Feasibility Studies

Opportunities for Building Designers Part 5 of 20

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Last week we discussed offering advanced planning for commerce. This week, let’s explore feasibility studies.

Feasibility studies are similar to site selection consultation but are more involved.

In a feasibility study, you are concerned with planning as previously described, with generally more emphasis on the problems of fitting a given operation to a given site.

Ordinarily, feasibility studies are only performed on large projects presenting unusual problems (draining a marsh, for instance, and laying out a planned unit development on the reclaimed land.)

Shopping center projects often have feasibility studies (what is the path of progress in the area, what are zoning problems, how much land is needed, what will it cost, etc.), and on other projects where the answers and issues are sufficiently unusual to require careful advance work before the client is financially committed.

How do you get the work?

Sometimes these jobs are difficult to obtain, but they are exciting and remunerative and involve substantial construction costs, or there would be no need for the study in the first place.

You are dealing with people who have access to that kind of money and are sufficiently knowledgeable to understand and appreciate proper planning.

All in all, feasibility studies are an excellent introduction to big clients, and well worth the effort necessary to secure such a commission.

\Naturally, “contacts” is the magic word again, but for these contacts, you will probably have to go looking. At least, you will have to be alert to the possibilities when they appear.

As a case in point, a building designer had designed several convalescent homes and was something of an expert on medical facilities of all kinds.

For years, he had worked in a large architectural firm specializing in hospitals and was quite familiar with the advantages of feasibility studies.

One day, while his doctor was examining the building designer, the conversation turned to medical office buildings, and it developed that the doctor was considering the construction of a new facility.

As the building designer probed deeper into what the doctor had in mind, the project revealed itself as a large scale medical center with out-patient facilities as well as convalescent.

For a fee, the building designer performed a feasibility study of the plan showing the total cost of land acquisition and development, showing rough sketches of a building arrangement including several innovations of his own.

Less than a year later, the doctor had formed an active group of fellow medical men who commissioned the building designer to design the entire facility.

The feasibility study made the whole project change from a dream to a reality, and the building designer picked up several excellent and influential contacts in the process.

Stock photo of a cluttered computer desk with an iMac that says 'Feasibility'

How to prepare for feasibility studies?

Before you tackle a feasibility study or even offer to perform one, you should become a recognized specialist in the field you are proposing to report.

The building designer referred to above was highly qualified in the design of various medical facilities.

You are probably highly qualified in the designing of some facility yourself. Don’t venture into reports for a field of which you have only a surface knowledge because the risk to your client is too high. The client needs a specialist at this stage.

However, you can always associate with a specialist if the need arises, and there are specialists in almost every design field among the members of AIBD.

Your only preparation, if you are going to perform the study yourself, is sufficient experience with similar projects and a clear grasp of what is needed to prove to potential lenders and owners that this project is “feasible” and capable of success.

How to handle the job?

Due to a large number of people who will be reviewing the information you present, it is best to publish feasibility studies in a bound report form (8 ½” by 11″, all drawings reduced or folded to fit, and with the entire report bound in a durable cover).

Half dozen copies, at least, will be needed, and you will want a couple of additional copies for your files to present to prospects.

You are doing work that large architectural firms hunger for, so treat it with the highest degree of professionalism. That does not mean to use stilted language or artsy layouts; the contrary is much better.

It is the facts your clients want, not an example of your artistic abilities. Arrange the facts logically and in sequence:

  • Statement of the problem.
  • Method of analysis.
  • Detailed study of the issues.
  • Probable construction cost.
  • Likely construction time.
  • A recommended way of proceeding.
  • Drawings.

There is no magic to the above sequence, but it is common to most reports. You should plan to submit a preliminary copy to your client for review before having all the copies printed. In this way, you can make any minor changes or amplify any points desired.

Many designers perform feasibility studies at rather low costs with a contract clause that they will complete the actual design and working drawings if the job is approved.

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