The Budgeting Process for Fire Station Construction

Have you ever wondered how a construction company takes a fire department’s ideas and creates a budget for the construction of a new facility? Reliable budgets draw on proven industry standards, a well-honed process, and experience to arrive at a fair and dependable project budget.


A construction estimator’s job is to price out your project as accurately as possible before you break ground, providing a clear picture of all costs involved. Unforeseen expenses are not uncommon when building any commercial facility, but having a well-developed budget is the best way to minimize the unexpected and ensure the success of your overall fire station project.

How Does Construction Estimating Begin?

Your construction firm’s preconstruction manager will gather preliminary information from you, the client, to understand your wants and needs for your new fire and rescue facility. The preconstruction manager will share the details with the professional estimator to start the estimation process. All aspects of your project are then organized into common construction categories that the estimator will analyze and use to create a rough budget. The estimator’s job is to identify and utilize the appropriate tools to carve out a budget from the raw data provided.

How Does the Estimator Build an Accurate Budget?

An accurate budget relies on clear and detailed input at the onset of the estimating process. Are we designing for functionality, comfort and aesthetics? What are the priorities among these key aspects? Is the client looking for a particular look or feel? Will the building design be simple, or will there be an impressive architectural feature? Does the building site have other structures that need to be considered in terms of design or the carrying out of construction — such as complementary architecture style or the need for maintaining business operations of surrounding facilities? With precise information about what the fire department is hoping to achieve, the estimator is well positioned to prepare an accurate budget

How are Subcontractor Costs Factored into the Budget

An estimator is responsible for bringing subcontractors into the budgeting conversation at the appropriate time, so having an open line of communication with professional, dependable subcontractors is critical for accurate budgeting. While the construction company is responsible for managing costs of the overall project, subcontractors provide valuable insight into various methods and costs to bring a vision to life. They can also help identify any potential issues with the design that could impact the budget later in the building process. The estimator uses this information and extrapolates it across the entire scope of work to avoid shifting costs from one area to another without easing the overall budget.

What is the Best Construction Method for Maximum Cost Savings?

Construction management, general contracting and design-build are popular construction methods that all approach budgeting in different ways. Depending on the fire department’s goals and starting point, one method may have advantages over others. 

Regardless of the construction method chosen, having a general contractor involvement during the preconstruction phase is critical for success. The GC will ultimately be responsible for managing the day-to-day construction process and driving the project to completion according to plans. Their input on the constructability of the design is vital during the budgeting process to make sure that client expectations are aligned with the proposed budget for the new station.

How does Experience Factor into Estimating?

In all aspects of fire station construction, experience matters. Estimating is no different. Experienced estimators working for a company with deep expertise in building fire and rescue facilities are able to draw on historical data from past projects, giving them another valuable instrument to create the budget estimate. The estimator can compare the designs and specs for the project with dozens of similar, recently built projects. This helps ensure all actual costs are covered and lowers the margin of error. Historical data is especially important when the customer’s vision has not been fully fleshed out or challenged. The construction firm can deliver a reliable budget based on more limited design information from the owner, providing a baseline from which the owner can make budget decisions throughout the process.

Ben Montemayor is an estimator at Bobbitt, a leading commercial construction company providing a full range of construction services and approaches for building fire and rescue facilities throughout North and South Carolina.

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