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Studio Budget Overhead

Discussion in 'Room & Overhead' started by stu.macQ, Jan 2, 2005.

  1. stu.macQ

    stu.macQ Guest


    I'm planning to open a commercial music production facility in the coming months, and pursuant to that, I'm trying to find information on cost requirements for studio construction.

    I'm looking at renovating an existing space to include a control room of approximately 360 sq feet (18 x 20), a dead recording booth of 9 x 10', and a sound-lock between them. Also, a seperate production suite of 12 x 10' if the budget allows. There won't be any large-format console, and monitoring will be via near-field Genelec 8050's in the control room (similar-sized near-fields in the production suite).

    Obviously there is a WIDE difference in design considerations, but I need to know if I can build something like this with floating floors/walls, diffusers and traps (and paint, flooring, everything except gear) in the neighbourhood of $60,000 US, including both materials and labour. Is this feasible?

    Also, as far as studio design firms are concerned, is it better from a price/performance point of view to commission the design and construction seperately, or am I better off having a single firm handle all of the details (including outsourcing the contractor) at greater cost?

    Thanks for your help,

  2. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Dec 10, 2001
    Pacific NW
    Being in the construction business myself and being around a lot of subs and general contractors, I would answer your question like this....A design and development firm would probably use the same subs on their projects, especially due to the specialized nature of such a project as a studio build-out. Having the same subs would allow for a better comunication system to be in place between the designer and the construction crews.This usually translates into a better product with more efficient use of materials and money.ie.Not as many hangups. Probably a better deal for you all around.
  3. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Dec 12, 2001
    Oberlin, OH
    Home Page:
    As to the cost....the sky is literally the limit. I have seen estimates for construction run from 20 dollars per square foot to 200 dollars per square foot. Our mastering studio that is 11 by 23 by 10 cost about 40 dollars a square foot in an existing building.

    I would hire someone who has done this before to do the planning and to oversee the construction.

    My best friend is an acoustical designer and he has soooooo many horror stories to tell. He spends weeks on doing a perfect design for a construction of a church or studio only to have someone who is "trying to save some bucks" completely negate his designs by doing something stupid or finding a "cheaper way" to do what the construction people 'think" he wants. His latest "problem" is that the contractor decided to substitute a different acoustical material for the one that he spec'd because it was 2 cents a square foot "cheaper" but it has completely the wrong acoustical properties for the job a hand. This goes along with people putting conduit or heating pipes though 40 db sound isolated walls and then putting fiberglass around the conduit and patching the hole with a piece of joint tape and then painting over the whole mess so no one knew the difference.

    He also has run into things like the contractor who simply decided that the walls did not have to go from floor to unfinished ceiling because the finished ceiling was of the "suspended" variety and no one would see that the walls ended two feet below the unfinished ceiling. When the client called him he complained that they could hear people in the next room talking in what was suppose to be a semi - sound proof room. When my friend popped the ceiling tile he was "shocked" to see what the contractor had done. All these "problems" can be fixed but some of them would have required tearing down existing walls and rerouting conduit or HVAC ducts which would have put the project on hold or required getting the sub contractors back in to redo things that were done early on in the construction and would have increased the cost considerablly. So a word to the wise .....

    Best of luck on your project and I hope you find someone that will both design and oversee the construction and who is GREAT to work with.
  4. RandomGuest

    RandomGuest Guest

    Feb 10, 2001
    There are no studio design firms I know of that have crews, at least there are no studio design firms I could recommend with a straight face that run crews... but they will have crews with whom they've work previously and can recommend.

    I did a studio where the owner decided to interview and hire his own crew... it cost him more in added materials and to have me fly out every 10 days to check up on Moe, Larry and Curly than he would have spent if he hired a crew from a city [about 3-400 miles from the studio] that I had recommended.

    Who ever builds your studio, make sure they've done it a few times. I'm quite sure you can find a competent studio construction crew out of Vancouver, which if I'm not mistaken isn't all that far from Calgary.
  5. stu.macQ

    stu.macQ Guest

    Hi guys,

    Thanks for all of your help. Good points.

    I guess I'll start soliciting quotes and see what happens.


  6. sheet

    sheet Well-Known Member

    May 28, 2003
    Kansas City, KS
    Home Page:
    I recently consulted Fran Mazella. http://www.fmdesign.com
    I visited and worked in one of his rooms. I liked it. He was a great help on the phone. He is very thorough, and past clients had nothing but good things to say about him. I would give him a shout.

    Cost on my room is going to run $150/sq ft, ground up construction, completely treated, etc. I am in the middle of the US too.
  7. Rod Gervais

    Rod Gervais Active Member

    Jun 8, 2003
    Central Village, CT

    Not from my perspective. I don't know what all of your requirements are - but I've built professional studios within existing buildings - and costs including new dedicated electrical services ran around 150 psf US 1994 dollars - the last studio I built.

    If we round that to 175 usd for inflation that would put your costs around 78,750 without the 120sf production suite. Which would add an addition 21,000 to the budget.

    Tom (whose opinion I DO respect) mentions costs as low as $20 psf - but you can't buy the materials for a professional studio at that cost.

    Probably your best bet would be to put together a design-build team - architect, engineers and a reputable contractor with experience in the field and have them put together for you a "GMP not to exceed" contract. (Guaranteed Maximum Price - Not to Exceed)

    You could then spell out all of your requirements and they could tell you worst case scenerio for design/construction costs.

    We've done this very successfully in the past and always brought the contracts in under budget.

    By the way - I know you don't know me from Adam........ but I'm an engineer/project manager in the states with roughly (counting my current project) more than a billion dollars in construction under my belt.


  8. knightfly

    knightfly Active Member

    Jan 18, 2002
    Stu, first off, welcome to RO; I think you'll find it a pleasant place to get useful input without the "kid crap" that seems to run rampant at some sites...

    At this point, I don't have much to add that hasn't already been covered; one of the comments, "costs as low as $20 psf - but you can't buy the materials for a professional studio at that cost." from Rod, I can't agree MORE with -

    Generally, with NORMAL construction the cost of materials is about 1/3 of the total cost - this is in NO WAY typical of more specialized, soundproof, acoustically treated spaces however - there is more time/thought involved in such construction, so it would run more like 1/4 or even 1/5 of total cost for materials.

    IT's not that the materials are that much higher; a lot of them are the same materials, it's more knowing where they go, in what order, where they do NOT go, and why, etc - It's more close to the scenario where the materials cost just a little more than normal, but the labor/design part needs a LOT more thought so you don't waste the materials you DO use.

    If you were in a position to DIY EVERYTHING, your costs PSF would likely be maybe 15-20% more for studio space than for generic housing space - the downside is, if you do this all on your own, it takes away from other projects, you first need to study enough to become an acoustical designer, etc...

    This is why it's MANDATORY, not just advisable, that you use people who've DONE this before with good results - and the actual construction crew is as important as the designer, the supervisor, etc - all it takes in a lot of cases to completely NEGATE any good design is one framer who thinks those two wall frames have to be tied together for strength, or Thomas' horror story of the walls "not needing to go all the way to the upper floor, 'cause you can't see them above the ceiling"...

    Bottom line here (IMO) is that if you intend to stay away from the DIY route, then Rod's your main man - he's built more stuff and knows more things to watch out for than anyone I've ever met... Steve

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