Andy Silagyi, Director of Interiors Construction

How much will it cost?

When presented a space plan the number one question from the owner is typically, how much will this cost? When pricing a space plan, it’s important to walk the space to review all existing conditions, and to perform a quantity take-off of all new materials. If you are using per square foot/linear foot/square yard dollar amounts, it’s best to know exactly how much you are including in your budget. Rather than providing a lump sum number, it is more helpful to provide quantifiable calculations that show the math behind the particular line item. Assumptions are fine, as long as they are clearly communicated in the detailed pricing.  Space plan pricing provides an initial budget for the owner to use to make decisions. Once the design has been finalized, it is best to send the drawings to subcontractors to confirm the initial budget and to make changes if necessary.    

Notes are your friend!

Architects or designers may have limited information, or limited time, to provide a detailed space plan. A best practice is to include notes and allowances. For example, if a wall is indicated to be glass, rather than sheetrock, include a note about the type of glass wall that should be budgeted. The price from a clear tempered, 9’ tall, 5’ wide, aluminum framed, glazed wall system is going to vary greatly from a heat-soaked, 12’ tall, 5’ wide, frameless glazed system. Perhaps rather than glass, it is actually a demountable glass front system. If there is only a line type shown on the drawing, without notes or elevations, it is difficult to know which type of glass to price. When drawing millwork, it is helpful to know the type of countertop, again, plastic laminate tops will be less expensive than quartz, however, without notes, it is difficult to know the material to price. Allowances are also helpful. Is the budget for carpet $20/sq. yard or $35/sq. yard? When notes are not included, we make assumptions. The assumptions are detailed in the budget; however, they may not match the design intent of the architect and owner. It is important to be on the same page early and provide as much detail as possible.


Contingency in space plan pricing provides funds for design changes, material changes, permitting changes, or delays in project kick-off. Most subcontractor and vendor pricing is valid for 30 days. If the design, lease negotiations, plan review, etc. push the purchasing of materials over the 30-day mark, the pricing can change. As the market gets busier, labor rates are increasing, in addition to material increases. The longer a project is delayed, the more expensive it may become. Contingency also helps to fund unknown conditions. When issues hidden inside wall cavities or beneath concrete become exposed during demolition they must be addressed. Contingency helps with the added expense. A conservative approach is to figure 10% of the construction cost in to the budget for contingency. At the end of the project, if any contingency monies remain, that money is returned to the owner.


How soon can we be in the space? This is the second question, after cost. Once a lease is signed, several tasks need to be completed before construction can begin. Drawings need to be finalized with the design team. Drawings need to be reviewed by the local municipality so a building permit can be issued. The general contractor needs to release subcontractors, gather submittals, have the submittals reviewed and approved by the architect and engineer, order materials, and allow time for fabrication. All purchased and fabricated materials have their own specific lead times. Those lead times typically start after submittals have been approved. Even if construction only takes 16 weeks, the process of getting to the start of construction can take several months. It is best to have an open conversation with the entire team, as early as possible, to set schedule expectations and mile stone dates. 

Setting Expectations

In the Central Business District (CBD), most spaces are being renovated a second, third or even fourth time. Reusing existing walls, or existing ceilings is acceptable and can help the budget, however, if demolition or new materials intersect with the existing conditions, it important to be realistic about the aesthetics of the reused materials. Skimming, patching, and painting an existing sheetrock wall will most likely make it look like every other new wall in the space. However, patching or repairing screw holes in a main run of acoustical ceiling grid will never look as good as new. If the owner is wants the repair to look like new and match exactly, it is best to replace it. If millwork is being reused, it is best to survey the condition of it and determine what needs to be replaced or what can be left in place. Not everything is economical to reuse. A common note on drawings is, “repair to like-new condition”. If a section of plastic laminate countertop is cracked or chipped, the best option would be to remove the countertop and re-laminate it back at the millworker’s shop.  Depending on the size of the piece, the cost might be similar to replacing it. Many existing finishes in Class A spaces are nice.  If they can be reused and save money, great, but the expectation should still be set that these finishes are existing, not new.  

Conclusion: Creating Dialogue

Space plan pricing is helpful to architects and owners. It opens up dialogue about the owner’s vision and what they are willing to invest in the space. The dialogue needs to be real and honest to ensure the end product meets their expectations. Shiel Sexton is involved in many of the conversations and can be a resource for current pricing trends.  


The Messenger  |  June 2018  |  Shiel Sexton Carolinas