Re: Common house per square foot cost
From: Lynn Nadeau (
Date: Fri, 18 Jan 2002 12:38:01 -0700 (MST)
Stephanie in Wisconsin wrote:
>Do you know how much your common house and/or units cost per square foot?
Be sure that you are including the same list of costs in your per sq ft 
calculations for different places, if you want to compare. 

Not all statements of psf cost include all of the following, though they 
are all matters which cost real money and may be necessary to the project:

Actual materials and labor, obviously.
Electrical, plumbing, HVAC, roofing, gutters, and other basic contracting.
Design-architects-landscape architects-engineers, surveyors, and any 
other consultants (acoustics, lighting, interior design, etc)
City permitting fees, and any system-development ("impact") fees that are 
also attached
Utility trenching, equipment, hook-up fees (phone, electric, cable?, 
water, sewer)
Street development, parking, driveways or such that need to be added for 
the CH.
Rental of porta-potties
Dump runs and other disposal and clean up costs
Required emergency and ADA hardware and adaptations
Cabinetry, not only kitchen, but shelves and cupboards throughout. 
L&I, and-or other labor costs (such as taxes), if you have any 
non-licensed-contractor workers.
Any paid legal or accounting work entailed.
Additional insurance needed during construction, for equipment and 
hazards on the job site
Utility costs during construction (water, electricity, heating fuel)
Whatever quality upgrades appeal to you (in our case built in vacuum 
system, tile work, hardwood and Marmoleum flooring, propane hearth stove, 
custom wooden mailboxes, brick trim, commercial counter-top dishwasher)

You could talk to some experienced local contractors, especially ones 
with non-residential building experience, to get their rough estimates of 
cost. The more you can tell them about your standards, the better: 
proposed building materials, amount of custom work, proposed quality of 
flooring, heating system. So much is variable. Maybe there is a local 
building - like a new church parish hall perhaps - that you could point 
out as representative of the level of quality you have in mind.

Our total common house costs (including all of the above) come to just 
under $100 psf, for our 2800 sf building. That doesn't include 
landscaping, which is funded by a donor. We figure we knocked about 
$15-20K off the construction cost by doing work ourselves. Our plan is 
structurally simple, an L shape, and on level ground. We used EnerGrid 
blocks, which probably raised the construction cost, compared to stick 
framing. We're in Washington State.

Two things to keep in mind when coming up with an original budget for a 

A *generous contingency line, because you WILL find some costs will 
suddenly rise, some factors were forgotten, delays see price inflation, 
and it is so much more satisfying to have something nice (even if there 
is somewhat less of it) than to have something that feels unfinished, or 
like lots of corners needed to be cut. 

A line item for ecological upgrades (thanks to Chris Hanson for the 
idea), if they matter to you. Because they almost always cost more, and 
will get knocked out of your plans one after another because of that. 
With a set "fund" for such things, you can at least prioritize and get 
what's most important to you. 

>Since it is an affordable housing project in part, we want to have a good
>idea of how the CH costs will impact the costs of the individual units.  
Of course you can work in either direction. We want all this and it will 
cost X, so our costs will be... Or you can set a budget for your project, 
knowing that you want a cap on your unit costs, and decide how much 
common house you can have, for that money. Then make it a bit smaller, to 
free up some money for quality refinements. 

Lynn at RoseWind
where a cook team did a wonderful meal of food from India on Monday 
a neighbor fed me when I returned from travels,
last night's potluck was gorgeous, and our common house kitchen will be 
included on 
a local Kitchens Tour fundraiser, for AAUW, giving us some free exposure

Lynn Nadeau, RoseWind Cohousing
Port Townsend Washington (Victorian seaport, music, art, nature)

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