|Re: Standardization||<– Date –> <– Thread –>|
|From: John Major (JMAJORmhz.com)|
|Date: Mon, 20 Jan 1997 08:59:03 -0600|
> This architect along with an architect-group member >said that you don't necessarily save money by standardizing. We got the same advice from Chuck and Katy, and like nearly everything they said, we took it for gospel, then interpreted it as we went. But with the question of what "necessarily" means above hangin' out, I have to strongly DISAGREE - I believe attention to standardization has spared us the usual late-in-the-game "sticker shock" meeting that most groups seem to go through, where you have to let go of a lot of things to wrestle your costs back down to where you thought they should be. This is based on Wasatch CoHo's recent experience with "value engineering". This is what the jargon calls the process of bringing a builder on *early* - in our case, about 5 months - before competitive bidding, to work *closely* with the architect and the design process to reduce cost. Now, both our architect and builder had extensive experience doing affordable housing, but they've also done plenty of fancy stuff (residential, restaurants, etc.), but we had the pleasant surprise of having the first cost analysis come in *under* our square foot cost target, which was $65/sft. About that number - we had folks telling us "you can build nice stuff for $55/sft, that's way too high", and others saying "I dunno - that'll be a tough target". In the beginning, it was hard to tell, but we tried to do accurate unit costing based on that figure, land costs, development costs, etc. We had households saying "$140K+ for a 1600sft 4BR, that's OK", and others turning bright green as they thought about what they would have to do to afford this crazy dream, but we ended up on a scale from <$90K for 1BR up to $140K+ for 4BR ("attached townhouses"). Now, I know that you folks in the NW, MA and CA are going to turn your own shade of green at those figures, but part of it is that we got a great deal on the land - and they are stilll pretty high for incomes in UT. The tricky bit next for us is to deal with the fact that these numbers are high for the neighborhood we're moving into... Anyway, before that, there had been nearly a year of close work with the architect, and he was very good about keeping our designs economical. And STANDARDIZATION was a big theme. He developed a "modular" design (I know that's a Bad Word for Alexander ;-) and kept the floor plans pretty simple. We kept asking him, "so what does it mean to break standardization in this case?" (floor plans, or heating systems, or windows, whatever). And he would explain... beyond economies of scale, usually it meant that without some standardization, a subcontractor would look at the differences from unit to unit, and figure in their bid a significant fudge factor for screwups, as the requirements would be changing from unit to unit. And the builder explained that they train a trade on one unit, do a quality inspection and redo, and only then let them loose on all the other units. So it makes sense... I should note that we *are* encouraging "options" - which do not raise the cost for all units (beyond materials), such as different kitchen layouts, floor coverings, etc. - and "customizations", where a household works with the architect, and eats the entire cost themselves. But "NO CHANGES AFTER GROUNDBREAKING!" ;-) That's a convincing argument to me, and the results have finally spoken for themselves. Now, we still ended up with 7 different unit plans, so we didn't have Iron Discipline, but we're pretty happy with the designs. Also, the design meetings were actually a lot of fun much of the time (usually separate from general biz meetings) - we learned a tremendous amount about building materials, environmental design, and architecture (certainly more than some of us wanted ;-) - but our consensus skills have been trained and honed on chewing through a lot of small design decisions. As a result, our up-coming Pet Policy work doesn't look as intimidating - > gulp < .... John Major Wasatch Cohousing ... where, admittedly, we are still making decisions "we bid 8'6" ceilings, and that'll work, but there are two TALL households who would really like 9', and since we already have to buy 10' studs, there isn't much waste, but it'll add cost to *everyone's* unit, and..."
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