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Anniversary Musings

Wember has been providing Owner's Representative services for over twelve years, and although it’s been a roller coaster, that’s ok. I like roller coasters.  I thought I would share some thoughts as I reflect: Don’t send the email.  In 2006 we were in a position to take on a program of three buildings for a new client, we were very excited.  When the RFP came out the program changed from $20 million to $120 million and we knew we would not be able to compete or service the projects.  In a rage I wrote a scathing email to my future client, luckily I deleted it and wished her the best on the project and gave a simple explanation on why we would not be able to submit.  Three months later my contact called me telling me that we were awarded the projects and would be part of the

Indemnification – House Bill HB15-1197

On April 14, 2015, Colorado State Legislature unanimously passed House Bill HB15-1197, which was supported by the American Institute of Architects (AIA), Colorado Municipal League (CML) and many other organizations.  An overview of the bill by the Colorado Municipal League reads: Limits public entities from requiring certain contractors from duty to defend obligations in construction contracts. Applies to architectural, engineering, surveying, or other design services. Allows the public entity to recover any costs of defense attributable to the contractor after the liability or fault has been determined by adjudication, alternative dispute resolution, or mutual agreement. Effective Sept. 1, 2015. What does this mean for you as an owner, as a consultant?  Let’s start with “indemnification” first.  If you are like me one of the first things you do when you receive an RFP on a public project is review two items: Does the RFP include language stating that

Trick or Treat?

Recently, we were interviewing for a project and upon entering the room, I was perplexed to see a table full of treats that would rival a school bake sale. Turns out, our competition thought the client was diabetic and brought them the fuel to get through the day. We didn’t bring anything; should we have followed up with tea, perhaps? The experience heightened my awareness of the give-em-treats approach. It has been interesting to observe our clients' reactions. Let me share a few stories that come to mind. A team came into an interview and gave a solid presentation. Everyone in the room felt positive about the possible fit between the firm and client. Upon their departure, the firm’s Principal handed out a custom branded box with the potential client’s logo along with theirs. Inside the box were branded items and snacks that totaled approximately $25. The client

What Makes An Interview Memorable?

As an Owner’s Representative, we have participated in many architect and general contractor interviews and have witnessed all kinds of wins and fails. At an event recently, we were discussing the best ways to approach interviews. Some of the questions raised included: What are some winning interview strategies? What do people like to see in interviews? Does a PowerPoint presentation typically help or hurt? We have blogged in the past about our insight on interviews and proposals and over time, it seems not much has changed. Our recurring advice remains simple: be memorable. Imagine yourself on the selection committee. Think about reading eight proposals or sitting through five interviews. As someone who has, I can tell you, I have observed how hard it can be for the selection committee to keep track of who did which projects and which team each person is on; it can get blurry.

Relationships Don’t Matter

I meet regularly with business development professionals who work diligently to get to know our team and the clients we represent. The thought process is logical: meet face-to-face, and build a relationship in hopes to increase your odds of being awarded future work. Although it is common courtesy to reach out to potential clients and express an interest in their projects, it is rare that this approach leads to winning the work in the public sector. Here is why. You called too late. There is nothing as flattering as being asked to lunch after a project RFP is issued. By all means call and ask for more information, but, that too might be wasted energy. The public sector is stringent about sharing information outside of the protocol outlined in the RFP. Let’s get married. I know few people who met and decided to get married the following week. Meeting

The Hesitancy of Contingency

Recently, we were trying to close the gap between our project budget and progress estimate, looking for options, the owner honed in on the contingency as an easy way to cover the delta, offering up, “Let’s reduce the contingency from 5% to 1%. We will be on budget and move forward.” Although this was by far the easiest solution to get us on budget, I encouraged him to explore other options. When he asked me to explain why he needs a contingency fund, I responded “Do you like your job? Contingency allows you to keep it.” We remained at 5%.  The fact is, contingency is, if nothing else, an insurance policy. Contingency is usually a hot topic, regardless the team member’s title. Design teams want to be assured that the owner has a contingency fund in place. The reality is, no drawings are perfect and unforeseen conditions need

The ABCs of PPPs

Serving as Owner Representative to numerous municipalities, we are participating in PPP discussions like never before. So much in fact, that I recently attended the National Public Private Partnership conference in Boston to learn the ABCs of PPPs and discover the benefits this innovative business model as to offer. While Public Private Partnerships (PPP) have been around for over 20 years, they have been less prevalent in the United States, compared to the trendsetters of Canada and Australia. That said, there is a surging interest in the PPP model, particularly with infrastructure projects such as water, roads and bridges (think US 36 tollway). Institutions looking for stable financial investments are attracted to water facilities, toll roads and parking garages. They offer a safe bet for a return on investment as they are necessary for a successful communities. Social infrastructure projects, such as schools and libraries, have similar potential,

Design on the Cheap? Think Again.

by Cynthia Kemper. Originally published in the June 2015 issue of Colorado Real Estate Journal’s Building Dialogue, Cynthia Kemper’s Colorado Pulse column. A response from Paul Wember can be found after Ms. Kemper's blog. Earlier this year, I read an editorial comparing selecting architectural services to bargain shopping for cars, homes, and, believe it or not, toothpaste. The author's rather strange premise seemed ripe for a counterpoint, or at least an honest look at what can happen when a client opts for low bid architectural or design services. Since we all prefer to make informed choices when it comes to such important decisions, this month I'm going to pull back the curtain with a candid look at the reality of bargain basement design. For starters, serious architects do much more than draw plans for structures with four walls that hold up a roof and keep the weather out. They are highly

What Did You Call Me?

We get called by a lot of different names in our line of work. When our clients think of the various project consultants, they have a solid idea of the exact job each performs based upon their consistent titles, such as general contractor, architect, or electrical engineer. It seems that as the Project Management field has grown over the several years, so have our titles: Owner’s Representative Construction Manager (CM) Construction Manager Advisor Program Manager Project Manager While all might fit, depending upon the job, they are not exactly interchangeable. Here are some subtleties between them: Owner's Representative - entity that manages on Owner’s behalf; usually has an agreement only with the Owner and no other entity. Construction Manager (CM) - Similar to an Owner’s Representative but will hire and manage subcontractors on the Owner’s behalf. The CM doesn’t hold the agreements with the subs, the Owner does.

The Silver Linings of a Low Bid

While it's accepted practice to seek out the best deal when shopping for a car, house and toothpaste, we receive feedback from frustrated colleagues when owners base their general contractor selection off the lowest fee, or lowest bid. The challenge in front of the A/E/C community, is to demonstrate to the owner the value of paying more for your services. This is very difficult when you are selling a service to those who have limited industry experience. Should we embrace that we have to provide the lowest fee to win the final selection? Is being selected by low fee always bad, or is there a silver lining? Here are some things to consider from our perspective on why hiring based on lowest fee isn’t all bad. New Markets.   We have seen design and construction firms with an iron grip on certain project types, be it libraries, police or