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Target Program and Target Budget
The Project Executive Committee has approved the
project target program and target budget. What does that mean? For
those of you looking for confirmation of the number of classrooms in the
building or the size, type and quantity of office spaces, or even the nature
of the coffee shop – you can skip this update because you won’t find any of
that information here, nor has any of that been decided. Those decisions will happen as design work
proceeds in detail over the next few months.
If you are still reading, the adoption of a target program and a target
budget means that we have moved from a rough thumb-in-the-air approximation of
what the building could be, to a more reasoned and vetted estimate of what can
be built within the available budget, based on our priorities.
In the context of the building project, “Program”
refers to architectural elements, or what is going to be built. The overall Target Program remains
essentially unchanged: a 300,000 sq. ft. building. All that has been added is some detail, as
you can see in the table below.
In adding the detail, members of the design/build
team have provided estimates of what it would cost to build out various
building features and systems in roughly the manner that is being
requested. What’s been estimated is the
level of work or finish – in other words, will we need gold plated bathroom
fixtures or will stainless steel do? The
actual estimating work has been much more nuanced and interdependent. For example, if you’re going to try to put X
number of people on each floor, your HVAC capacity will need to be of Y size to
provide adequate temperature control and air circulation.
As a result, you end up with a range of
options. These options have been
narrowed a bit to a reasonable range and the various estimates have been rolled
together into the Target Budget, while making sure that Target Budget is no
more than the total amount of money we have to spend. Both the program and the budget are referred
to as "targets" because they represent the parameters the designers will work
toward and within. The design/build team
does have modest incentives to beat these targets – essentially to find ways to
squeeze more program (building features) into the building within the existing
Developing the target budget involved both direct
cost estimation and benchmarking. The
benchmarking looked at comparable recent buildings to better understand actual
construction costs (adjusted for inflation and new code requirements) for
various types of approaches. One example
is exterior building walls and facades. Aesthetics aside, you can either spend a lot of money to achieve high-energy
efficiency or less money to achieve more moderate-energy efficiency. The more or less you block heat from entering
the building, the more or less capacity you’re going to need in your HVAC
Having looked at various options, and weighed
various site and building factors, the design/build team has recommended a
target cost per square foot for the exterior walls.
This same process has been repeated for all of the
major building features/systems. Put
them all together and you end up with the somewhat confusing, but also
informative, graphic below.
The graphic shows two types of cost benchmarks: private Class A office buildings (blue band)
and roughly comparable university buildings (yellow band). The university buildings often have unique
needs or mixes of needs (e.g., labs or classrooms) and thus tend to have both
higher costs per square foot and wider variation in costs. This is particularly visible in the Site
costs. Commercial office buildings are
often built right up to the sidewalk setback and thus spend nearly zero on
broader site amenities. In contrast, the
University spends money on each project to appropriately fit its buildings
within the campus context. The purple
line on the graphic shows where the target budget for each of the components of
our building has been set.
The purple line is probably not terribly meaningful
in isolation. I hope that seeing the
line, and some examples of the process to get to the line, does help you
understand where we are in the building process. We’re moving forward in
specificity in terms of defining what features will be in the building, but we
haven’t yet reached the point where that process is focused on recognizable
things like common areas, stairs, offices, classrooms, etc.
Senior Director, SPH Finance & Administration
University of Washington School of Public Health