ruminations about architecture and design

Thursday, December 4, 2014

a spectre is haunting...

Actually, it's the spectre of persistently low inflation, stagnation, and ennui.

Here in the U.S. we are starting to see mild signs of price increases, which for those who fall into the "all inflation is bad camp" is the sign of doomsday. In the years I've been practicing architecture I've seen a consistent upward trend in construction costs. Some of this is due to an aggregate response to upward pressure of all wages and prices. More significantly, we've seen an increased complexity of building systems--better insulation, more robust structure, more bathrooms, large houses. Some of these things are improvements, which come at a cost. In general, building quality improves. But, the distribution of cost increases and improvement is not equal. Low quality construction, albeit better than older construction, can still be done cheaply if the development team strips all character and amenities from a project. Luxury clients, meanwhile, pay through the nose for diminishing marginal returns in quality. Finish carpentry and cabinetry feels like a good racket--those who can do it well command premium prices and are in high demand.

I don't know what to make of this. I remember that 13 years ago we would tell prospective clients that $200 a s.f. was a reasonable price to pay for an architect designed home. Now, we tell clients that construction costs range between $200 and $250 a s.f. I no longer trust my ability to estimate costs.

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