Article by Brad Priest, designer at DG2 Design
Like so many other decisions in life, budget constraints are often the ultimate factors that influence design choices on our projects. While limited budgets can sometimes handcuff the design process to a certain extent, it is our job to figure out how to maximize the value that our designs provide our clients within a given budget. Achieving this goal often involves prioritization, compromise and open communication with our clients in order to find the ideal equilibrium.
The first step in working toward meeting a project budget effectively in any design is to identify the desired programmatic elements (e.g. seating areas, shade structures, water features, etc.) and to prioritize these elements, noting the features the client must have versus those that are desired. Using this information as a guide, we are able to produce initial design concepts that illustrate various solutions that we find to be elegant and budget-conscious.
Cost estimates are another important tool we use to ensure our projects remain within budget. When enough detail has been worked out through the design process, we can begin taking stock of approximate material types and quantities as well as other associated project costs. We then are able to determine rough estimates for the costs of each design item, which depicts a clear breakdown of the state of the approximate project budget as designed at that point. This information is used to refine the design further, making it easier to determine the best adjustments to make moving forward.
Once the design has been finalized and we have a more precise idea of what the project will cost, we often work with our clients to develop a phasing plan for the implementation of the design. Phasing plans are meant to break the project into logical portions to be constructed in sequence over time. This is useful when the client has had to reduce their initial desired budget as the project progressed, or when the client preferred to design beyond their initial budget with plans to add to the project in the future. We develop phasing plans to show the most cost-efficient and logical sequence in which to implement the project, based on many factors such as constructability, maintenance, seasonal changes and the growth of plantings over time, to name a few.
We strive to view budget limitations as design opportunities rather than constraints, attempting to produce creative solutions to keep costs down without compromising the integrity of the project. Maximizing the value of our projects – to our clients, to the project’s users, and to the environment – is always paramount and often easily attainable with a little thoughtful planning.