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Making The Pitch To Bring On An Owner’s Representative

It is true; not all projects need an owner’s representative. Determining if you need one is complicated, but here are some points to consider: Project Size. The smaller the project, the less the likelihood that a third-party project manager is required. Generally speaking, projects under $1.5M lack the complexity and scale to absorb the additional costs. Consider engaging project managers’ on-call services to procure your the architect and general contractor, negotiate contracts, and serve as an advisor throughout the project. This can be tricky because often, in-staff believes they have the capacity and experience to manage all phases of a project, but many times, they don’t and become overloaded. Owner’s representatives typically average about three to four projects simultaneously; this specialization keeps us at the top of our game and can make us a better match for the tasks at hand. Leadership has to determine how to procure outside

The Three Cs of Interviewing

At a recent industry event, I was asked, “What are the three most important things clients look for from teams during an interview?” Over the years, we observed what wins over clients and what falls flat. First, congratulations on making it to the interview. In 2020 the average response count to CMAR and Design RFPs on projects which we are managing has been fourteen.  Standing out and making it to the top of the list is an achievement.  By making it to the interview clearly, your company has demonstrated that they are the right size and are qualified to complete the project.  I suspect, too, that the team proposed has some unique attributes that made them stand out.  So what will the client look for in the interview? I liken the three most important things to look for in an interview with the three C’s of a diamond. Capability:

The Question I Am Most Asked

I often get asked, "Why did you leave architecture to become an owner's representative?" When asked this question at a recent conference, I found myself robotically repeating what is a partial truth, albeit a diplomatic response. It goes something like this: While I am still technically an architect, I did indeed choose a different path. When I worked as an architect, my responsibility was to manage a team of designers, draftsmen, interior designers, and consultants. At one point, I was managing eight decent-size projects and developed my skills for project management.  The truth is I am a much better project manager than a designer. There were a couple of outside forces working too. First, I was working with an owner's representative on some of the projects I was managing, and I was attracted to the role. Second, I had obtained my LEED Accreditation and was completing my MBA, which

Technology Enables Staff, Culture Empowers Them

Many of our colleagues are working to adapt to the new reality of working remotely. As a team that has been operating this way for sixteen years, we say, welcome! In speaking with colleagues about this stay-at-home time reality, it is good to hear that so many are having an easy time setting up the remote technology to allow employees to make the transition while maintaining productivity. The unfortunate news is that there never was a technology problem; solutions like Skype, Zoom, TEAMs, and Webx have been effectively implemented for years. The truth is that the actual challenge is more complicated than laptops and file-sharing; it’s a cultural shift. As a leader of a firm built upon a remote business model, I have been asked many times over the years about our “work from home structure” (yes, often in air quotes). The dialogue almost always includes a statement of

The New Normal: Virtual Interviews

It didn't take long in this time of social separation for one of our clients to face the challenge of how to manage the procurement interviews. Our client remained bullish on keeping public sector projects moving forward and shifted to hosting the interviews online. In the end, the same interview elements that win awards from an in-person setting proved to be the same for the online format. It was gratifying to witness all of the teams rise to the occasion and represent their firms professionally. Whether you are an owner or a member of the AEC community, you are likely going to face setting up an interview or presentation soon. Having worked within a virtual office setting for over sixteen years, we have seen what helps and what hinders the effectiveness of online meetings. There is a myriad of technologies you can use for online meetings, as the interviewee,

Leveraging Remote Technology

So, you're on WebX and feeling like you solved your work-from-home challenges. Your staff is staying connected and working on tasks. But there is more. The success of continuing effective collaboration in a remote business model is dependent on the training of employees in best practices and clarifying expectations are the real make-it-or-break-it. (Technology Enables Staff, Culture Empowers Them).  After sixteen years of managing an all-remote business structure, there are some pillars to success for both external and internal interactions that my team and I have discovered. Virtual Meetings with Clients and Colleagues Everyone on your team needs to be empowered to set up a virtual meeting. We use Microsoft Teams to conduct our external and internal meetings. It proves to be easier and more effective than calling someone's cell phone. Set up the meeting for success. If you initiated the meeting, it is your responsibility to take a

