Madness To The Method

Posted: June 16, 2016 in Fridge Note, Wa fuckin Ha

This is a bit weird.

I haven’t done an OPC (what I call an Opinion of Probable Cost…as the architect, I have little control of the actual cost of construction, and so for Plausible Deniability, E&O insurance people like it when we call it an opinion.  Can’t be sued for an opinion!)  in some time.

Most of our recent projects have involved a contractor as part of the design team, or clients who self-perform a lot of their construction, so there has not been any real need…

I learned much of the OPC while working for a Nazi Architect Who Is Not Albert Speer, even if he Likes the Speer work, whose partner would do an extensive, line by line analysis of costs.  So when I went solo, I adopted some of those ideas, but since I am not a fucking Luddite, I used it with a custom spreadsheet and use of relatively expensive annual cost compendiums.  But the thing is that when you use these, you need to fill in a lot of blanks with supposition.

This is often useful when the clients need to talk to banks about financing the project. It is also useful when you need to disabuse the client of the idea that they will build their project for 8 bucks per SF…

But in the course of actually finding a way to build something (a path that is as difficult as a Hobbit going through Mirkwood)  It is a very effective way to demonstrate the cost of many many small elements, into a largish budget.

I have been involved with several projects, where the clients really object to the final cost, but then respond by removing a few doors and a window or two, and then congratulate themselves by adding a hot tub.  This process allows me to show them where the hell the money went…

It is very easy for clients to say “There’s no way that it will take $120 per SF to build this, but when you break it all the way down, and they see that there are very few single items that are breaking the bank (Also, are you going to object to structural framing?), they have no way of saying that somehow every number will be magically reduced.  [As an aside,it frustrates me that some other architects will regularly design projects that clock in at $300 per SF; the time we had that kind of commission, we pulled out all the stops and never got over $180.]

OPCs counteract this in a couple of ways; first, a good understanding of how many building systems interact, and second ability to interpret very loose preliminary drawings in a way that represents actual construction.  Finally, in a representation of the actual costs of various aspects of construction…

I tagged into this estimate effort due to a reference from the people who organized those Charrettes I have had so much fun at. Being fucking good at what you do is noticed, even if it doesn’t result in immediate follow through. But I met with the Director of the organization, and we had a few acquaintances in common, and so they want to do an addition to one of their buildings.

It continues my work within Milwaukee’s African American community, work that I am inordinately proud of for the extent and the quality.  And yes, my amazing congresswoman Gwen Moore has been at our grand openings, and I have been stable star-struck because she is FUCKING AWESOME

Dunno if this will go further.  May be that when they see the actual costs, they will freak out –  I imagine that at this point, people have been blowing smoke up their ass.  But I am doing my best to tell them what their project is likely to cost, and they have no way to proceed if they don’t have that at this point.

But, and I have little defense for this, but dammit I am kind of enjoying this.  It speaks to my fundamental brokenness, I think…


Go ahead, tell me how I fucked up this time.

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