​When I think of my clients who have the greatest success in life, they all have one thing in common: They surround themselves with good advice. Mostly, people want the ablest, most astute professional, not the cheapest. These are not the same thing. As Warren Buffett said, “Price is what you pay, value is what you get.” This is true of architects because great design is a proven investment, not a cost.

When you put money into designing and building your home or business, you are leveraging your investment with opportunities for growth. Though it’s not talked about enough in the architecture world, this translates into dollars. As a result, our client conversations, especially when it comes to healthcare facilities and senior or special needs facilities, are less about paint color and more about a positive experience for those they serve, and about revenues and growth. The result, Return on Investment Architecture, puts money back in your pocket. Here’s how:

#1 Feasibility

Some architects may jump the gun before it is known whether or not a project is feasible (structurally, financially, or in terms of marketing). We provide guidance to help our clients succeed by following a process that we have developed. Our approach: Don’t design anything unless you know there’s a market. For example, if your target price per resident in a senior’s facility is $7,000 per month, we need to determine if there is enough demand for that – before starting design. If you want to design a space that will go for $3,000 more per occupant, we have to test the plan. 

#2 Attraction and Retention of Staff and Customers

The space needs to attract people. These are not only the customers, but also the people who work there. The space should provide a positive, enriching experience for all.

The design of the space will affect staff morale. Consider an Alzheimer’s unit. Working as a caregiver in such a setting is a stressful job done by caring people; they will need a retreat space where they can revitalize for their patients.

For residents or patrons, you need a space that is welcoming and pleasant as well as functional. A really good architect or interior designer creates ambiance. Our “magic,” after years of observing and designing, happens when our clients or their clients say, “I like it and I don’t know why.” We do know why, it was intentional by design, and we apply that know-how and heart to every project.

#3 Operational Efficiencies

Good design can also mean more effective use of staff, and sometimes even hiring fewer staff. Consider a facility that has two wings with two check-in desks but without the customer volume to support both. Good design will account for this and result in savings … why not have a single welcome center and check-in at the front?

#4 Support for Residents’ Lives or Needs

Within the sphere of aging and special needs, we design to achieve four critical goals –– freedom, dignity, independence, and choice. How we create The achievement of these design goals enhances the life and longevity of the resident and helps their family as well. After all, we’re not designing just for the resident; we are designing for the family, too. Some might ask, “Why have a kids’ playground in this garden when it’s for the elderly?” Well, Grandma and Grandpa still want to watch the kids play and the kids don’t mind coming to visit, but they enjoy being active at the same time.

#5 Energy and Materials Efficiency

The design will affect the building’s maintenance needs and energy usage. Will the building exterior be low maintenance? How will the mechanical systems hold up? Even a simple thing like room length will impact how well the materials purchased are being used. If you think you need a room that’s 15’ long, make it 16’ so you aren’t throwing things away because the whole world comes in 4’ x 4’ increments. We make optimal use of materials and plan for minimizing costs over the life of the building.

#6 Design Dollar Efficiency

A good architect will help clients avoid the “ready-fire-aim” syndrome. We spend time aiming. Your number of bullets is your budget. “If there is something to know about this site,” I say, “let’s discover that now.” This might have to do with zoning, budget, or constraints. It can save significant time and money down the road, in the construction or operation phase.

#7 Economies of Scale

We talk with you about what happens for phase 2 of your business plan and how you might take advantage of economies of scale. For example, it may be that if we make the kitchen a little larger in phase 1, you won’t need to build one in phases 2 and 3. For a house, we sit down and discuss your future plans and who will move into or out of the house in the shorter or longer term. Will you need an in-law suite, for example?

#8 Service to Society

Beyond the immediate economic return, we look at whether this building serves society in some way. Will it help build, increase, or improve the economy for the entire area? It can. Great architecture in a community will actually lift the value of other properties and set a bar for future construction in the surrounding area that will improve upon the past. So, it’s not just a warehouse, but part of the fabric of the neighborhood and maybe a model for that area. City websites always have pictures of their best buildings. ROI Architecture considers the positive impact not only on the business, but also on the community and the city.

#9 Something You Won’t Need to Throw Away in 5 Years

We also go past the static project you are doing today; if you are a business, you will want to be in business in five years. Do you plan to grow 20 percent per year? In five years, you’ll double in size. Do you want to throw away your building in 5 years? Master planning capital investments for your success is part and parcel of what we do.

#10 Greater Value

Let’s look at a value comparison. When your building is complete, the average value for a building like yours may be $500K – and it costs the same to build an aesthetically pleasing, functional building as it does to build an ugly, less than functional one. The aesthetically pleasing, functional building is perceived as worth more than the sum of its parts – one could then realize that, with the architecturally infused appreciation, the next owner is the one who pays the architectural fee.  

What’s more –– “It is well recognized in the real estate community that homes designed by architects have a value up to 50% higher than similarly sized and located homes that come from builder/ designers, draftsmen, or catalog plans. This number is much higher when compared to production homes” (HendricksArchitect.com). When it comes to homes, one can leverage the investment in architectural services to great advantage.

#11 ROI Architecture

Does it still happen that someone comes to us and mentions that other firms will do their project for less? Occasionally. I ask them to stop and consider, however: We don’t choose our surgeon, dentist or accountant because they are the cheapest. ROI Architecture responds to your needs on many fronts in optimal ways. This impacts the quality of the time spent in the space, the short- and long-term costs, and the eventual resale value. We help you get the optimal Return on Investment Architecture, which brings together both the financial strategy and the “heart” into one well-thought-out design.

The short-term success of the project –– whether it passes zoning, is delivered on time and on budget –– and its long-term success, already described, depend on having a good architect. Are you ready to surround yourself with good advice?

The Long-Term Perspective

The above data is from an ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers) study of commercial buildings. The point being made by that organization is that engineering systems are a key component of the total life cycle of a building.

One can readily see from the chart that total Architecture and Engineering fees represent one percent or less of life cycle costs.  Yet, Architecture and Engineering success will control the initial construction costs, operations and maintenance and alterations. This success will optimize revenues. Where can one most cost effectively leverage their facility dollars? Which category might be the one where the return on investment is greatest?