Budget lessons for the architect (me)

Here is an interesting lesson to learn if I can figure out what it is. Perhaps writing this blog entry will help.
I tend to attract the sort of client who wants a 2500 square foot house with porches, hardwood flooring, granite countertops and an attached garage and wants it for $275 K. If they don’t flee the office in disgust when I tell them A: can’t be done and B: my fees would definitely be more than $3000. (There will of course be someone who will “say” they can) What has happened too often to ignore in the past several years is that clients have come to me with a set of parameters (we architects refer to this as a program) The program consists of needs, wants, site and zoning issues, budget etc. Usually the budget requires a rethinking of needs vs wants and this is where things can get sticky. As I mentioned above, there will always be someone who will tell them they can have it all (meaning: let’s wing it) and some clients will seek them out. A few years later when I see the project completed without me it is clear that either the budget was much more “flexible” than it was when they originally came to me or the “needs” list was pared down much more than what I was able to accomplish with them. I know I am not the best salesman, hoping instead that my obvious experience, references and air of quiet competence will engender trust (insert emoticon here) (real men don’t use emoticons) There have been times when I have thought of a great solution to a design problem but scrapped it because it was a budget buster only to find out later when the clients went to another architect who came up with the same idea and “sold” it to the client. Discouraging. Perhaps the lesson is that I should take things a bit less personally and realize that other people’s idea of budget is more flexible. Of course, I am often the second architect on a project because the first architect designed something too expensive to build…


  • jlmetzler says:

    Architecture is 1st and foremost a BUSINESS. Architectural schools should recognize this and adjust curriculums accordingly .

  • chbritton says:

    Being an architect is how I feed my family, but I have a hard time calling it a business. This is partly because of my approach to it, but also, if I considered it a business, I would certainly be doing some other type of business instead, to earn a better living.

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Robert Swinburne in Brattleoboro, VT on Houzz
Robert Swinburne in Brattleoboro, VT on Houzz


Robert Swinburne Architect, LLC AIA, NCARB, CPHD, DAD bob@swinburnearchitect.com 802.451.9764
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