Working out
a budget

Fraher & Findlay
By Lizzie and Joe
June 2019

How to start thinking about budget
One of the first and most important questions for anyone considering a building project is: How do I form a realistic budget? Get this wrong and you can experience some serious problems.

We recognise that money and budgets can be a sensitive topic for both the Client and the design team.

"My maximum budget is £X... I can't afford to spend more than £Y... I have no idea how much this is going to cost but I want my renovation or extension for £Z..."
It's a sensitive topic, because it's large amount of money for private home owners to be considering.

Sensitive - because the budget may not accommodate what the Client may be wanting to do.

Sensitive – because, more often than not, expectations of the cost of building are simply not realistic.
The Signal House
Design and Build Test Model
As the construction market is so changeable, there are no easily accessible general guidelines on what the costs of building are at any given time. There are also so many variables that have an impact on budget, that it is very difficult to create a blueprint which will apply to every project.

When working with a Client who has experience of architectural projects, the expectations of budget are, understandably, more realistic - and in more cases than not, this will have been down to a prior difficult experience with respect to budget and the nuisances of a build project.
"How on earth do I quantify what is realistic, considering the wide variables that may have an impact on my build cost?" I hear you say.

Well, we strongly believe in our studio, that having a transparent conversation with all of our clients about what is realistic with the budget is critical. After all, we have to arrive at a position where you trust us with your money - and that is often the most difficult part of an architect's job: Client Trust.
How to break down your budget
How a break down looks
The key thing to take from the above working is the £65,000 net construction cost allowance including fixtures and fittings. Based on an average spend upwards of £3000 per sqm this will allow for circa 21sqm of building works. This would relate to a budget for a small ground floor rear extension room only. It would not extend to more involved building refurbishment works/loft conversion etc.
At Fraher & Findlay – due to the bespoke nature of our work – we usually work on projects with a net construction value upwards of £250,000. Please contact us us if you would like to discuss your project, budget expectations or any other questions that we could help with.
The Reflection:
New Build Project in North London
From our historic building data and working with our local professional Architect forum based locally here in South East London, we know that realistic building budgets on a sqm rate are currently:

Basement works
Upwards of £4500 per sqm + VAT + professional fees.

Involved refurbishment works and ground floor extensions
Upwards of £3000 per sqm + VAT + professional fees. (£3,500 per sqm is our go to number when including joinery and extra fitted furniture).

Loft conversion works
Upwards of £2500 per sqm + vat + professional fees. *Note these figures are as of Summer 2019 and are subject to change based on market forces and inflation.

You might consider that a large chunk of your budget is spent on professional fees, however these people are critical to ensure the smooth running of your project and will help you navigate the traditional potholes of building works. They are also required to help deliver a safe building.

Building is ultimately time consuming, costly and complex and so your team of professionals should be familiar in dealing with these challenges on a day to day basis.

If you find a builder who insists they can deliver a basement project with an associated sqm rate of £2000 +VAT - there will be a reason for this and it will not be a positive for your project. If they also claim they can deliver a full house refurbishment including a ground floor extension with an associated sqm rate of £1800 + VAT - There will be a reason for this and it may be a drawback on your project. Trust us!

Such rates are, in our experience, unrealistic and often end up with a long list of "extras" which should have been included in the initial costing and which cause stress to both the client and their budget.

At Fraher & Findlay we are well versed with the nuances of building. We understand the cost of building and we prepare our cost plans in house based on live construction data. Our team of Architects work with our Construction Managers from early on in the process giving you cost visibility from the start. Why wait until 7 months and having spent on professional fees, to understand your actual cost of building?
The Reflection:
Hand made London Stock Brickwork on site
Why not use costs as a way to activate and open up the design opportunities for your project? This helps you and your design team make informed decisions, by managing the risk appropriately and staying in control of your project.
If you are interested in speaking to us about our Architect Led Design and Build Service please contact us in the studio on
020 8291 6947 or

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Journal - Working out a budget - Fraher & Findlay.