With budgets stretched thin and the value of a dollar ever in flux, it should come as no surprise that the question, “How much is this gonna cost?” is one our architects hear a lot.

When we hear “How much is this gonna cost?” our honest, initial answer is, “Well, it all depends.”

One of the benefits of working with SHP is that we have deep experience with—and a proven track record of—accurately budgeting for the cost of projects. We’re not the kind of firm that’s comfortable with back-of-the-napkin math or educated guesses. When it comes to our calculations, we prefer precision. With that, we put this question to two of our architects, Todd Thackery and David Powell.

Budgets & Snowflakes: No Two are Exactly Alike

Whether a project is privately or publicly funded, its leaders, obviously, want to be good stewards of the dollars and cents under their care. And while cost is never the only concern or priority that our clients have, it’s always at or near the top.

Each project involves different leaders and stakeholder communities, each with their own goals and unique visions of the future. For example, your project may call for, say, a larger gymnasium or theater compared to another school, or for more small group collaboration spaces and less traditional offices than your previous workspace.

The list goes on, of course, but the point remains: costs and priorities are inextricably linked. And priorities differ from project to project.

This is why we ask lots of questions: of you, your fellow leaders and your internal and external stakeholders. We have a proprietary process that helps define a common vision, one that everyone can rally behind.

Our goal: build consensus around an appropriate, financially responsible and stakeholder-supported plan. This sort of up-front alignment allows us to create a clear and well-defined scope of work and a highly detailed budget based not on what we think to be true, but what we know to be true.

There are also a host of practical and innovative solutions we can implement to deliver against our clients’ budget expectations. As lifelong learners and students of our craft, our architects and designers derive great satisfaction from finding thoughtful and affordable ways to use materials to meet our clients’ budget goals. And we’re always on the lookout for innovative construction methods that will lead to cost-savings.

Leveraging Materials and Methods as a Means for Cost-Savings

For instance, we draw inspiration from a school in Chicago that used a system of corrugated metal and glass for its exterior enclosure. Careful detailing and material placement ensured an economical exterior without sacrificing longevity, weather resistance, quality and the “signature look” that is now the school’s hallmark.

Another emerging trend is for the push for modular, offsite fabrication for systems traditionally installed by sub-trades in the field. While modular casework and partitions are typical, even mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire protection systems can be fabricated offsite and installed on-premise.

If you want to ask your architect, “How much is this gonna cost?”, at SHP, we invite that line of inquiry! Just don’t be surprised when your question doesn’t lead to a straightforward answer.