The “Must Knows” Behind Any Well-Crafted Square Foot Estimate

“What’s your cost per square foot to build my project?”

...While it’s a question any construction estimator dreads, it’s often asked early in the relationship with a new client.

The client is planning to construct a building. While he has yet to draw up specific plans, he wants you to provide a “ballpark” square foot estimate of construction costs. How you respond will give the developer more than just a high-level figure for budgeting purposes. It will also tell them how much you understand their specific industry.

As an estimator, you know that the best cost analysis requires an understanding of a multitude of variables associated with the project. While project estimation is not a perfect science, getting the necessary information from the developer upfront can help in arriving at a well-drafted estimate or better-informed unit price.

Key factors to consider when calculating the cost per square foot:

  • Gross Square Footage of the Building - A 150,000-gross-square-foot hotel with 100 rooms will have a much higher $/Key and a dramatically lower $/SF cost than a 100-room hotel that encompasses 75,000 gross square feet.

  • Type of Structural and Mechanical Systems - Wood frame construction will have associated costs different from steel frame construction. And, the mechanical systems to be installed are an important consideration since they will represent one of the major costs.

  • Type of Façade - Façade cladding can represent as much as 20% of construction costs on new projects. A façade of brick and stone will cost different from one made of precast concrete panels or glass curtainwall and metal panels.

  • The Height of the Building - A 150,000-square-foot, 10-story building will have a lower $/SF than a 15-story building with the same square footage. The reason is that the taller building will likely have a more expensive foundation, structural, and lateral system.

  • The Foundation System - The foundation system is a major consideration in any estimate. As mentioned, the building’s height must be considered. The estimator must also know if there are any known subsurface conditions that require deep foundations or ground improvement. In addition, the estimator needs to know if the project will include multiple building elements such as a parking garage or retail space.

When calculating initial estimates, getting as much detailed information from a developer upfront is critical. Getting answers to the “must knows” means getting your “must haves” in the finished product.

At Cleveland Construction, our experience includes high-rise, mixed-use, retail, office, multi-family residential, limited-service to a 5-star boutique hotel, K-12 education, parking garage, and aviation projects of varying scope and magnitude.

Are you ready to test our preconstruction team on the square-footage price for your next project? Contact us today!