Architectural Advice - Cost Control

In a previous blog on screened porch additions we had several comments, many useful, but also many that potentially would expand the SCOPE of the project.

SCOPE CREEP in Design and Construction Projects usually refers to growth in the amount, or scope, of work that is required to complete a project. This usually directly attributes to increased costs and a longer project delivery time.

Several factors can contribute to scope creep. Design changes are usually the initial generator of scope creep. Let’s take a close look at this two story addition that we did to a beautiful 1920’s Dutch colonial house in suburban Washington DC.

I will slightly enhance the sequence of design decisions that went on here to illustrate the point. Let’s say we have started with the 2 story addition you see coming off the back of the house. A kitchen and Family Room on the first floor with a new Master Suite on the second. Done, right? Well…

1.       Now while we are at it why don’t we add a PORCH on the back, but….

2.       Let’s add SCREENS to the porch (for all of the reasons from the previous blog)… great….but...

3.       Now that we have the screens maybe we should have a place to walk around outside, have a grill, and enjoy the sun. Let's add a DECK!

4.       Now that we are going to put a deck in why don’t we carry it around the side of the addition and tie it into the side of the house for some CIRCULAR FLOW.

5.       While we are at it, why don’t we add a little MUDROOM off the rear of the existing house for a neat little spot to keep the mess contained as kids (and adults) come in from the yard…Great

6.       Oh yea, and why don’t we go ahead and put in a RETAINING WALL and make a nice little flat terraced area that will allow the kids to have a nice little grassy play area.

7.       Oh yea and now back to the fact that we added that porch. It would be really nice to go ahead and make use of that porch roof as a SECOND FLOOR TERRACE off the master suite.

OK, you get the idea. Start with a two story addition, and….SCOPE CREEP


 In the world of remodeling (especially with old houses, and pre-World War II houses are notorious for this) CONCEALED CONDITIONS can also contribute to an increase in the amount of work, and thus the cost of a given project.

Concealed conditions are things that exist out of sight and don’t reveal themselves until the demolition work has begun. Some of the usual suspects can be:

·         Termite damage or moisture damage behind walls or under floors

·         Unusual or non-existent framing

·         Unusual plumbing, pipe, ducts, etc.

·         Under slab or under floor conditions that were unanticipated (ex. buried oil tanks)

We have a saying in the office, “The Problem isn’t the problem, it’s when you know about the problem that is the problem” Basically the Design Process is one big problem solving activity. The bummer with concealed conditions is they usually arrive AFTER we have all agreed on a design solution. The design needs to be modified and often the scope is affected.


The term BUTTERFLY EFFECT refers to the idea the one change can lead to impacting a large number of things. This gets back to the WHEN portion of the design change.

Let’s go back to our Dutch Colonial. Let’s say that while we were designing it we had thoroughly thought through the design and settled on that second floor deck off of the master bedroom. Great. Since we would be walking on it the framing would have to take that extra loading into account. We would also want to make the roof as flat as possible so that would impact the type and specification of the roofing. Neither of those would have much of a cost impact at that point…but

Let’s say we decided after the framing was in and the first layer of roofing was down that, “hey, this would be a great place to create a second floor deck”. Now we would have to remove the roofing, remove the plywood roof sheathing, enhance the framing, and…… You get the idea.


My dad always said “nothing gets done without a deadline” Set some hard dates as goals to work too. They don’t have to be as concrete as a Wedding, but establishing a date for completion and working out a schedule is extremely helpful.

When you work with an architect VERSIONING is very important. Architect’s put dates on everything. It is important that the plans are worked on, changes are considered and implemented, and then the changes STOP!!!!

You are embarking on a project that will involve many professionals, trades people, products and product suppliers. It is important that (another cliché) “Everybody is singing off of the same sheet of music”. Don’t change things after you have the plans done. Beware the Butterfly Effect, beware Concealed Conditions, and beware SCOPE CREEP