Q&A: How can I keep budget changes from derailing the integrity of my spec?

Before Sandra Stashik moved into specification sales, she was a lighting designer in Detroit and, later, a director of lighting design in Philadelphia. So she’s been on both sides of the spec process. Here are her tips for smooth sailing through budget waves.

Q: First line of defense: What can I do to avoid budget conflicts?

A: Be proactive: 

  • Request the lighting budget at the start of the design process.

  • Work with local agencies to establish budget pricing for your concepts.

  • Verify that concepts meet the client’s budget expectations.


Q: When you can’t be there: How do you keep control of the spec when the project is actually somewhere else?

Stay involved:

  • Request that your local agent reach out to his/her counterparts in the project territory to share the budget pricing they have prepared.

  • Compare your local agent’s line card with the line card of the project agent, especially if the project territory is a “package town.” This can help to ensure that the local agent will be able to supply the entire project, as specified.


Q: Value Engineering: You’ve heard the dreaded words. Now what?

A: Work a Plan B:

  • Request a copy of the itemized fixture costs and carefully compare against the budget pricing you received. If something looks out of line, share the price you had been given (including the appropriate mark-ups) and ask that the item(s) be repriced accordingly.

  • Work with your agent to see if there are less expensive versions of the products you selected which can maintain design integrity while still reducing cost. Carefully review the trade-offs.

  • Is there a more efficient product, or one with a different distribution, which may allow you to use fewer luminaires?

  • Review your control scheme with the agent to see if there is a less expensive approach to accomplish the desired performance.

    The project budget may be out of your hands but don’t lose control of the design you’ve worked so hard to create. After all, you are the client’s first line of defense against living with a lighting system that they didn’t bargain for.

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