One of the more challenging tasks as an architect is explaining to clients why the construction bids came in over their budget. It’s never a comfortable discussion, but one I have had many times. This occurred on our latest project, except it wasn’t a client’s project. You guessed it–it was our new office. This is the first time I’ve been on the receiving end of this bad news. To make it more interesting, the cost wasn’t just 5-10% over budget, it was almost 50% over budget. I anticipated costs being high, but not this much. I said to myself, “It’s going to cost what?”

The bid came in around 10 am on a Thursday. Honestly, the rest of the day was a blur. I was in such a state of shock that I don’t remember working on anything else. Our sympathetic loan officer, Karen, brought some pizza to help us process the news. While we ate, we took a hard look at the bid to see if there were simple ways to cut costs. Since I review bids regularly, I looked to the big-ticket items first. But the question staring me in the face was how do you cut 50% of the project and retain the essence of the project? This was going to take some bigger thinking.

Unfortunately, the answer was redesign. It was hard to let go of the original design, but there were no simple ways to bring the costs within our budget. So we broke out the sketch paper and printed all the previous concepts. Figuring out how we got to where we were helped focus us. Fortunately, we had some earlier schemes that looked like we could adapt. Times like these really bring us to the core design to find what is critical and what is not.

We have finished the redesign and it’s much simpler than our original plans. We are in the process of getting revised bids and hopefully (fingers crossed), the numbers will be within our budget. While it was a stressful couple weeks, it has been a good experience. I definitely have a better understanding of the stress our clients go through.