Thinking About HVAC Budgets

  • Budgeting is obviously important. We fully recognize that Positive Energy's design fee represents a non-traditional cost on the list of line items. But you're clearly expressing that you want more than just eye candy. 
    • We are a niche engineer and offer full support throughout the project, so the price reflects that level of service. Our designs include specifications for VRF equipment, dehumidification (when required), ventilation (ERVs), Make-Up Air, point source exhausts and fully scaled ductwork, diffuser selection. We also work in Revit to produce full BIM information to all the stakeholders in the project. I highly suggest getting a sense for how much your HVAC budget will be early on in a project.
  • A high quality, highly functional VRF and IAQ systems are appropriate at 6-8% of overall construction costs, or 8-10% for premium installations. 
    • This is based on a $500/sf average project cost for high end custom homes
    • Note that these percentages tend decrease for larger projects (5000SF+), and can come down 3-6%. 
  • Budgeting can be tough to wrap the mind around for custom residential projects, which are highly customized and more health outcome oriented. Our perspective (and consequently our design thinking) is driven by the intersection of the health sciences and the building sciences. Since we spend 70% of our time in our homes (according to Lawrence Berkley Labs) it makes sense to get it right because it's very difficult to calculate the ROI of good, healthy air (which seems to be what everyone wants to know!). Thermal comfort and energy efficiency, as well as a generally good building, fall in line when you design around people's health. 
    • If you want to learn more about indoor air quality, there are many great resources out there. I’d recommend starting with knowing your current home’s Hayward Score - it will help you understand the value of our services in new construction from an indoor air quality perspective.
  • Keep in mind that for decades now mechanical systems have been optimized on low first cost instead of comfort, health and efficiency. Given that you can expect to have other, well-meaning, industry insiders point to percentages as low as 1-3% with no design or integration involved, just an installation. I always like to be upfront and try to set the best expectations with any client regarding budget. Robert Bean, a renowned engineer and thinker in the building science arena, has an excellent budgeting tool to help you think about what your overall percentages might be to accomplish the project goals. Our design fee represent far less cost than the total HVAC budget itself.