Saving high design by digging a deeper hole

Architects are often thought of as ivory tower thinkers, designing glass skyscrapers and high end neotraditional communities. But saving money? Not often.

“Anyone can come up with high design. Getting it built for the right price. That’s a trick,” says Dan McCauley, partner and principal at The Martin Architectural Group.

Working with design architect David M. Schwarz, Martin came on as architect of record, responsible for documentation and completion of the high end, mixed-use Chevy Chase Lake project in suburban Washington, DC. The project consists of 530 residential units in three buildings above retail and subterranean parking.

“It’s nice to work on a project from design to completion, but this one presented us with a unique challenge: to bring the project to fruition on budget without changing the original design,” says Martin’s project manager Scott Hartner.

The Martin team was brought on board after years of initial designs and planning with the developer, its partner, and the municipality. As designs progressed, the project was $20 million over its $120 million budget. No one wanted to change the original concept, least of all the owners and developer The Bozzuto Group.

“Projects of this scale and complexity will always face challenges,” says Steve Knight, principal of David M. Schwarz Architects. “Design and construction for Chevy Chase Lake have taken place during a period of notable cost escalation, so creative cost control was an important part of the process throughout.”

Among the project’s design complexities was its trapezoidal footprint and underground garage. The original garage design averaged 471 feet per parking space, because of its unconventional shape. The weight of landscaping and emergency vehicle traffic above the garage outside of the building footprints required additional structural components and waterproofing.


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