Cost / Sq. Ft. x Building Size = Project Costs, right? Wrong!
I won the ‘key award’ in math at my high school as a senior. Small school, I know, but I gladly took the honors. Numbers were my friend, and they still are; calculus and all. So when I work an equation, and run a summation, I’m usually sure of the result. I bet most of us think the same.. Then come soft costs—those dang expenses germane to every building ever built that fall outside of that equation above. Problem is, though having erected some 10,000 buildings in the U.S., we in the Y continue to get stung by these soft costs in the construction math bee. What gives?
This week the math bee stung another client Y. Fuzzy math and our not having educated our volunteers as well as we can, led to a $1.5M delta between impression and reality. It wasn’t pretty.
I want to take the sting out of the bee, and go back to the days of when math was fun. Let’s all agree to allow standard Y facility budget forms, and the lessons learned over those 10,000 projects, influence are math game on our projects ahead.
The real math: To every dollar budgeted for construction of the building alone, including the cost of site improvements, we have to add a quarter, at least in cost modeling. If that quarter converts to 22 cents as a project is refined, even better. But for starters, before in-filling any cells in the spreadsheet, add the ‘*25’ to the equation. You can thank me in the morning.
Soft costs defined are those including the following (and, yes, it’s a long list): professional fees for architects and engineering (seven cents of that quarter already shot!), bonds and insurance, contingencies, furnishings, fixtures and equipment, fundraising costs, building permits, the temporary membership sales trailer, and the lawyer. The list lengthens with: the soil borings, the renderings that we didn’t negotiate in the architect’s original agreement, travel expenses, and the special events on-site that spread the word about our building more good. That’s NOT the list in total, but this is a blog not a book. You get the drift.
All said, let’s just get ‘em all on a list once, call it the ‘Standard, Typical, Template, By-The-Book Facility Development Project Budget Form for YMCAs’ and embrace it—just like I did with that key award. We’ll never have to get tripped up along the pace of a new Y development again, and thereby take the sting out of the soft cost bee.
Oh, no need to create the form from scratch. We’ve got that covered. As easy as 1-2-3.
Rod Grozier is director of facility development and design for Daxko T2 Consulting.