Our Long Beach architecture firm often gets phone calls from potential clients who ask these two questions during our initial conversation. While we would love to provide them with a simple answer to these important questions, an accurate answer depends on a lot of factors. Two projects with the same square footage that seem similar on the surface might have significantly different design costs, not to mention different engineering and construction costs, and very different timelines.
Why is this? Shouldn’t there be a standard design fee for a project? Shouldn’t a professional architect know how long it takes for a project to be designed and approved by the City?
Every design project we take on is different. Some are “standard,” while others are more unconventional and require more work by our Long Beach architecture firm and more time for the City to approve. This makes it virtually impossible to predict final costs and timelines during an initial phone call.
Take a look at the excerpt below, which is from a recent email exchange we had with a client, to get an idea of what’s involved with an unconventional project:
“While you and I know we’re not trying to invent a new building type, the City has indicated that it views your site as an unconventional one—mainly, I believe due to its zero lot line (you may already know this).
So while we’re excited about this latest change you’ve requested, I also want to make sure we’re managing expectations. Remodels for unconventional sites often require more time & effort to research and convey to the City… it also might require a bit more time to get through the city.
So, while we’ll continue to work to keep [architectural and engineering] fees down and work quickly to get your project permitted, if fees seem slightly higher than you anticipated, I hope this gives you some insight into why that might be.”
We always do our best to manage expectations with our clients. We could give cost and time estimates over the phone, but then both could change dramatically once we get further down the road. We’d rather take the time to understand the scope of a project before we provide estimates.
A project may require a longer timeline and a higher cost estimate when the building codes involved are not ones we typically deal with. More research into the codes is required at the front end when this is the case. In addition, much of the California Building Code is interpretive, so not only does our staff have to research the appropriate code, but there are often phone calls involved to the authority having jurisdiction to make sure they have the same interpretation of the code that our architecture firm has. Finally, the City plan checkers are often unfamiliar with some of the “fringe” rules, so there is often a lot of back and forth between our architecture firm and the plan checker to make sure everyone is on the same page.
We could give “shot in the dark” estimates over the phone to potential clients, but getting to know them and their projects before providing estimates has served both us and our clients well for many years.
We’d love to hear about your upcoming project and see if your Long Beach architecture firm is a good fit to help you with its design. Contact us today to get the conversation started!