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February 28, 2022

Managing the Pandemic's Effects on Construction


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As an architecture firm entering the third year of a global pandemic, the consistent feedback we are hearing from our trade partners is that construction costs are going to continue trending upward and construction schedules are trending longer. Problems with the global supply chain, which we've all heard about in the news, as well as the demand for skilled laborers, have fundamentally impacted the industry and building costs.

In reaction to these persistent trends, Whitten Architects has adapted the way we work with our clients to manage construction costs and schedules. We are working more closely – and earlier – with the general contractor than ever before to procure construction cost data to guide the design process.

Inviting the Builder to the Team Early

We have always valued our relationship with builders. We respect their expertise and invite their input in the design process. On all our new projects, we advise our clients to hire the general contractor for pre-construction services soon after we begin conceptual design work. This allows our clients to secure a position on the contractor's schedule as well as allows for early and ongoing construction cost feedback during the design process.

We assist our clients in finding comparable contractor candidates and then advise them in the interview and selection process. We want our clients to choose the builder that is the right fit for them. Currently, we find that qualified contractors are booking 9 to 12 months in advance. Having the contractor on the team early allows them to provide budgeting feedback as the design takes shape. This feedback empowers our clients to make informed decisions.

What Decisions Influence Construction Costs?

Working closely with our clients to understand their needs, values, and priorities is at the heart of what we do. Together with our clients and the builder we consider five main factors that influence construction costs:

  • Project size and scope
  • Complexity: site conditions, layout, form, windows, and doors
  • Systems: HVAC, plumbing, electrical, lighting, AV, security, and smart home tech
  • Materials: finishes, and fixtures (wood, concrete, stone, tile, etc.)
  • The spirit of the times: marketplace, inflation, labor, materials, and supply chain

We can influence most of these factors. We will be proactive: plan ahead, set expectations, and involve our partners as early as possible.

In the past 36 years, Whitten Architects has served clients through a variety of market conditions: the ups, downs, and in-betweens. We have accomplished this with a philosophy rooted in teamwork – not just within our team itself, but with our collaborators and trade partners as well. We welcome the opportunity to continue to integrate the builder into our design process. We look forward to facing the challenges the future presents, together.


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