The Feasibility Study is another great tool that the architect uses. It’s great for design and also offers substantial value for a customer in the right situation. A Feasibility Study is similar to a Master Plan in that it involves less design work than the full design process. Although we sometimes use these terms interchangeably, the Master Plan and Feasibility Study are a little different. A Master Plan is typically geared to a large, multi-year, bigger budget project with two or more potential construction phases. A Feasibility Study is typically geared toward work that will all take place in a single construction phase, but has some complexities or uncertainties and several potential solutions.
There are three typical circumstances when we recommend a Feasibility Study.
(1) When there are several fairly divergent potential solutions (and corresponding budgets) to a client’s design. For example, if the client isn’t sure if s/he needs an addition or if her existing space could be remodeled to meet her needs, we might recommend a Feasibility Study to review design and cost implications for both.
(2) If there are zoning or historic district issues which may or may not be permitted, we often use a Feasibility Study to develop preliminary plans, complete research, and make contacts with the officials having jurisdiction to probe whether what the customer wants would be likely to receive a permit.
(3) When the homeowner’s budget is absolutely fixed and there is a doubt as to if and how much of the desired changes we will be able to complete within the set budget; or, if the budget range is unusually difficult to provide after the initial sales call, we may propose a Feasibility Study.
From the client’s perspective, there are other advantages. It’s a great way to ease into the homeowner/architect relationship since the Feasibility Study costs a lot less than a full design process—like speed dating with AutoCAD. During this period, you can begin to develop a working relationship with and trust in us, and vice versa.
We find we have the best success when we set expectations early and often. This is a great mantra and even better when it’s put into writing. As part of our Feasibility Study, we always outline what our processes and costs will be for the full design. It’s important to be specific that the Feasibility Study does not include drawing the entire construction set,
solving every problem, figuring out structures, or selecting finishes, etc. We peg the cost of a Feasibility Study to a budgeted number of hours after consulting with our designers or Design Director. When necessary, reminding the client that the clock is ticking helps focus attention.
A downside to the abbreviated design process is that Feasibility Studies are likely to extend the total number of weeks a project spends in the design process.
Some design/build firms utilize Feasibility Studies for each prospective project, often for a minimal or symbolic fee or even at no cost to the client to “get their foot in the door.” Some of these firms complete the Feasibility Study hastily or on laptops at the time of the initial sales call. Sometimes the best design solutions are obvious, but exceptional design and space planning usually takes a little time. The tricky part in structuring a feasibility study is to create balance between designing too much or too little.
In the right situation, it’s an option we highly recommend you consider.