If this is the first time you have considered building a custom home, the process of designing and building your dream home may feel daunting and can be worrisome if you don’t know what to expect.

As a Design-Build General Contractor in Santa Fe, Palo Santo Designs LLC, provides comprehensive architectural design and construction services tailored to your unique project goals.

The advantage of our design-build approach is that the design process is informed by technical construction knowledge and real-time construction pricing from the field.

Here’s an outline of the design-build approach:

  • Design development of a home
  • Gathering a team of outsourced services: surveying, soil study, structural engineering, storm-water management, energy modeling and landscape architecture
  • Pricing, plans and permit set
  • Selection of finishes and fixtures
  • Design costs discussed and finalized
  • Construction begins

Integrated team approach allows all the key players (owners, designers, contractor, sub-contractors, suppliers, and other consultants) to feed relevant information into the process early on. This allows the project goals to be met most effectively.


Step #1: DESIGN

The first step in any successful project is Design. Generally our design process can be broken down as follows:

1. Design Development of a Home:

The process of developing the basic floor plan, site orientation and exterior shape that works for you and the site. This is the most specialized aspect of the process and is different and unique onto each project.

For some, this process can be completed very quickly, but for others it can be time intensive depending on the complexity of the site, the covenants or other restrictions and to what extent you know what design is best for you.

Because of our hands-on knowledge of current construction costs, we are able to project a likely construction budget range during this early phase, optimizing the design process from the start to suit your budget. The preliminary budget projection and basic house plan are suitable for beginning the bank loan process, should you need.

Preliminary cost projection is within 10% of the final construction bid

There are exceptions, and the final construction bid amount is not guaranteed until the final set of plans are engineered and completed. If your project will require preliminary approval from an architectural review committee or Santa Fe’s Historic Review Board, this would be the stage at which we would prepare the presentations necessary for you. Once we have a basic house design to your liking we then move into the technical aspects of the plan.

2. Outsourced Professional Services:

These services represent our ‘best practices’ approach to quality assurance in design. We work closely with professionals contracted by Palo Santo Designs LLC on your behalf including:

  • Surveyor for topographic study and staking the building corners
  • Geotechnical Engineering for soils study, assuring a design which that minimizes shift, settlement or other common problems in soil movement under your foundation.
  • Structural Engineering to assure all structural components and attachments are sound, durable and safe.
  • Civil Engineering to assure all storm-water management conditions are mitigated adequately and compliance with EPA and other regulations are met.
  • Other professional services including Energy Modeling to optimize energy efficiency, landscape architect, or other services as appropriate to your project.

Pricing and Permit Set:

Based on the outcomes of the two previous steps, a nearly complete set of plans suitable for developing a detailed construction cost breakdown will be made. This will include:

  • Cover Page
  • Site Plan
  • Landscaping Plan
  • Floor Plans
  • Exterior Elevations
  • Roof Drainage Plan
  • Building Sections
  • Typical Wall Section
  • Foundation Plan and Details
  • Roof and Floor Framing Plans
  • Window and Door Schedule
  • Electrical/Lighting Plan
  • Mechanical Plan
  • Other Details as necessary

Finishes and Fixtures will be allocated budget allowances at this time, if not yet specified. The outcome of this step will be a comprehensive construction cost proposal and a set of plans ready for permit.

3. Permitting:

Palo Santo Designs will submit all permit application documents on your behalf and steward the approval process through for you. Permit fees will vary based on location, valuation of the construction and size of the home.

4. Specification:

While the parallel paths of permit approval and bank loan processing are underway, we will work closely with you and preferred vendors to assist you in the selection of finishes and fixtures that suit your taste and your budget.

Additional architectural design work may be appropriate at this stage including interior detail elevations of kitchen, baths, master closet and other key features as necessary to facilitate the selection of cabinets, tile, fixtures, countertops, appliances, and other finishes.

Creating the interior ambiance and overall impression of the home is the outcome of this effort, and allows us to finalize a construction contract amount.

5. Design Costs:

The total cost of the design process will vary based on the unique characteristics of your project and often fall in the range of about 5%-8% of the total construction costs.

Example home:

A home with a projected $750,000 construction budget may cost approximately $45,000 to design (6%); a home with a $2,000,000 construction budget may cost $80,000 to design (4%); a home with a $550,000 construction budget may cost $30,000 to design (5%).

Remember that design costs are not included in typical square foot construction costs, so when considering the rough square foot pricing in the next section, the design work is always additional to those typical costs.

Step #2: Construction of a Home

Based on our experience building high quality, high performance custom homes in Santa Fe, NM and surrounding areas, we have developed a very good understanding of what typical construction costs are in this region.

Although each project is unique with varying site considerations, and finishes representing the unique taste and aesthetics of each owner, the typical construction costs below are adequate for preliminary budget planning, and thus for planning the size of home to design.

In each case, a specialized and itemized construction budget will be developed that represents the exact costs of your project, and will vary somewhat from the typical costs shown here. This method of budget projection is very important to begin the design process with realistic expectations.

Enclosed Heated Area (measured from the exterior of the walls): $385-$600 per square foot.
Areas Enclosed but not Heated (garages, storage rooms, attics, etc.): $125-$150 per square foot.
Covered outdoor spaces (varies widely based on finishes & fixtures.): $75-$150 per square foot.
Decks and Patios Uncovered:$65-$115 per square foot.

A simple rule of thumb for an economically minded project is to take the total gross roofed area (all square footage under roof including garages, storage, portals, patios, main house, guest house, studio, etc.) and multiply that area by $231-$360 per square foot.


Summary Calculation by Roofed Square Feet Total Area Under Roof X Typical Cost Range = Construction Budget Range
Example 4000 sf X $231-$360 = $924,000 – $1,440,000
Your Calculation   X $231-$360 =  

Summary Calculation by Heated Square Feet Total Area Under Roof X Typical Cost Range = Construction Budget Range
Example 2400 sf X $385-$600 = $924,000 – $1,440,000
Your Calculation   X $385-$600 =  

Realtors and appraisers typically speak in terms of heated square footage. A home with 4000sf total area under roof, as in our example her, may include 2400 sf heated and 1600 sf unheated. 2400 sf x $385-$600 = $924,000-$1,440,000. Another way to arrive at a very similar range.

Reverse Construction Budget Goal ÷ Top of typical Cost Range = Total Area Under Roof to Design For
Economical Example $950,000 ÷ $231-$360 = 2639sf – 4113sf
Your Calculation   ÷ $231-$360 =  

More Detailed Approach Areas X Typical Cost Range = Construction Budget Goal
Heated 2400 sf X $318-$500 = $763,200 – $1,200,000
Enclosed Unheated 800 sf X $125-$150 = $100,000 – $120,000
Outdoor Covered 800 sf X $75-$150 = $60,000 – $120,000
Average Landscaping Budget       = $37,500 – $50,000
Projected Construction Budget = $960,700 – $1,490,000

Your Project Areas X Typical Cost Range = Construction Budget Goal
Heated   X $318-$500 =  
Enclosed Unheated   X $125-$150 =  
Outdoor Covered   X $75-$150 =  
Average Landscaping Budget   + $37,500-$50,000 =  
Projected Construction Budget =  
Add Design Costs to Projected Construction Budget 6%-10% =  
Total Project Budget Goal =  

Now, you’re starting to gather an idea for your budget, design and construction costs, along with the process for starting new construction in Santa Fe.

Again, we are incredibly experienced in each of these areas and can assist in expediting the process in many ways. We have designers, architects and engineers all ready to assist you with your design and build.

Start your process by simply calling us and getting the conversation started: 505-988-7230