Back in the mid-1980s a developer purchased a three story building in downtown San Diego and, wanting to make it wheel chair accessible, hired an architect to help him put in an elevator. Meeting on the top floor in a corner adjacent to the stairwell, the architect (accompanied by a commercial contractor) explained not only what the project entailed but also what it would cost.
“A million five?” the developer said. “Are you kidding?”
The architect and contractor nodded their heads and, like good salesmen acting as thoughtful but self-serving advisers, offered downgrades that might enable him to reduce the cost to a little over $1,250,000. Major emphasis was placed on the word “might” because, as everyone knows, no one can accurately foresee the extent and inevitability of cost overruns.
Walking away from the two to gather his thoughts, the developer passed the building’s maintenance supervisor (in years past merely regarded as the head janitor). The old man shook his head ever so slightly, gave the developer a barely perceptible smile, and then returned to the task at hand dipping his mop in a nearby bucket.
“Hello, Angus. Got something on your mind?” the developer asked.
“Well, sir. I’m not an educated man but if I were you I’d be looking for an easier solution,” he said in a deferential voice.
“There’s an easier solution?” the developer asked.
“I don’t know a lot but seems to me it would be a lot cheaper to build the elevator on the outside of the building.”
Indeed, it was.