How to Overcome Struggling with Costs

Estimation is a challenge

We all know that costs are a major topic of conversation in every building project. One of the most difficult parts of the budgeting process is estimating costs prior to construction. In Germany, some of the biggest recently built projects have significantly exceeded their projected costs. Think of BER-Airport or Elbe Philharmonic – both went way over budget due to expanded scope and unanticipated costs. While scope creep and busted budgets are inevitable in some cases, there are plenty of tactics designers and developers can employ upfront to avoid them.

It’s critical that every planner makes an effort to consider building costs as early as possible in the early planning phase. How can we do this most effectively? A good first step is to find comparable buildings to approximate a total cost frame. Next, you can research individual component prices to see how building costs become more detailed as the design phase progressed. By looking at the separate pieces of a comparable project rather than just the full budget, you’ll be able to identify specific similarities and differences with your own project so you can estimate costs more appropriately.

Common steps during cost estimation

In Germany, even if your project’s lifetime cost deviates 30-40% from estimations, that may still be considered normal or tolerable. Now, this might lead some to the conclusion that costs aren’t that important in early stages, but they are. Aggressive cost planning up front really does bear a high level of influence on eventual true costs. The trick is to be cost-effective and consider the full lifecycle costs in your planning, not just your bottom line.

How can information and technology help?

Sources such as ASHRAE or BKI in Germany provide comprehensive data offering an overview of diverse costs across the building life cycle. Those databases usually have to be accessed manually, so they don’t always suit the needs for modern day planning methods like parametrization and optimization for thousands of possible building combinations. The work to look up detailed cost for every building configuration just isn’t feasible for highly skilled architects or engineers who could better spend their time designing and planning incredible projects.

Unfortunately, not even modern BIM 5D methods effectively tackle this problem, as they only track cost development. BIM 5D enables planners and technicians to monitor costs across several planning phases, but not to identify cost optimizations in the earliest design phases.

In reality, we’re looking for two things. To design great buildings, it is necessary to determine optimal design solutions in the conceptual stage and track them in all subsequent phases. We need easily accessible data and we need effective ways to put it to work.

To find the most cost-effective design solutions in early design phases, Metabuild has built a massive database of technical data and cost for a broad range of building components. Metabuild’s AI utilizes this database while it explores billions of possible scenarios for each project. As a result, the best solutions are identified and deep insights into CAPEX, OPEX, comfort and energy performance are provided.