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Planning a major building project? Estimating build costs early – while you’re still in the design stage – is critical to make sure your plans remain affordable. In this blog we explain how getting a professional to estimate your construction costs at this early stage will help you to keep your project on track.

The Importance of Financial Planning for Construction Projects

Every week we are contacted by homeowners whose construction projects have run into financial difficulties. This usually happens when they’ve started to get unaffordable quotes from builders.

Typically, building projects experience financial problems at this stage due to two reasons:

  1. Their architectural designs are too ambitious.
  2. Their project has incurred additional unforeseen expenses.

Whatever the situation, the real reason they’ve run into problems is a lack of financial planning in the early design phase.

Likewise it highlights the importance of investing in expert advice. Quantity Surveyors are experts at estimating build costs and investing in their services will help prevent your designs becoming unaffordable – and save you a lot of heartache too.

How to Make Sure Your Designs are Affordable

If you want to make sure your building project plans stay on budget, you need to start your financial planning right from the start – before you talk to your architect or designer. Doing your research and creating a series of budgets for all of the costs associated with your home renovation, extension or new build project is the first step.

We’ve written previously about the importance of understanding and budgeting for all of the costs involved in carrying out building works, and why setting your Maximum Total Project Budget, and within that, your Construction Budget is vital. You can read how to do this in one of our previous blogs ‘5 Steps to Set your Construction Budget‘.

Step 1 – Design to Match your Construction Budget

So hopefully you already have a Construction Budget figure which you and your architect have been using to create your designs. Now you need to establish how much your outline designs will actually cost to build – and double-check the total build cost is well within your construction budget.

Many architects estimate build costs in a very rough, back-of-a-fag-packet way – by working on a cost per square metre basis. They will nominally pick a level – basic, mid or luxury with an associated rate according to what you’re doing – let’s £1,750 or £2,500 per square metre. But this is not very accurate. It can miss some of the extra costs of your project – such as landscaping or redecoration of your existing spaces to match the old and the new – and it also doesn’t give you any feel for where your costs come from.

If you want to really get control on your costs you need to get a proper line by line estimate.

Step 2 – Discuss your Outline Designs with your QS and get a line-by-line Estimate

MRICS Quantity Surveyors are experts at estimating build costs. They are also very adept at going through your designs and estimating the material and labour costs, room by room, line by line. Because they spend all day poring over plans and dealing with contractors they are much closer to the real cost of building – including labour rates and changes in costs in materials. Estimating build costs in this way is much more accurate – and it will help reassure you that your costs haven’t got out of hand at this early stage.

Detailed cost estimates will also help you understand what you can afford for high ticket items such as kitchens or glazing too. It will also highlight which elements of your design or materials are worth spending time shopping around for to get the best prices.

Step 3 – Trim or Refine your Design and Specifications to Save Costs

Likewise, if your costs have grown a bit too high, having this line by line estimate earlier in the design stage will help you understand where and how to trim your designs – or your specifications – to get your costs back in line with your budget.

This is known as ‘Cost Engineering’ – and is something your experienced Quantity Surveyor can help you with. In fact, this is a useful exercise even if you have not gone over budget as it can show you how and where to make savings and build more cost-effectively!

Here’s an example of how CLPM’s Quantity Surveying Team saved our client more money than their fees:

Case Study

Mr and Mrs F had planning permission to add a double storey extension to their home, and were also building a separate triple garage with a home study over. Their architect had originally designed the extension and garage to be built in brick to match the house. However, the clients had subsequently decided to render the house to create a cleaner, more modern look. When our clients started to talk to local builders they realised that their designs did not match their budget so they approached us to help them look for ways to save costs. Our QS team suggested a number of changes including altering the specification to build both the garage and extension with concrete blocks – this change alone would cut the build time by several weeks and make significant cost savings for both materials and labour.

Estimating Build Costs Early Can Make all The Difference

Following these steps and working with an experienced Quantity Surveying team such as CLPM can save you a great deal of stress, and money too.

Estimating build costs gives you accurate, actionable information at the pre-construction phase which can help also reduce your design costs – as it will prevent you wasting money on costly re-designs or new planning applications.

Ultimately it could also make the difference between your project going ahead or not.

Get in Touch

If you want any more information on to estimate the costs of your construction project then we’d love to hear from you. Call us on 01923 896550, email info@cl-pm.com or complete a contact form.

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CLPM Project Managers cover London, Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Hertfordshire, Oxfordshire, Surrey, and West Sussex. Energy Consultancy and Cost Advice services available across the UK.
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