Architecture / June 21, 2018 / .
The issue of the cost of construction work is one that is rarely far from the minds of construction clients, design teams, constructors and, of course, quantity surveyors. The cost of constructing a building project is a primary concern for the vast majority of construction clients. Indeed one of the most common initial questions a client has is. What is it going to cost me? often followed closely by. can we do it any cheaper? Providing answers to such questions is a key objective of quantity surveyors, whose task it is to predict the likely cost of building work and to manage the evolving project design to ensure that the clients approved budget is not exceeded. This is a challenging task, which frequently involves one-off, unique, purpose made buildings, and the QS typically operates within a design team brought together specifically for that particular project.
The availability, location and capacity of existing utilities must be considered in the design. Connecting to these may involve significant costs particularly where they are inconveniently located or are distant from the site. For example septic tanks or pumping plant may be required to drain a site, easements may be required to cross neighbouring land, and diversions of live services may be required to accommodate the development.
The choice of the architect as lead designer is a key decision on any project and will reflect the clients priorities, particularly those related to cost and quality. Clients who plan to develop high quality or landmark developments often employ high profile design practices. Indeed internationally acclaimed architects including Daniel Liebskind, Santiago Calatrava and Dublin-born Pritzker prize-winning Kevin Roche have completed projects in Dublin in the recent past. The leading Irish architectural practices are likewise normally in high demand and clients are keen to buy into their signature. High expectations are usually linked to high prices and such clients will expect to pay a premium on prestigious projects. Nevertheless, they may not be prepared to provide total carte blanche to the architect. Architects, quite naturally, may be reluctant to drop quality standards and compromise their brand to reduce costs and it may difficult for the quantity surveyor to control costs in these circumstances. In this regard Ashworth refers to a cynic who described architecture as the design of beautiful buildings that satisfy only the architect and not the client. At the other end of the cost spectrum a client may require a practical, nononsense design to accommodate a production process. Such designs are often developed by architects operating within a design and build arrangement where providing an economic design is essential to winning the contract.
In general it can be said that larger buildings with simple, rectangular, regular floor plans and elevations will be less expensive per sq.m. of floor area than smaller, complex shaped, curved or angular buildings. Economies of scale apportion fixed overheads to a larger extent of productive space. Simple setting out and buildable solutions encourage greater plant use and generate higher productivity and less waste. Complex layouts and details are slower to assemble and may involve a number of trades with a consequent greater risk of mistakes and defects. The degree of compartmentation and repetition will also affect the overall cost of the work. New building work is considerably cheaper than work of a repairing nature or work in existing buildings. Single storey structures tend to be more costly than buildings up to three storeys high, beyond which point they become progressively more expensive.