who are also seeking answers.

No question is dumb… just the ones you don’t ask.

We hope these will help you understand our industry just a little better so you can make informed decisions on your project.

Information that leads to knowledge is the key to success.

Are Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing Engineered drawings required for my Project?

We often get questions not only from our clients but also from general contractors about engineering requirements for projects. MEP stands for mechanical, electrical and plumbing.

In most jurisdictions, any modifications to an existing facility where the mechanical, electrical or plumbing will be altered, the jurisdiction requires engineered drawings. This is also applicable to any new construction. In some cases, again depending on where you live, the jurisdiction will allow drawings that are either unsealed or sealed by a licensed architect. The drawings need to explain in detail all the requirements of these engineering scopes.

Although IONIC is not an engineer in these trades, we often incorporate within our scope of work the hiring of engineering consultants to help facilitate this need. This is the easiest and most complete way to organize a set of documents without confusion. All of our CADD files and Revit files can be shared with the engineering firm of record to make sure all of the work is coordinated and matched for continuity.

Here is a list of typical services:

Mechanical Engineering and HVAC Design:

Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning Systems (HVAC)

Central Plant Design

Exhaust Systems

Direct Digital Control (DDC) Systems

Chilled Water Systems

Heating Water Systems

Ground Source Heat Pump Systems

Outside Air Pretreatment and Dehumidification

Pool Dehumidification

Lab Fume Hood Systems

Energy Recovery Systems

Electrical Engineering Design

Power Distribution Systems

Interior and Exterior

Lighting Design

Photometric Analysis

Lightning Protection Systems

Fire Alarm Systems

Outlets and Raceway Systems for Voice and Data

Backup Power Generators

Uninterruptible Power Supplies (UPS’s)

Dimming Systems

Special Grounding Systems

Plumbing Systems Design

Domestic Cold and Hot Water Systems

Domestic Waste and Vent Systems

Fuel Gas Piping Systems

Storm Water Systems

Fixture Unit Analysis Calculations

Performance Specification of Automatic Sprinkler Systems

Lab Gas Systems

Medical Gas Systems

Compressed air systems

Vacuum Systems

Grease Interceptors

A common phrase in our industry is design build. We have previously written about this definition and the buried understandings of what design build entails. In short, many times the general contractor will hire the trades for mechanical, electrical and plumbing to produce the minimal amount of documents needed to obtain a permit for their scopes of work. We have seen all ranges of how this can be accomplished.

In some areas we have seen the trades hire an engineer to produce their work. We have also seen the trades do line drawings on top of our architectural to obtain a permit. And yes, we have even seen napkin sketches get approved for the minimal amount of scope that might be needed in a smaller project. Some jurisdictions do not require any documents whatsoever just the application noting that most or all of this work will be verified in the field and inspected by the jurisdiction or a third party ensuring that all is done properly and to code.

Owners would often look at this as an opportunity to save money.

This is true as the owner will spend less money on engineering upfront. However it is possible that they might spend more on construction because the trades will need to do this extra step to obtain their permits. The cost of construction in each of these areas might increase. However, that is not always the case. Most likely what does occur is the general contractor selects a competent subcontractor that can do this work and utilizes their skills and experience as well as a long-lasting relationship to establish a team on the project. As long as the subcontractors are pricing this competitively, IONIC does not see a disadvantage to this. However the owner must be very cautious in making sure that the bids and scope of work are apples to apples.

For instance, one subcontractor for the mechanical might propose only 8 tons of heating and cooling whereas another subcontractor might review the conditions and consider that 10 tons are required. Less is not always the right choice, and neither is more.

It needs to be calculated properly according to the needs of the space in the occupancy determined.

By going this route, it also eliminates competitive bids by all the subcontractors of the trade. It might be beneficial to have all the engineering documents so that multiple subcontractors can price the work not only for value but also for time availability.

This could be very important to the schedule of the construction.

Either choice is acceptable as long as the jurisdiction allows it. The owner must know the conditions of the permit requirements for their specific jurisdiction before proceeding with any one option.

Ask your architect what is required and what is the best scenario for your specific project. 

If you are exploring this opportunity, IONIC suggests that you reach out to us and we can quickly provide some useful information for your project.

Hope this clarifies the question for you. Should you have others, please submit them to us and we will add them to the list and post answers. Send all questions to info@ionicdezigns.com

We look forward to hearing from you.