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Balancing budget and design: Our data-driven solution to cost control

Whilst many people who plan to build their own home worry about managing their budget once work has started on site, with visions of unforeseen costs arising (thanks, Grand Designs), a perhaps less considered area is controlling costs in the more formative stages of a project.

A huge amount of trust is placed in architects, who are expected to both design your dream home and to do so within your budget. It is quite easy to get carried away with the design, making things bigger or adding in features, without fully understanding the impact on the bottom line and many projects simply rely on broad brush estimates, whilst some seem to just rely on the hope that it will all be ok.

The reality is that without great care, and a robust costing strategy, the design itself can quickly start to exceed your financial limits and add stress to the experience before a spade is even put in the ground.

Having identified this as a potential risk on every project, Facit Homes has developed a data driven approach to design and costing that helps to avoid the issue in a simple, transparent and accurate way.

A completed Facit Home in Oxfordshire

A typical build cost strategy

When beginning a project, the typical cost strategy is to give your architect a total budget and ask them to design a home that meets your brief. The architect will often use a notional ‘per m2’ construction cost based on their experience to act as a budget guide. They will create a home based on your requirements and get you through the planning application process.

Every architect is different, and their thoughts on design, construction methodology and costs will vary. Some will have a good grasp of realistic build costs, but others will not. However, without a quantity surveyor's assistance you are unlikely to get a detailed cost breakdown during the design stage and so may be reliant on the estimation skills of your designer.

Once you have planning permission and your architect has undertaken the technical design, you will be ready to tender out the project. This is the point at which you will see how much the build will actually cost and whether your architect was close to their initial estimate. Most builders will give a total sum, and there may still not be a great amount of detail to the quote, leaving a number of unknowns. The services of a quantity surveyor will add more clarity here, but will not change the total price.

At this point, if the project proves to be much more expensive than you initially expected, it leaves you in a vulnerable position. Either you accept the higher price and crack on with the build, ask your architect to redesign/value engineer the scheme, or the whole project stalls and potentially has to be abandoned. If you opt for a redesign, you can expect to pay your architect additional fees and potentially head back through planning.

This approach is fraught with risk and is a potentially huge waste of time and money as you'll need to wait until very late in the day to know if you can afford it.

Unfortunately, we have seen many projects where this has happened, with fantastic designs going unbuilt due to the lack of foresight into the true cost of building them. We have taken on projects that were over budget ourselves and either adapted them into something that was more realistic, or on a few occasions started again from scratch with a completely new design.

At Facit Homes, we believe there is a better way to manage this process. We have devised a customer-focused solution, with defined touchpoints for discussing and providing cost information to allow you to keep a handle on your budget throughout.

Scale, mass, form and materials all have a big impact on the cost of a build.

Facit Homes' cost strategy

We follow a simple step-by-step approach to ensure your project stays within budget. These steps include an initial estimate, a concept design update and a full cost plan which is produced before the planning application is submitted.

Step 1: Project specific price estimate

We begin with initial discussions to learn more about your project scope and gather information about your brief; this includes the number and type of rooms you require, any specific elements or materials you would like to have and an overall idea of the scale and massing (e.g. single storey). We also consider site specific requirements such as demolition, utility connections and drainage.

Using this information, we can apply our experience from current and previous projects to include a total project price estimate within our proposal, including a construction cost per m2 for the home itself. This cost per m2 will be tailored to you, rather than a notional rate, and will be as realistic as possible based on what we know about your aspirations. And there is always the opportunity to revise the scope of the project in order to balance the budget before design work even begins.

Step 2: Using data to go from concept to cost

Once appointed, we begin the design phase and work with you to create an initial concept. We then develop this concept design in a 3D computer model. We do this for a variety of reasons. First, we can show walkthroughs and how each space looks and feels through hyper-real renders. Secondly, we can extract data from the digital model to put into our cost estimation tools. The data gives us precise areas and quantities of things like external walls, roofing and windows, and our cost estimation tools contain up-to-date rates from a linked database. If a material cost changes, it is updated in our database.

This means the cost estimates we supply you with in the concept design are incredibly accurate to the current market rate. By updating you on costs at this point, we can have deeper conversations with you about the design and discuss what is adding value to your project and what is not before moving forward.

The 3D computer model puts a wealth of data at our fingertips to allow accurate costing of the design.

Step 3: Fully itemised cost plan

Once the design has been developed into something approaching a final scheme, we further leverage the 3D computer model to produce a full cost plan. Detailed information is extracted, giving us the exact quantity of all the materials and elements of the build. The cost plan is an itemised breakdown of everything, similar to what you would expect from a quantity surveyor. Before submitting the planning application, this cost plan will be presented to you, ensuring you understand everything about the project. If some areas don't feel right or you want to save on costs, we can tackle these issues before planning. This way, we can confidently submit the planning application

Our method ensures that you understand the project's cost throughout the design stage and that your project stays on track and leads to a successful build.

Staying on budget

At Facit Homes, cost estimation is like putting together a puzzle. We gather your ideas, calculate the pieces, and present you with a clear picture of what it all costs. From start to finish, we're here to ensure you know where your money is going and that your project is on track.

Give us a call or an email to discuss your project in further detail at 020 3034 07200 or


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