complex lab project. The benchmark for an
experienced owner is probably completing
around a half dozen similar projects, so bias
doesn’t affect your reaction to project issues
Often an owner doesn’t want to “tip his
hand” and reveal the project cost or contingency, fearing the designer and contractor
will consider the contingency part of the
budget. There’s some merit in this, since
it’s human nature to build in a buffer zone,
perhaps subconsciously in some cases. Thus,
it’s best the owner set a firm budget for the
project and have the team set a contingency amount from that budget. That way all
parties have ownership of the contingency,
and there’s no ambiguity about the project
The most experienced clients bring an
almost clinical approach to costs, understanding the budget is a tool to manage the
project, and not a goal post. Typically, they
also bring a system to budget and manage a
project, as well as historical data that temper
The least experienced clients often
don’t understand the number of costs that
are outside the construction budget, and
frequently underestimate or neglect those
aspects of the project. For our purposes,
assuming this is a complex project, the
number of variables is large, and unless the
owner is very experienced, some costs can
be over looked, or underestimated.
A powerful tool for the team is a project
cost spreadsheet (Figure 2) that accounts
for the construction costs. The project
budget tracks any expense surrounding the
project, and notes those by the owner or
in the construction costs. “Soft costs” (fees,
permits, financing, equipment, moving
costs) are a substantial part of the project
and can change the owner’s approach. The
typical soft costs can range from 10% to as
high as 40% if equipment and furnishings
The spreadsheet illustrated is set up so
columns can be added to reflect additional
costs or scope reductions as each phase
There have been many instances when
a project is put on hold or even canceled,
when the owner realizes the construction
costs don’t include some major item or
won’t bring the ROI anticipated.
Next month, we will discuss the designer
and contractor viewpoints, and recommend
a checklist of best practices for managing
Paul Wilhelms is Life Sciences Practice
Leader at Gensler.
The I2SL Annual Conference remains the country’s premier sustainability training and exposition for
those who design, build, own, and operate sustainable laboratories and other high-tech buildings.
Learn more at: www.i2sl.org/conference/2015/index.html.
Sail Into San Diego This Fall With I2SL
Make plans to attend the 2015 I2SL Annual Conference, taking place at the
Hyatt Regency Mission Bay in San Diego, California. The event provides a
unique opportunity for your organization to meet with high-tech facility
designers, engineers, owners, managers, users, and vendors. Get the most
out of your time with pre-conference and offsite activities.
Sign up online and save. Online registration closes on September 11,
so sign up before the deadline to save. I2SL Members receive an additional
$100 discount on registration fees and pre-conference training sessions.
Reduced registration fees are also available for U.S. federal employees,
university employees, students, and groups of 10 or more people.
Go behind the scenes. Get an inside look at cutting-edge technologies,
systems, and services from exhibiting organizations at the Technology and
Services Fair. Head offsite and tour the J. Craig Venter Institute and the
Salk Institute to view sustainable facility solutions and innovative design.
Participate in engaging sessions. Join morning roundtable
discussions on sustainable laboratory design and innovation. Then learn
about case studies, solutions, and best practices in laboratory design and
technology in the breakout sessions.
San Diego, California
Figure 2: Major milestones in the project process.