The Cost Of Engineering
Updated: Apr 1
You've been saving your pennies, and you're ready to open a new office/business/restaurant. You get an estimate to get work started, pull your financing together, and get started on construction! Or so you thought...so often, people are caught off guard by the cost of engineering for construction. And the reason is a bit more nuanced than just the cost to pay your engineer.
So, what are the costs? Well, first off, your project (no matter how small) will start at around $1,000 and that is just the beginning. The typical price tag for Mechanical, Electrical & Plumbing (MEP) engineering ranges from $0.50 to $3.00 a square foot, depending on the type and scope of the project. The more equipment and complexity, the more the fee. A 5,000 square foot MEP drawing set will range between $2,500 for a simple empty shell design up to $15,000 for a manufacturing or medical space.
Oh, and have you heard of change-orders? A change order is when your subcontractor charges a fee for something that changes the original scope of work they proposed; this is usually when there is an unexpected discovery, an engineering change, a customer change, or some other event that initiates a modification to the original contract. Typically, it's also a chance for the contractor to seize the opportunity to recuperate some of the lost time or materials in a job. These are nasty, but necessary things.
From an engineering standpoint, if your engineering team has finalized their design and you want to move a bathroom or a conference room...that design fee might run a cool $1,500. Throw a couple of those into your project and suddenly what you thought was a $15,000 engineering fee might end up a $25,000 engineering fee. Terrifying isn't it?
The cost of compliance.PermitZIP's principal engineer Kenneth Shultz explains, "Engineers have an ethical and legal obligation to comply with codes, which are the outlines for a safe building."
Mechanical ventilation is almost always overlooked in terms of the cost of an HVAC system. Your residential contractor friend might assure you that the 5 tons of cooling in your space is adequate; however, if your space is a church, or a restaurant, or a venue used for assembly, then you are going to be faced with a huge financial burden in terms of code compliance for mechanical systems in this kind.
What you thought was only 5 tons and $15k in HVAC might turn into 20 tons and $100k with the wave of the engineer's magic calculator wand.
After calculating all of your water demand, the engineer's wand finds you need to upgrade your water meter! No small fee there (learn more about water meter surprises here).
Don't be so mad at your engineers. We want to help you get what you need and we don't want you to spend money just because we're mean nerds!
The reality is, we must protect human health and safety within occupiable spaces, and we do everything in our ability to comply with the laws, codes, and safety standards while also meeting the needs of each tenant.
At PermitZIP, we have a saying: Engineers are Tools. It's true because most of us are kind of quirky and difficult to deal with, but we are also a resource for you to get what you need in your space as financially efficient as possible.
Don't be discouraged! A good MEP design will help ensure fewer costs during construction and more of an idea of how much construction will cost.
At PermitZIP, we have a One Fee Promise that is an all-inclusive price - billed at different stages of deliverables depending on percentage completed. Here's how we help keep down costs:
We are always willing to work with clients to not over-engineer a project and specify what works in terms of cost within code.
We use RoomTrotter to do 3D scans of our spaces, so our team doesn't have to send the design team back out to the field.
We also realize in the small project market, that you may not have the money upfront. That's why we now offer financing. Check-in with a project expert to find out more here.