Are Architects out of touch with construction costs?

A very common occurrence we are hearing from clients lately is how out of touch Architects can be with construction costs. Some (not all!) architects are telling clients that their project will cost much less than they actually do in the end up.

It’s all well and good designing a ‘grand design’ style house for your practice portfolio.  All the while the client is mentioning budget, budget, budget! Talking the client through the aesthetic features that they want and that make the project look nice is one thing. Giving them real time scenario costs can bring them back down to earth when they have a number to stick to for their mortgages.

Natural stone may look nice on certain outshots for example. However, this leads to expensive labour, expensive steel lintels to carry the stone, wider foundations, and a lot more sand and cement than normal blockwork. Telling the client these things in the design process means that compromises can be made before the plan goes out to tender.

However, there can also be factors outside of the architect’s control that may cost the client money on site. Something that works on paper might not necessarily work in real life and may have to be re-engineered to make it suit. Another thing to note is that profit and overheads can vary from contractor to contractor. Still, that shouldn’t equate to tens of thousands when the client’s get their quotes back.

On the other hand, we have encountered clients that overlook the projected costs from estimators. Unfortunately, this steered them to scale back on the quality of materials to get them closer to what they wanted in terms of size.

Suggested best practice for architects is to liaise with a contractor from the very early design stages or get the plan fully costed for the client. Even with little or no detailed specification, we make assumptions and recommendations for the spec and liaise with the client or architect if more information is required. And finally, some advice for the clients. Whether using a contractor or you intend to self-build, be very clear at every meeting with your architect on the budget and ask about costs! Better to get them under control at the design changes than have to scale back mid project. Which will result in more fees to the architect for re-designing the house!

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