residential tips skip to item 12
If you have any further inquiries or comments, please
- When should we hire a designer?
Hire your designer at the same time as your real estate agent. Hiring your
designer while your are looking for a space will help you examine potential
premises before signing on to a long term lease.
- Landlord will provide us a space plan for free. Is there a reason why
we should not accept their offer?
Yes. There is a good reason. Landlords will typically pay $0.07 (or so) per
s.f. to a designer to provide a space plan. They prefer and sometimes insist on
using their own designer. Why would they prefer or insist? Because if they are
hiring the designer directly, the designer will tend to promote the building
for them rather than examining it critically for you.
- If we do not hire landlord's designer, do we have to pay for space
No. Landlords hope that you do not have a designer on board when shopping for a
space. They will pay for the space plan performed by your designer. You only
have to ask for it.
- How many designers should take part in the design team for our
A typical design team for a full scope corporate design project should consist
Note that the definition of a senior designer in this context is someone who is
well rounded in all aspects of the project. Creativity alone is not enough.
- 1 senior designer for up to 20,000 s.f. of space.
- 1 senior designer + 1 assistant for up to 50,000 s.f. of space.
- 1 senior designer + 1 project manager + 1 assistant for up to 150,000 s.f.
Hint: If you are advised to have more members on the team than the above
recommendation, it means that designers are either not qualified enough to
handle the job by themselves or are not well rounded. Remember that the more
hands are involved the less efficient the process will become. Further more,
errors and omissions are more likely to occur with more people involved.
- Is the size of the design firm important?
Not really. Whether the deign firm has 100 staff or 5, Your project will be
handled by 1 to 3 members. The only difference is that a deign firm with more
staff can handles more projects in a year than a smaller firm.
- Should we choose to pursue a design/build
Preferably no. There should be no affiliation between designer and builder or
supplier. This method presents conflict of interest and ultimately will cost
you more and will yield less quality in both design process and construction.
For example: Will a designer with strong ties to a contractor be truly critical
of contractors workmanship? The answer is obvious. Entities with such
arrangement will try to justify their position by convincing you that the
design is free. There is no such thing as "free lunch". The design
fees are simply hidden in construction fees and markups.
- Who should provide us a construction budget?
Obtain your estimate/budget figures from a reliable and well-informed source.
Be wary of conflicts of interest, or parties who downplay true costs to try to
push you to make a commitment. Your designer should provide you with a complete
and educated budget within a few days, clearly detailing all fee, permit,
construction and contingency costs.
- How do the designers get paid?
Designers sell combination of talent and time. The value of most services
offered by a typical design studio can be measured by time (hourly rate).
Talent is a hard one to measure. How does one put a price tag on genius design
solution that can save a company a lot of resources or generate a lot of
income? It took a graphic designer probably minutes to invent the "smiely
face" over 3 decade ago. "Smiley face" is deeply entrenched in
-Time measurable service:
There should generally be 2 methods: Hourly or fixed/flat rate. If you have a
well defined scope of work then fixed rate may work best. If, on the other
hand, the project scope of work can not easily be identified the hourly rate
will work best. For example, you do not know how many people you will need to
relocate until you have examined various floor plan scenarios and conducted
meetings with 10 other partners you have. After all these analysis you may
decide to move to a new location altogether or stay put with no changes. Asking
for fixed fee in the above example can cost you a lot more than simple hourly
rate. If you insist on receiving a fixed fee for this example, your quote will
most likely be based on the most time consuming scenario, relocating the entire
Putting a price tag on Talent is really at the discretion of the designer and
can not be formulated.
- What is the average service rate?
If we ignore the fact that a design studios may offer different rates for
different services, the going rate in 2005 is anywhere from $65 to $120 per
hour. If you are paying higher, you are either paying for the name or
subsidizing their high overhead.
If you are paying less then you may be dealing with someone with lack of basic
infrastructure or the low fee is being subsidized by other sources such as mark
ups and or finders fees.
Avoid situations where fees are based on a percentage of the cost of
construction. A contractor or designer who works on this basis may be less
motivated to reduce construction costs.