Scammed

Earlier this year, I received a call from my controller asking me to confirm the wire transfer that I requested for $35,000. Surprised, I asked, “what wire transfer?” She had received not only a request but responses from me by email approving the transfer.  Fortunately, she was astute to realize we have never done a wire transfer before and that we don’t send money without approved invoices. So, what did we do? First, we contacted our IT director who commended us on our prudence and said there is nothing you can do, and at that dollar amount, the police or feds won’t care enough to try and catch them. Second, we looked at the email exchange. What became clear was that this was very well calculated and planned; the email, logo signature, and even the language I would normally use was so accurate it was really convincing. It was

Stereotypes

It takes time to develop stereotypes, and with the owner’s representation being a newer niche service in the AEC industry, we have not fully formulated a stigma, but it appears to be in the works. As an architect turned owner's representative fifteen years ago, I have gained a perspective as I guide clients through the design and construction process. I quickly learned that there are owners sometimes buy into widely held beliefs stemming from architecture and construction professionals' stereotypes. Despite consistent efforts to shed our respective stereotypes to owners, they continue to resurface time and time again. Most people form their understanding of the profession of architecture from the cinema or news articles about high profile projects, such as airports or art museums. The prominence of “starchitects” took off in the dot com era of 2003, and some owners we contract with are still reacting to the perceived attitude

Work from Anywhere (that your project requires)

One of the most common questions I receive about running Wember is about our work-from-anywhere business structure. Our company does not have an office. Yes, the cobbler's son has no shoes, and we, who manage design and construction, do not have our own office. How could this be? Let me explain how it all started. After winning a large program of work with Anythink Library, I hired my first employee; I was ready for the big time, and we started looking for an office. After the first project kick-off meeting with our client, she casually walked by one of the offices in their administration building and said casually, “here is your office.”  We settled in and delayed renting. Our next client went on to say, “…and here’s your office.” We quickly realized the benefits of working alongside our clients and questioned our intent to rent. Over time we began

The Construction Labor Shortage is an Owner Issue

It is predicted that there will be a pilot shortage. Over the next two decades, 87 new pilots will need to be trained every day to be ready to fly a commercial airliner in order to meet our insatiable demand to travel by air. Industry leaders are finding ways to attract today’s youth to a career in aviation, but given the time and cost it takes to become a pilot, the solution must be multi-faceted. Many ideas are being implemented including the use of autonomous aircraft, shortening the pilot training time frame and by the opening of aviation education facilities, such as the Wings Over the Rockies Exploration of Flight Campus in Centennial, Colorado and Metro States Department of Aviation and Aerospace Science. Like the aviation industry, labor shortages continue to be a significant challenge in the construction market. Owners are not willing to simply accept higher costs

Deciding Between Renovating a Clubhouse or Building A New One

Typically, when a clubhouse hits around 15 years since a major renovation has been conducted and the membership is beginning to feel either the neglect or lack of modern amenities, the ownership starts thinking, is now the time to embark on a major change in the form of a capital improvement project? The next elephant in the room to address is deciding whether to renovate or build new. The gut reaction might be to renovate the existing facility, as the perception is that this is the fiscally responsible option to appease the membership. However, renovations, depending on the scale, are not always less expensive than new construction and can come with difficulties not seen with new construction. Some of these difficulties would include asbestos or other hazardous materials abatement, difficult site conditions, poor soils, and outdated mechanical and structural systems. When considering a renovation, ask yourself the following:

Cars and Relationships

My wife’s car was twelve years old and between the paint touch-ups from my guy Benny and the engine that rattles more than an angry snake, it was time to move on. I reached out to my brother and resident deal-hunter for advice. He told me not to be afraid of buying a car out of state if it was the right car. He expanded on the concept by indicating that when you buy a car from a far distance the built-in road trip back to home allows you to form a bond with the car and your travel mate making the new car an experience rather than a purchase. Although I love watching shows about junkyard cars coming back to life, I would not claim that I am a “car guy.”  That said, I do understand the attachment that comes along with major purchases like this, especially

Scary Merger Names Part 2

The A/E/C industry has seen many mergers and acquisitions in the past few years. As a follow up to the original "Scary Merger Name" blog, we gave some thought to a few more that would be fun to see! Zehren & Associates+Zmistowski Design Group+Zone 4 Architects = Zzzz Architects B2sj Design Group +Zone 4 Architects+Yow Architects = BS 4 Yow Group Greenfield Architects + Brown David P + Blueline Architects PC  = Rainbow Color Design Hairabedian ARG Architects + Klipp (now GKK now Cannon) = Hair Klipp Conger Fuller Architects + Shike Design = Fuller Shike Architects Craig Melvin Architects + Hobbs Design Firm = Celvin and Hobbs Architects Vaught Frye Architects + Theodore K Guy Associates = Frye Guy Architects Barker Rinker Seacat and OZ Architects = BROZ Way Architects + Unreal Construction LLC = Way Unreal Design / Build Reynolds + Arapahoe Architects = Reynolds Arap Architects

Is The Need For Speed Costing You More Than You Realize?

