Plans and budgets: The back-and-forth
There is a common conundrum in the home-building process: It is impossible to get accurate cost estimates for your home until you have detailed plans, but once you have detailed plans it can be overwhelming to have to change them to meet financial realities. This budgeting reality needs to be built into your planning schedule — it should not come as a surprise, but anticipated in the overall arc of the design process.
It is not unusual for plans to go through two or three revisions in order to have them meet a budget, though a skilled design team should be able to keep any gaps between anticipated costs and quoted costs to a minimum. Be sure to build this phase into the scope of work for your design team so that each team member knows how much detail to provide before waiting for pricing. Final drawings — especially those that are getting a professional’s seal or “stamp” — shouldn’t be produced until the budget is approved.
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Depending on the extent of the difference between the desired budget and the actual quotes you receive, the revisions to your plans may be minor or extensive. It is best to rework the plans until they are demonstrably within your budget range. Though it may seem like a delay and a hassle to re-draw and re-quote the building, this is better than proceeding on to permits and construction with a mismatch between the plans and the budget. While it may be possible to reduce costs on the fly by choosing less expensive materials or finding cheaper labor quotes, this tactic rarely works out very well.
Structural engineer — Licensed by a governmental body to practice in their state or province, and take legal responsibility for the structural integrity of all or part of the plans.
Architect — Licensed architect can take legal responsibility for residential structural design, or may offer engineering services within the firm.
Engineering technologist — Trained in structural design; in some jurisdictions can take legal responsibility for structural design of all or part of the plans.
In many jurisdictions, energy modeling is required to meet basic code requirements, and it is certainly necessary to meet rating system (for example: LEED, Passive House) requirements. For any homeowner attempting to exceed code minimum standards, it is certainly recommended. There are many different software programs for energy modeling, and matching software with code and/or rating system requirements is important.