December 21, 2017

Myth Busting:  Limited Budgets Don’t Lead to Ugly Buildings

Many people assume that the less expensive a building is, the less attractive it will be. This is a common misconception, as an appealing design can definitely be achieved for any type of facility, even when there are tight budget constraints.

“Building designs typically consider function first, and this includes issues like durability, maintainability and the quality of the materials used,” said John Osborne, FSB Senior Design Project Manager. “Once the functional objectives have been established for a project, they will be the key factors driving the design. However, you can achieve those design objectives in a variety of ways. Attention to simple design principles such as balance, rhythm, scale, proportion, texture, color and light allows you to achieve an aesthetically pleasing design without necessarily impacting a project’s costs.”

As one example of our firm’s ability to create attractive facilities within a limited budget, FSB is currently designing a Family Justice Center in Shawnee, Oklahoma which will offer single-location social services primarily for victims of domestic abuse. For this group, which struggles with the financial constraints typical of non-profit agencies, the resulting building design is very budget conscious, but also aesthetically appealing and functionally efficient. The design incorporates a welcoming, non-institutional aesthetic in which immediately upon entering the facility victims (clients) can see at a glance the multiple agencies located there to serve their needs. This is a simple planning strategy which has no significant effect on construction budget, but one that contributes meaningfully to the overall atmosphere proposed.

Family Justice Center in Shawnee, Oklahoma

Another way FSB projects maximize each dollar invested is through designing attractive spaces that can be used for multiple functions. For higher education clients, for instance, lobbies and courtyards can be used as informal gathering spaces, study areas and as a location for banquets, concerts and other special events.

Budget is the primary concern for virtually every client, and FSB addresses this in a manner that distinguishes our firm from many of its competitors. In addition to designing with budget in mind, periodic cost estimates are provided to clients throughout the design process, to ensure probable construction costs do not begin to creep up beyond the established budget.

“Oftentimes, a balance between simplicity and more elaborate aesthetics must be achieved,” Osborne said. “Designs that are too austere can be equally inappropriate to those appearing too opulent. Some projects, such as university buildings or presidential facilities, may require a more stately appearance, while others warrant a more austere aesthetic. There is a need to create an appropriate aesthetic for every project.

“Image goals are unique to each client and project,” he added. “What may be important for one client may not be as highly valued by another. Therefore, we must first discover what each client’s desired image goals are for any given project. Our objective is to then create an appropriate design aesthetic which achieves those goals. Even with extremely limited budgets, projects of all sizes can be made attractive through good design principles and the creative use of simple materials.”

For more information about balancing building aesthetics and budget, contact Laure Majors, Business Development Principal, at or (405) 840-2931.

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