Fool Me Once, Shame On Me: The Real Case for Quality

Some tidbits from our lives as architects, consultants, and designers.

The diagram above shows the inverse relation between changing your mind at the beginning of a project and changing your mind after you’ve built it. Just so you know!

That’s why thinking about what you’re going to do, and testing it, and investing in that thinking, makes a lot of sense. The farther down the road you go, the harder it is to make changes, and the more expensive it is to even make those small gains.

The  diagrams below illustrate a rough relation between your facility choices and your overall business or life cycle occupancy and project costs. Decide what to build. Build those decisions. Live with them for 20 years. What’s that like, in total cost terms? Analysis of that is called life cycle costing. It can get very complex, but hopefully these diagrams will illustrate why quality decisions and quality building are necessary if our built environment is going to get off the build-it-and-scrap-it treadmill.

Let’s assume the total cost of your facility, over its life span, is $1. Where does that buck go? We’ve prepared some diagrams to help. They’re based upon research into facility life cycle cost over 20 year periods, some studies coming out of California, and some elsewhere. Although the climate is different in California, the operating costs for our heat are replaced with their air conditioning, so the studies are somewhat applicable here in Southern Ontario too. And for the cogniscenti, no, they don’t include project wrap-up residual values!

The first diagram shows the relation we’ve accepted, whether as home or business owner, for every facility dollar: spend two pennies thinking (or often less, or nothing at all); spend a quarter building the decisions; and inherit 73 cents in operating and maintenance costs.

The next diagram shows what can happen if an additional 3 pennies are wisely spent on better thinking and better building (a further 1/2 cent more in the thinking, perhaps 2 1/2 cents more in building).

That 73¢ cost for operating and maintenance for most building types can drop by 10¢ or more. That saving pays for a third of the whole building project (and many times the additional investment in thinking and better construction), without even considering the higher value of the 20 year old asset that you own at the end (residual value).

But wait, buy now and get a free bonus offer!! Better buildings increase staff productivity through reduced absenteeism, staff turnover, job performance and satisfaction, estimated at about 7% across many building types both public and private.

Your bill for productivity (as salary and benefits) over that same 20 year period, the real reason you built the facility in the first place, is about nine times the facility dollar.

So that 7% productivity gain translates into a dollar in your jeans for every 10 dollars of salaries and benefits, courtesy of the careful and responsible project you constructed with the savings.

Oh, and what does your architect spend your thinking cent on? That’s the last diagram.

Think Better. Build Better. Enjoy Forever! It’s worth a cent!

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