Understanding the Three Essentials of a Successful Build Project: Quality, Cost, and Size

By Mike Niezer, RA Ron Dick, AIA, LEED AP

March 29, 2024

Starting a build project can be intimidating, even if you’ve done it before.

There are so many factors that go into a successful project, so where do you even begin? We sat down with two experts in the design field, Ron Dick (Founding Partner and Architect) and Mike Niezer (COO and Architect), to talk about everything you need to know about the entire process. They discussed what to do before you start a project, the three essential parts of a project, developing a contingency plan, and how to set a realistic schedule for your project.

Follow along with this series to hear what they have to say about each step in the process. In our first post, “Before you Start: Setting your Project up for Success,” we began with why it’s critical for architecture and design teams to ask questions and really listen to the answers BEFORE getting started.


Ron Dick

In this segment, we dive into the three big aspects of every project: Quality, Cost, and Size.

Most clients want to give us all three aspects. They might say, “I’ve got a million dollars to spend, I want to build a 10,000 square foot building, and I want it to be a really high level of finish and quality”. Oftentimes, those initial goals don’t always align with each other. But if they can give us two of the criteria, we can help define the third. For example, they know how big they want the building to be and their overall budget; we can help them understand what level of quality they can expect.

Mike Niezer

That’s really what this part of the design process is all about.

We’ve already established the vision and big picture goals for the project. We’ve come to a pretty good idea of square footage, and we’ve been given a budget for construction that we need to work within. At this point, we really need to make sure that all those things are lined up and work with each other. Sometimes, our clients are hesitant to share some of these criteria, budget in particular. But the earlier we know, the better we can help ensure these project goals are aligned; that they are compatible with each other. We don’t want to wait too long into the process to have this discussion, and doing this early is one of the best ways to avoid surprises down the road.

Ron Dick

We’re working as a partner through the process and the budget’s an important piece of the solution.

Trust is a big part of that. We know there can be a reputation that some architects can’t hold to a budget, or that projects end up costing five times what you thought you were going to pay. It’s important to have that conversation head-on, and that’s why these frank discussions early in the process are so critical. Sometimes the goals of the project need realigned, and our job is to be honest when that’s the case, as hard as that can be sometimes. At the end of the day, we’re trying to deliver a successful project that checks all the boxes; we don’t set anyone up for success if we avoid conversations about size, budget, and quality early on.

Mike Niezer

For us, that is our responsibility.

An owner should be able to look to their architect to advise on budget and cost. If you have the right partner, they’re going to help guide you through that in a good way. In our process, we establish those expectations early, and we make sure that we check the budget often. We’ve got a chief cost estimator on our staff that helps our clients through the process, and also helps educate and inform our design teams, so that we’re all aware of the decisions we make and their impacts on budget. The biggest thing though, is to make sure that discussion happens early – understand the budget you have and make sure it is aligned with quality, size, and other project goals…early! Stay tuned for our next conversation on the design process, when we dig into why contingency plans are so important!

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