How Much Will It Cost?

Getting tenders back for a project can be a strange and unnerving experience. Having spent time estimating the cost of your project before the tenders were issued, it is now time to see what the contractors think. Will it be smiles all round, or cries of despair?

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Assessing scope of works and project costs

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Usually you will want to get at least three tenders to provide a balance of prices. Occasionally you may get a quote that is unusually high, these are easier to spot when you have at least two other tenders for comparison. But that doesn’t stop your heart from leaping into your mouth if this happens to be the first tender you open. With some trepidation, you will reach for the others, hoping for some salvation.

Will you feel a sense of relief or still more pain?

With all the tenders now open you can begin to analyse the figures, looking for inconsistencies and issues that may require further clarifications. How did your estimate for the elements of work compare to the contractors cost? What adjustments do you need to make for future estimates on other projects? Each contractor will use different tradesmen, who will approach each task in a different way. The prices for each cost item will therefore vary, higher than your estimate here, lower than the estimate there. The spread of costs can be surprising at times.

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Tradesmen working on site

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The smaller the project the more challenging these variations can become. Ordering small quantities of materials may lead to increased delivery costs or unavoidable wastage. It is less likely that high prices in one area will be balanced by lower prices in another area. Small projects also have a greater cost sensitivity which adds to the jeopardy. A small variation that maybe insignificant on a larger project can have a disproportionate impact on costs.

When you are paying for the work from your own pocket, the need for cost certainty at every stage of the project is understandable. You may be starting to appreciate why it is so difficult to give a definitive answer to the apparently simple question “How much will it cost?”.

To manage project costs successfully, here are some useful strategies;

  • One solution is to choose an architect who specialises in the type of work you are looking for. Whether it is eco-design or conservation, someone how specialise in one area will be obtaining prices for narrower range of work, on a more frequent basis. In so doing they will gain a better understanding of the rates for particular skills and products and will be better able to balance your ambitions with your budget. 
  • Include a generous contingency in your budget for unexpected surprises. Start with a larger contingency that can be gradually reduced as you progress through the project, when you have more information and are able to eliminate uncertainties.
  • Focus on more quality and less quantity from the outset, both in terms of space and materials. This approach will give you more options for flexibility later on. If costs take and unexpected turn it is easier to move on specification of materials than it is to try and reduce the size of the project to reduce costs. You will be fighting your natural instincts which will try to convince you bigger is better, stay strong!
  • Beware of anecdotal stories from friends and neighbours about how much the work will cost. A story is always more entertaining when the circumstances are exaggerated, and people naturally want show how clever/successful they have been resulting in reports of low costs that sound tantalising. 

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concrete and glass stair

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MAAC studio are accredited conservation architects and principal designers working with traditional buildings throughout Scotland. 

If you need independent advice give us a call ?