When designing a home or addition, part of the fun for the owner is imagining the project finished without any compromises. When bids come in from the contractors, many home owners are eager look at ways to reduce the price without loosing space or the character of the project. As the architects, our job is to help bring the price down as far as possible without loosing the qualities that the owners loved in the first place. It must be understood that some money saving choices could diminish the long term durability or energy efficiency of a home or addition.
The following are 6 ways to either design the most cost effective project from the start or adjust a design once the bids come in:

  1. Keep it simple: Generally the simpler the overall details and structure of a home, the less expensive it is to build-the exception are extremely precise modern details.
  2. Consider cost effective materials both on the exterior and interior of the home. There can be a $20/square foot or more difference between higher priced flooring materials and lower priced choices. The same is true of exterior materials. Before making those choices be aware of the trade offs, sometimes they are minimal.
  3. Keep built-in cabinetry to a minimum. In the long run those elements can be added, but in the short run they are expensive. You may need to buy more furniture to take the place of cabinetry.
  4. Explore the trade-offs of lower priced windows and doors. For exterior doors and windows the savings may not always justify the change. Make certain that the alternatives are durable, attractive, and energy efficient before making those changes.
  5. Review choices for the mechanical system. There are many ways to heat and cool a home. Not all systems are designed equal, but the cost differential between the most expensive and the least expensive is substantial.
  6. One sure way to reduce prices is to pick the next lower price point of each category of non structural elements of the house. Always bear in mind the trade offs.

Bonus idea: Add a porch. Few additions to a home add as much beauty, functionality, and pleasure as a porch and for a fraction of the cost of interior space.

About the Author: James Crisp

James M. Crisp has been an architect for well over 30 years. His architectural firm, Crisp Architects, designs projects throughout New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts. In April of 2007, Taunton Press published 'On the Porch' by James M. Crisp and Sandra Mahoney.

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