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Author Topic: Estimating for Design Costs  (Read 400 times)

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Offline EPops

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Estimating for Design Costs
« on: September 16, 2020, 07:07:24 PM »
Hey everyone.

If you have ever done design work for clients on timber frames and/or post-and-beam structures before, how to you estimate design costs?  I'm looking at how to estimate just design work (where you would not be building any of the structure).

We (my brother and I) are experienced framers, and have designed structures before while also building the structures.

But we are venturing into just design work as well.  Without doing any building activities.

Sometimes we may want to perform basic engineering and sizing calculations for a structure and/or individual members (NOT stamped drawings, just our own calcs for goodness sake).  I am a structural engineer but cannot stamp drawings.

And of course, sketching the structure in CAD (including overall views, shop drawings for members, floor plans, sections, etc.).  We may never get into producing full, turn-key architectural drawings.  We may only ever stick to the timber frames themselves.  But it would be good to know for the future how everything is priced out.

I know everyone has their "secrets" and may not want to give away how they do things, to protect themselves.  I get it.  But as a young business owner and timber framer, where else can I turn to and learn from, other than the experienced and knowledgeable people who have come before?  We are not brazen and just want to learn and grow, and share this good building with others.

So if you have any estimating strategies, and are willing to share, I would very much appreciate it.  If you could break it down into sections of what you charge to design different levels of complexity (going from just basic overall views all the way to full, turn-key solutions, with the sub-specialty of engineering or sizing thrown in).  What each of these levels are charged at to the customer - and if they differ per hour or percent of the overall job cost.

I have seen people do different strategies.  Some go price per hour, some go percent of overall job cost.  It is just hard to figure these things out and get a decent level of confidence in how to estimate and what to charge people.  And if no one if comfortable sharing online, how can I go about learning estimating strategies (for design and also for timber framing in general)?  Do you have any resources that have aided you in the past?

Thanks so much.

Offline Jim_Rogers

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Re: Estimating for Design Costs
« Reply #1 on: September 16, 2020, 08:26:25 PM »
When I started my design business, I did it by the job.

Very soon, I found that every customer wanted changes after seeing the first design of their frame.

So, to make sure I get compensated for all the work I had to do to make the changes and again meet with the customer to review their design, I changed my business process to do the design phase of the project by the hour.

Once the customer reviews the design and ok's the design, I then create a plan list of the pages or drawings that I feel I would need in order to cut the frame. I share this list of pages with the customer. And allow them to add pages or subtract pages depending on their needs and experience in cutting a frame.

Now that the list of drawing needed is established, I quote a "job price". With 50% deposit in advance and 50% due when the drawings are done.
Of course all design phase payments have to be made first before we move on to the printed pages phase.

And the design phase takes a deposit to get that started. This is for 5 hours worth of work. If the design is simple and can be done inf 5 hours, that is great. But if it is large and complex then another 5 hour deposit maybe or will be required.

Using a time sheet and recording how long it takes to create a printed page for each job/design over many years has given me a good method to estimate how long it will take to do each printed page, on average.

Changes to the design after the printed pages phase of the project has started and will require completed printed pages to be altered or update is handled by the hour. On top of the printed pages "job cost". And I make it very clear to the customer that this will happen if they change their mind after the printed pages phase has started.

I hope this has helped you some to understand how to do what you want to do.

Some design require the plan pages to be stamped by a structural engineer. I work with several and they oversee my design process to that they comply with the rules. And their instructions to change sizes of timbers or joints are handled by the hour, during the design phase.
And the customer usually pays them directly.

Good luck with your projects.
Ask questions if you wish.

Jim Rogers
Whatever you do, have fun doing it!
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Offline ScottCC

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Re: Estimating for Design Costs
« Reply #2 on: September 19, 2020, 10:10:44 PM »
I know of some big firms that have their designs drafted at $500 a page.  Usually 3-6 pages.  The arch/eng work is usually done at $100  to $150 an hour.  A set of recycled plans are about $2500 stamped.
Necessity is the mother of invention.  Poverty is its big brother.  WM mp100, WM eg100, WM sp4000 chip extractor,  WM 260 molder on order ,WM electric  lt15 wide with extra track, 71 Oliver allterrain forklift, 26' flat bed trailer, road legal log arch, homemade kiln, AutoCAD lt15

Offline EPops

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Re: Estimating for Design Costs
« Reply #3 on: October 15, 2020, 08:44:34 PM »
Thank you much Jim and Scott, it was very helpful to gain these insights and learn from you experienced folks.

Offline Don P

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Re: Estimating for Design Costs
« Reply #4 on: October 15, 2020, 09:49:37 PM »
Do check with your liability carrier, contractors coverage typically excludes design unless you are a RDP.
A laborer works with his hands
A craftsman uses his brain and his hands
An artist uses his brain, his hands, and his heart

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