How To Estimate Construction Costs for Your Project in San Diego

By Sean Canning

How do you estimate the cost of a construction project you're considering? This is a big question we get often and I wanted to make this video to explain how we estimate construction costs for our own architecture projects at Ten Seventy Architecture. By watching this video, you will be able to take this advice and apply it to your own project.

The first thing you need to understand is that as a construction design is being prepared, it goes through a series of stages.

In these stages, it moves from a conceptual idea (which is very loose) to a set of construction drawings (which is very tight) and should have almost everything explained.

In our San Diego Architecture Studio, we use a proprietary four-phase process that we have developed after a decade of experience designing, permitting, and building projects in the city of San Diego.

Generally, in phase one or two, we're looking at construction costs in terms of price per square foot analysis. So if you're looking to do a 100 square foot addition, we're looking at this in terms of 100 square feet, multiplied by the price per square foot. As you continue to develop the design and the conceptual idea becomes more solidified into an actual hard drawing (which could then be extrapolated into a series of building materials) then you can start to explore the construction costs from the material point.

Basically, there are two steps to estimating construction costs - the cost of the project from a square foot perspective + the cost from a materials perspective. You have to move through the initial schematic stage to get to the more hardline construction drawing stage where everything is engineered and explained.

So the next question you probably have is how much are we estimating on a per square foot basis? And this is a little bit of a vague conversation because it should be vague in the schematic design stage.

But right now in 2020, we're using $250 per square foot to estimate our project costs (when I say $250 per square foot, this is in San Diego in 2021, at the back end of this pandemic, when construction has increased since 2019).

Back then we were using $200 per square foot, but everything has gone up in price since then. So now $250 per square foot is your entry-level pricing for home construction in San Diego.

Note that this pricing does not include architectural or engineering fees or permit fees - it's just your hard costs of construction.

Now if you're looking to do a project which is going to be featured in publications like Architectural Digest or Dwell magazine, you're going to naturally pay a lot more per square foot for that project.

So you can look at $250 a square foot it's just your entry-level pricing for building a new home in San Diego or renovating your current one. At $250 per square foot, you're picking your materials from the bottom price tiers.

And in certain cases, the price is deciding for you because you may not be able to go with the giant retractable door system in that price range (for example). These are design features of a home that would increase the price from $250 per square foot.

In conclusion, using $250/square foot is the starting point you should use to estimate the construction costs of a residential architecture project in San Diego in 2021/2022. Start to use a price per square foot and then slowly move away from that price per square foot into an actual material cost. And then you'll be able to close in on the construction costs that you're looking for.

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