Owners often discover two missing ingredients in the typical construction project: process and advocacy. The relationship between the two is critical to the success of your project.
Everyone’s talking about what goods and services you should use, how your project should look and what’s popular but no one’s talking about how you get through an entire project from start to finish. Corporations spend huge amounts of money encouraging you to choose their products and services yet give you little to no idea how to integrate their products and services into your project. This is made worse by so-called “reality television” programs shot and edited to highlight disasters and drama in construction projects for the sake of ratings rather than education.
The all-too-common “this is how we’ve always done it” mentality, evolving building codes, jurisdictional challenges and the complex integration requirements of sustainable building can make any project team a challenge. We prefer to use a process that brings the design team, general contractor, subcontractors and key vendors into the design phases. This gets them settled, lets us forecast challenges and allows us to define everyone’s scope of work before the bidding process begins. This cuts through the marketing noise from our industry and the drama of project teams. It also gets the team members intellectually invested; you might be surprised how much collected knowledge they can offer.
You might also be surprised how much tighter the bids can be when your architect uses a clearly defined, collaborative process that empowers the project team. This not only helps to avoid inflated bids that put projects out of reach, it also helps to avoid low bids that break the budget when discovered after the work has begun… at which point you’re over a barrel.
All this begs the question: “Who’s looking out for you during this process?”
A person going through a renovation, addition or new construction process for the first time can easily underestimate the importance of having an advocate in each project phase. People are also surprised to learn that an organized owner who moves efficiently through the design phase may pay more for the architect’s bidding and construction phase services than he|she paid for design services.
That’s because the design team for a residential project is usually the architect and a few consultants coordinated by the architect. So, in the design phase, the owner is dealing with just a few people and the team can function efficiently. In the bidding and construction phases, the number of people on the project team explodes to include the design team, general contractor, subcontractors, vendors and other related parties. Projects can easily have more then twenty subcontractors, each with their own vendors.
As you might expect, the project becomes more complex as the number of project team members increases. More coordination is necessary and people don’t always perform as expected. That’s why we prefer to lead a preconstruction meeting and a series of coordination meetings during the construction phase. These meetings combined with site visits at predetermined points of construction allow us to see that the work is proceeding in conformance with the contract documents.
In short, this means we’re providing the enforcement necessary to see that the work is being done as agreed. We also address unforeseen issues discovered during construction. Enforcing the contract documents, leading meetings, answering questions and responding to unexpected issues is too much to ask of owners who aren’t construction industry professionals. So, like most people preparing to tackle a complex challenge, owners hire a professional to assist them… in this case, the professional happens to be an architect.
Consultants: The Design Team
For residential projects, the owner should consider signing one agreement for design services with the architect. The architect may retain the services of consultants like a structural engineer, geotechnical engineer (soil and foundation), interior designer, etc. Owners should avoid signing separate agreements with consultants because that creates a situation where the owner is responsible for coordinating the work (including technical details) of the architect and consultants.
In a collaborative process, one agreement with the architect still allows the consultants, like interior designers, to make significant contributions and drive portions of the work – it just helps protect the owner at the same time.
We’re undoing more work than ever before. In a good economy, many companies expand their product and service offerings to reap the benefits of available work. In a poor economy, many companies expand their product and service offerings to generate enough income to stay in business. Both situations push companies out of their core competencies.
Owners quickly learn that less expensive almost always costs more: using a process that focuses on doing it right once is much less expensive than doing and re-doing. Our process encourages owners see the ocean of difference between price and value.