The scope of an architectural feasibility study includes:
- Confirming the building program
- Do we have the right parts of the building to make it work?
- Analyzing massing and adjacencies
- What parts of the building need to be next to each other? What will be the major components of the building’s form?
- Assessing site options and constraints
- Which site(s) can we build on?
- Will the building we want fit on our site?
- Estimating design and construction cost and duration
- How much will the building we want cost? How long will it take?
Programming defines the scope of the project
The building program, or the list of spaces, their sizes and properties, that make up a proposed project, may already have been in outline form as part of the solutions options in the concept phase.
During feasibility, consultants will help confirm these assumptions and add in requirements for things like circulation, mechanical systems, and structural allowances.
Critical adjacencies and massing inform feasibility – but it’s not about design
In most arts facilities – especially theatres and museums – complex relationships between spaces must inform the way a building fits on a site, how much it will cost, and other key factors. Likewise, there may be one or more very large spaces that will drive the building’s design. These factors are identified so they can be accommodated as the project progresses.
Sometimes, in the service of future fundraising, architects may be asked to create sketches or renderings that imagine how a building might look, but this should be regarded as a possibility, not as a representation of a finished design. Undue focus on the appearance of a building at this stage can derail the feasibility analysis process and let people get attached to a design that will change later on. Likewise, a design competition is not a substitute for an architectural feasibility study.
Site analysis is a key component of architectural feasibility
If the project involves significant new construction, a part of this study may involve finding potential sites and assessing the feasibility of each one both from a design and cost perspective.
Consultants and project leadership may work in collaboration with real estate experts and may initiate contact with municipal planning authorities. The building program and even the project concept may have to adjust to fit with available sites.
The building program is used to estimate costs
Once the program and site options are confirmed, cost consultants use them to generate order-of-magnitude estimates for construction and design cost and durations. Cost estimate results may require significant revisiting of the project concept already developed, especially if suggested costs fall outside expectations.
It’s important to remember that though these cost estimates may seem precise, they should be thought of as a range-of-magnitude of cost possibilities, not a project budget.
The cost estimates generated during architectural feasibility will form the basis for a fundraising campaign amount to test during fundraising feasibility, and will continue to be refined as the project progresses.
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