- Do we need a project manager along side a
Depends on size and scope of work. A designer is the master of the design and
implementation phases of your project and best equipped to deal with all of the
intricacies involved to ensure a successful project.
This principle expires when a project gets large or involved enough that there
are not enough working hours in one day for one designer to handle. This
typically happens on projects lager than 50,000 s.f.
- How do we make sure that we end up working with an experienced
When interviewing designers, demand to meet the parties actually responsible
for your project. You may often be "sold" by a well trained marketing
person, then find a much less experienced person to be your contact once the
project begins. Seek the profiles and credentials of all the individuals
involved in advance of making a commitment.
- RESIDENTIAL - How do the residential
designers differ from commercial designers?
They differ in providing their quote. Traditionally speaking, it is a hard sell
to convince a home owner to pay hourly rates at the same level as commercial
designers. As a result residential sector resorts to "marking up"
method. Lower fees are offset by marking up the material such as furnishing,
fabrics, art work etc. We prefer to remain strictly service oriented with no
mark ups or finder fees.
- RESIDENTIAL - What will stop the
homeowners from purchasing their furniture independently?
Nothing stops homeowners from purchasing independently. The trick is that home
owners can not get the same kind of discount from suppliers that designers can.
As a result a piece of furniture will end up costing the homeowner the same
regardless of where he/she purchases it from. In fact it may cost even more to
buy furniture independently. In effect the suppliers are rewarding the
designers by giving them exclusive "designer" discounts.
- RESIDENTIAL - Given the "marking
up" tradition, how do I ensure getting unbiased recommendation from my
It is almost impossible to achieve this. There is an inherent flaw with this
system. Suppliers with deeper "designer" discounts tend to generate
more sales due to designers recommending their products. One would suspect that
the roots of the recommended item is not so much the suitability, rather it is
the deeper discount that allows for higher mark up. No one is in better
position in changing this trend other than home owners. In the commercial
sector this issue has been resolved by clients receiving all the discount and
designer getting their full rate.
There are a number of firms and individuals involved during the process of
moving and creating your new office environment. Depending on the complexity
and size, in most cases they can be grouped into four categories:
If you have any further inquiries or comments please
- Parties involved with signing the lease
Real Estate Agents, Landlords, Lawyers
- Planning team
Designers, Mechanical and Electrical engineers
General contractors and sub trades, Tel/Cabling Contractors, Furniture
suppliers, City Inspectors
Moving companies, Furniture Installers
Allow enough time for your project to be completed properly. Rushing the design
phase can result in costly changes and greater delays after the construction
has begun. Allowing your team adequate time to complete your project will
usually result in better quality and greater cost-effectiveness. Depending on
the complexity and the size of the project, time lines will differ. For
example; assuming the building is ready for interior renovation, moving into
the most basic 10,000 square foot space you will need to allow:
The above 14 to 16 week time period assumes that base building is ready to
perform interior renovation and you have signed your lease. On smaller or
larger projects the schedule does not change proportionately to the size. For
example, a typical 5,000 sq. ft. project takes 13 to 15 weeks or a 20,000 sq.
ft. project takes 15 to 17 weeks to complete. If the base building is in raw
condition, meaning that there is no t-bar ceiling, no lights, no rooftop A/C
units and no duct work present, additional 2 to 3 weeks are required totaling
16 to 19 weeks for project schedule.
- 4 to 5 weeks for designing and planning
- 4 weeks or more for the pricing and permit issuance (this entirely depends
on permit department efficiency)
- 6 to 7 weeks for construction
Projects can be completed in a shorter length of time, however this carries
with it certain risks, including:
If you have any further inquiries or comments please
- Drastically reduced selection of material, furniture, carpet, etc. On a
short schedule everything has to be in stock. About 80% of quality materials
and furnishings are rarely in stock.
- There is not enough time to conduct a tender process, which means you are
unable to obtain competitive quotes from construction crew. This can add
unnecessary cost to your project.
- The more rushed a project is the more likelihood of errors and omissions
from all parties involved.