During the recession, the projects that were funded enjoyed the ability to move quickly through design and construction phases seamlessly. The abundance of “A” team members, available subcontractor labor, and an attitude of appreciation from all involved, created a climate for producing successful projects. As the bull market continues across Colorado, we are still seeing bear market attitudes toward schedules. Driving the project schedule is critical to the project flow and it has to be realistic. The benefits of a professionally built and collaboratively discussed schedule include: the ability to prove to your funding source that you have the project under control; prevent runaway costs born out of accelerated design; and it keep the project momentum maximized. 1. As a licensed architect, I have learned that unless you are replicating a project, contemplation is a necessary and valuable trait of architects and the design process. If you know

“Dear Abby, I’ve Been Married 20 Years And ….”

This year my wife, Vicki, and I celebrated 20 years of marriage; and we can both tell you we are grateful, it’s been mostly harmonious. What makes it work? I’m no Dear Abby, but as I reflect on how my wife and I interact, I realize there is an alignment between the actions that help personal relationships succeed and those that bolster client relationships. (1) Put the toilet seat down. OK, not literally, but identify what makes your client insane. People can drive others crazy through their idiosyncrasies. Watch body language as you just may have a habit that is getting under your client’s skin, such as how you greet them, address them, or smack your gum. This isn’t about you; it’s about them and their issues, so don’t take it personally. (2) Tell her she is beautiful. This is easy for me to tell my wife because

Myth #7 – Owner’s Reps Select the General Contractor

It was a good day, indeed. Earlier this spring, Wember was notified that we had been selected to serve as owner’s representative for the much anticipated State of Colorado, Department of Agriculture’s new laboratory. Our efforts of tracking the project for over four years paid off! We had worked diligently to align our company’s experience and key team members and poured hours into devising a thoughtful proposal. We knew this was a special project and began to realize its high-profile nature by the emails that began populating my inbox before our contact was even signed. Within days, I received over a dozen emails from general contractors who had heard the news and were preparing their submission strategy. While I was encouraged to see the amount of proactive effort being put forth, I began to get a little nervous after reading a few… What do we have to do

Should You Be Using AIA Contract Documents?

In 2011 I wrote a blog comparing the two primary contract platforms in the A/E/C industry, AIA contract documents and ConsensusDOCS, https://wemberinc.com/consensusdocs-vs-aia-construction-forms/.   After a recent training session with a team of legal professionals, I was surprised by their strong support the use of the AIA Contract Documents. The AIA promotes the use of their documents through following statements below, also found on their website: https://www.aiala.com/why-use-aia-documents-2/ AIA documents are fair.  AIA contracts and forms are consensus documents that reflect advice from practicing architects, contractors, engineers as well as owners, surety bond producers, insurers, and attorneys. AIA documents balance the interests of all the parties, so no one interest, including that of the architect, is unfairly represented. AIA documents reflect industry practices, not theory.  Where practices are inconsistent or no guidelines for practice exist, the AIA documents provide a consensus-based model for practitioners to follow. AIA documents reflect changing construction

Damn, I’m 45

“Turns out, 45 years old is just 45 years old. An age that means you are old enough not to feel young anymore, but not old enough to complain about it. It’s like the middle child of ages... no one is impressed or thinks your turning 45 is a big deal but you.”  Huffington Post When Wember turned 10, I was 42 and I wrote this blog, https://wemberinc.com/wember-turns-10/; it’s fun to be 10 after all! Today, I turn 45 and reflect on advice that I have received over the years from those who matter most. Don’t do dumb shit ~ Only a father could give you such words of wisdom Be on path by age 30 ~ If you’re going to be taken seriously, by age thirty you have better know where you're headed. Life’s not fair and then you die ~ Growing up the youngest of six

Should you set GMP at Schematic Design?

