Constructing a commercial space – whether it’s ground up or an interior finish project – is a financial investment for the future. You want to invest your funds efficiently with an eye on future returns while keeping costs under control. Scope creep, rising material costs and supply chain challenges can be real barriers, so paying close attention at each stage is crucial to keep the project within budget.

As you’re developing your plans and preparing to engage a general contractor, here are a few pointers to keep in mind:

It starts with your vision: The vision of where you’ll take your concept has likely evolved from a seed of an idea to something that is beginning to take shape. Be open to allowing that vision to evolve based on the realities of construction.

Aesthetics & Finishes:  The atmosphere in your new space matters and finding a balance between higher versus lower-end finishes will be key. Often your general contractor and architect can help you identify more affordable alternatives for both the interior and the exterior of your space while still providing the ambiance and/or functionality you are after. There is an almost overwhelming sea of choices, but that should give you the confidence that you can likely find another option if something is coming in over budget. Can you find a more affordable but similar light fixture with a similar look and feel? It might take some homework, but you can often uncover significant cost savings on your project. Ask your general contractor to do some value engineering and work together to identify savings.

Involve Your GC Early: Controlling your construction costs begins before you sign your lease. Prior to making the deal, ask your general contractor to look at potential spaces to help identify any problem areas. There could be a cost-prohibitive deal-breaker in the space, but it’s much better to be informed of potential issues sooner rather than later. Then, during the design phase, keep your general contractor involved. An experienced GC can look at early plans and spot costly mistakes. For example, keeping the plumbing together (i.e. ensuring the bathroom is next to the kitchen to share pipes) will offer significant savings down the road.

Pro Tip: Something as seemingly minor as switching out a curved bar for a linear bar can also save you money. A circular bar for example will require more labor and materials to complete than a bar designed in a straight line, not to mention wasted space or gaps that make equipment more difficult to fit.

DIY vs. Hiring it Out: There are pros and cons of doing certain portions of a project yourself versus bringing in help. There can be cost savings associated with DIY, but you need to be confident in your skillset and level of knowledge. Read our blog post on Hiring a General Contractor vs. Do It Yourself for more considerations.

Balancing Needs, Wants and Costs: The Rolling Stones famously sang, “You can’t always get what you want,” but in construction you can usually get what you want if you’re willing to pay for it. The question is more about balancing those needs and wants against the costs. Your general contractor can provide you with counsel here, but as the client ultimately you will make the call on the next step that’s most appropriate for your business. The Rolling Stones – and your general contractor – might tell you that at the end of the day, “You might find, You get what you need.”

New vs. Used: Another consideration might be looking at used vs. new equipment, reusing and recycling materials, or looking at a second-generation space. Again, you’ll find pros and cons for both, but you’ll want to think about installation and maintenance costs, moving expenses and warranties. Read the blog posts linked above for more detail.

Planning: The more you can think ahead, the more prepared you will be. For example, if you are building a restaurant, knowing your full menu will help you design your kitchen in advance, giving you more time to shop around for equipment and materials. For a cannabis dispensary, where are your customers going to wait until they are called back? Planning your customer’s physical journey through the space will help determine layout. Your business plan or key learnings from previous locations will help you establish the flow of your space so you can understand costs upfront.

There are always ways to cut costs out of a project, and a few big changes can lead to significant savings. There’s no question that in recent months prices on construction materials have risen quickly. Talk to your general contractor about what you can do to offset those costs and maintain an affordable build.