Drawing up a Project Budget

Budgeting for a project is never an easy task.

But it is undoubtedly one of the most important parts of the design-build process. Whether you use budgeting software or tackle the task manually there are some things to consider. When budgeting, there is no room for shortcuts. It may seem counter-intuitive to pay an architect to produce a preliminary design before a budget has been established – but this is often the only way for both the client and the architect to determine an accurate enough budget for the project to move forward. Unfortunately, it is not always as simple as providing your architect with a figure and arriving at a final design. This method frequently ends in the client’s budget being significantly increased, or drastically cut back halfway through the construction process.

Instead, it is far more beneficial, in the long run, to go through the formal process of hiring an architect to produce a preliminary design, and from there – hiring a cost-estimator or contractor to assess the design. From there, the client thoroughly considers the presented figure knowing that the estimate is accurate.

However, if you, as a client, are certain of the scope of your project and its budget, you can, by all means, discuss it an architect and reach an agreement as to the rate per square meter. This is a suitable method for smaller residential projects. It is important to bear in mind that the client should maintain a continuous, open dialogue with their architect. This way, any concerns that the client might have can be dealt with immediately.

So, what determines your Budget?

1. Obtaining Estimates

estimating your costs

As mentioned in the above paragraph, there is real way to accurately determine a budget of a project without first obtaining a preliminary design. This design gives the cost-estimator or contractor an understanding of the space required for the project – and from there they can produce a Rate per Square Meter. The preliminary design allows for drafting an “elemental estimate”. This estimate is instrumental in determining an initial budget for the project to be any sort of accurate. The “elemental estimate” is a breakdown of the building’s major elements based on the preliminary design, as well as the approximate quantities of materials required for the construction of these elements.

These quantities can then be priced, and ultimately, provide the client with an estimated budget for their project. Once this has been assessed, a formal Bill of Quantities can be produced, and the project can progress. A Bill of Quantities is a detailed statement of work, prices, dimensions and additional details. This is for the sake of constructing a building by contract.

2. Tracking Costs Throughout the Project

financial chart and data

Various expenses directly affect a project’s budget, aside from the obvious costs. These costs include building materials and hiring an architect.

A client then hires several essential professionals, like quantity surveyors and a contractor. Without these professionals, it is exceedingly easy for a project to become derailed. Apart from skill and qualification, they provide professionalism to every project, which can be invaluable in many situations.

Other important expenditures a client should keep in mind include factors affecting the duration of the construction process, such as weather, and the inflation of material costs over the construction period. This all leads to the continuous increase of a client’s budget which can become exponentially dangerous as the project progresses. More fundamental costs include the quality of building materials, and factors concerning spatial orientation, such as the building’s height. The client considers these elements.

The building’s height results in a change of elemental costs on each floor. Certain costs will decrease; some will stay the same and others may increase. Vertically stacking spaces drastically decreases the cost of foundation and roof-installation. This is because the building’s footprint will not be as large as spaces in an adjacent arrangement. Some elements will directly increase the cost of the project and construction. Circulation devices like staircases and lifts, as well as service ducts, are a few examples. The costs of other elements, such as floor-finishes, windows, and doors will have an unaffected cost.


For more information about Architect Services and on how we can assist you, get in touch with our team of Cape Town Architects on 021 422 5041 or via email to info@dscape.co.za

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