Should you set your Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP) at schematic design?  No, you should not set it at schematic design.  Should you set your guaranteed maximum price (GMP) at construction documents?  Let’s discuss this further. The GMP on a project is the point where you ask your contractor to lock in the costs for the project and, in theory, transfer the risk to them. And although we agree that locking in a price does shift some exposure to the contractor, a sophisticated contractor will manage that risk through allowances, contingencies and exclusions and clarifications/qualifications. Here are some pros and cons. Construction Document GMP: At this point, the drawings are nearly complete and the contractor will have all the information to receive multiple bids and clearly understand the intent of the design. The costs will be detailed and based on actual take-offs and material pricing. Pros You are receiving

Feastability

Portmanteaus words are a way to add colorful meaning to a thing or occurrence; some terms have become so commonly used they are part of our vocabulary. From the Chunnel to tween and medivac, these words inform us in a twitter-style efficiency. Entrepreneur Magazine often showcases portmanteaus words and the digital age has created many new ones like: Cellfish – an individual who continues talking on their phone when it is clearly being rude or inconsiderate of other people Internest – the cocoon of blankets and pillows you gather around yourself whilst spending long periods of time on the internet Youniverse – a person who has knowledge only of him or herself Nonversation – a completely worthless conversation; small talk Screenager –the typical adolescent who indulges excessively in screen entertainment Masturdating – going out alone to dinner or a movie Badvertising – poorly crafted marketing Hangry – hungry

Who Should Own the Contingency?

A good contingency plan requires continuous thought and planning, whether you are going on vacation to Mexico, climbing Mt. Everest, or tackling a capital improvement project--things go wrong. As a father of three, and a business owner, I find myself commonly swerving through what could go wrong next and how to circumvent potential obstacles and recover from bumps in the road. I am not being pessimistic; I am being a survivalist. When it comes to navigating a project budget, proper management of the contingency is an area that can influence a successful project outcome. Who manages it? Who carries it? And, how do you make sure it doesn’t get inflated to the point of stopping your project? While there are many discussions on the subject of contingency we could hash over, this blog addresses why an owner and general contractor would want to have a portion of the

Myth #1 Busted – We Have Long-standing Relationships With All Clients

Last year I was honored to be selected to serve on a panel of owner’s representatives at the 2016 AIA Symposium. While the discussions that ensued were informative and thought provoking, it was the dialogue that occurred off stage that stuck with me most. I was repeatedly approached by inquiring architects who wanted to know “Why don’t Owner’s Representatives issue better RFPs and guide their clients through a more refined selection process?” While I am not the owner’s representative industry spokesman, I defended myself (and our colleagues) by explaining that owner’s representatives are not always the culprit of these poorly crafted RFPs. Upon returning from the conference, I was curious, what percentage of RFPs do we help owners generate? While it is true that owner’s representatives sometimes have a long-standing relationship with certain clients, we aren’t always involved in the procurement of architects, or even general contractors for

A Look Back at 2016

John Glenn passed away, Donald Trump is President Elect, and developers are turning Nazi camps into luxury resorts; 2016 appears to be the year of “What just happened?” More close to home, I have reviewed the AIA, AGC, and the Deltek reports, spoken with numerous industry professionals, and analyzed trends on the projects we are managing to conclude the following opinion: generally speaking, there continues to be skeptical optimism related to continued growth and architects feel less positive than general contractors; this makes sense since much of the design work associated with the uptick in 2016 is complete while contractors are still riding the delayed wave of new work. Companies hired more staff in 2016 than in previous years and we saw a trend of professionals changing companies at a higher rate than previous years.  Many seasoned professionals are retiring and the absorption of smaller firms by larger

Breaking Into a New Market

I was recently asked by a smaller-sized architecture firm how to win work for a project type with which they had no prior experience. Many of us have faced this quandary. It can be frustrating; but, with tenacity and smart business decisions it can be done. We went on to discuss some options. 1.  Hire for it. At one point, we had no school experience and wanted to break into the market. When we had an opportunity to add staff we didn’t hire our best friend, we looked for a resume that fit our strategic plan. The project manager brought along a deep rolodex (okay, CMS) and the market has been open ever since. 2.  Devise a creative teaming approach that provides a unique strategy or solution; it will almost always garner attention, if not win you a top contender spot. 3.  Start shaking hands.  Although it's not

Building is Scary!

