Minimize exterior lighting: Take background light into account when designing site lighting, avoiding unnecessary fixtures and electricity use.
Minimize parking requirements: Work with the planning department to keep parking to an absolute minimum. Look into off-site parking, reductions for transit availability, Zipcars, etc.
Avoid asphalt paving: If installing a driveway or parking lot, use gravel. It reduces run-off, eliminates the need for stripping, and looks great.
See what the municipality will do for you: The municipality might build the sidewalks or plant trees. It never hurts to ask your local building department.
Let the occupants do some of the landscaping: Confine the project budget to big plants, sidewalks, drainage, paving, lighting, etc. Most live/work buildings have eager gardeners.
Contractors and Design Professionals
Bid the construction trades whenever possible: Negotiating with one supplier or subcontractor rarely yields the best price.
Investigate prices that are too good to be true: Unbelievably cheap rates usually signal unacceptable workmanship or delays. Desperate bidders might be one step from insolvency.
Avoid being the learning experience: Few people get it right the first time. Use a team member or friend’s experience to develop the most efficient project. Experience should be an essential criterium for any professional you hire (contractors, architects, lawyers, plumbers, etc.)
Match the players to the budget: Don’t hire architects or contractors who consider your project beneath their standards. It is easier to get a rough-and-ready firm to step up than it is to get a luxury firm to step down.
Consider design-build systems: A good schematic and outline spec are typically all that HVAC, plumbing, and electrical contractors need for smaller projects. The sub-contractor does the final design according to your specification. The design-build approach can save engineering costs and lead to tighter bids and fewer change orders.
Insist on speedy construction: Delays increase general conditions, cost you more bank/loan interest, and can lose pre-sales.
Minimize winter heating costs: Temporary heat at a construction site is expensive for the owner, who almost always covers this cost. If you must have the heat on during winter construction, inspect the premises to make sure the windows are closed, biggest air leaks stopped, and heat used when absolutely necessary only.