It all started with a spider---a giant 13-foot spider.  “Harold,” who lives in my crawl space all winter and summer, emerges every Halloween in our front yard. He holds a special place in my heart as my kids and I designed and built it together. Halloween, more than any other holiday, reminds me of how design and construction engages a community and impacts all involved. Since the birth of Harold the neighborhood kids have requested to get involved; we decided to design/build a haunted house in my garage. Like all our projects we began by drafting a solid design. It has been an adventure being part of this Halloween construction evolution. 1. The first year was a simple room with games. It was ok. 2. The second year was a two-room-scene--one with an outdoor cemetery and on the inside a day-of-the-dead dining room. 3. The third year we

What Not to Say in an Interview

As Owner’s Representatives we have participated in hundreds of interviews witnessing some engaging, educational and enlightening presentations from an impressive list of architecture firms and general contractors. That said, every now and then we observe professionals fold under pressure and say things they might regret. Here are a few things we advise not saying during an interview. “Sweetie” Nothing is as impressive to a woman as using terms of endearment in a professional setting. “How are we doing?” There is no way an Owner can answer this question honestly when you are halfway through an interview. It’s an obviously awkward question with an even more awkward response, yet we hear it often. We cringe every time. “Who are you?” Basic rule - know your audience; if you missed a name, fake it. “Estimate prediction” Be careful on using imaginative terms in your response; it may sound like you

Feedback Etiquette

The cursed proposal, and the hopefully-to-follow, nerve-inducing interview, are both part of what the A/E/C industry endures to win work. The process costs teams thousands of dollars in staff resources, printing costs, even on small projects. It is a serious decision and investment to submit. When working with owners during the procurement process, we advise them to respect the efforts put forth by the submitting firms, particularly those who weren’t awarded the work. We communicate that they prepare detailed feedback to those who inquire. Typically, not all firms will place the call. In our experience, general contractors are more comfortable (1 in 3) than architects (1 in 5) reaching out to us or the Owner. We provide the following list of dos and don’ts for our clients to consider: Do 1. Collect relevant documents including notes from the process and the actual proposals during or immediately after the

Here’s Your Fee

In speaking with a Principal of an established architectural firm that recently entered the Front Range market, I came to find out he and his colleagues were perplexed by firms’ common practice of sometimes using professional fees as a differentiator when submitting on projects. “What’s the deal with professional architectural fees in this market?“ he asked. Not sure where he was going, I replied, “How do you mean?” He went on to explain that his firm, established in other geographic markets, is not accustomed to deviations in fees between firms. It appears that in the Front Range market, fees carry weight in owners’ hiring decisions and teams are willing to set their fees to differentiate themselves. While our market has a common industry fee (by project type) and although the standard fee has never been corroborated, it is known by all. My new colleague was clearly frustrated as

Amazon, Uber, Airlines, Toll Roads, Disney

Buy something on Amazon recently?  Purchased an airline or ticket and experienced upcharges for bags, seat selection, or a snack?  Want to drive on US 36 in the fast lane or been to Universal Studios in Florida and had the "fast pass" groups cut in front of you?  The current internet-generation is accustomed to this form of bidding and although many Gen Xs and older demographics feel nickel-and-dimed, the next generation of industry professionals currently accepts and sometimes prefers this pay-for-what-you-use approach.  What does this mean for the future of the industry? Wember is often an integral party the discussion and final selection of the construction delivery method.  Over the first part of our last twelve years in providing Owner's Representation to the public sector, projects in Colorado were primarily driven by hard bid.  As the economy picked up in 2003 negotiated work such as Construction Manager at

Denied

After 12 years it finally happened, we were rejected for non-compliance. Like a beat down from Mutombo, we were stunned. After attending a the pre-bid assembly, building a solid team, preparing a thoughtful proposal, and so much more, we received notification that our submittal was missing one form and, thus, was incomplete and rejected. What to do now?? We were crushed, but quickly went to work. First, we confirmed the accuracy of the error. It was true, we did not submit one form out of the 100 requested (okay, I exaggerate). Secondly, we pleaded our case as to why we should be considered despite our error--crickets. Lastly, there was not much left to do but have a beer, wallow, and contemplate the lessons this setback taught us. 1) It reminded us that procurement policies are stringent on public projects. Procurement departments are charged with the responsibility of making

Liar, Liar

So, the dilemma unfolded, a crossroads of sorts. What to do? I am sure that most A/E/C professionals have been faced with a situation where they had to decide between telling a client what they would like to hear versus the painful truth. We received a RFP calling for a combined design and construction schedule of six months. Upon analyzing the project details, it was clear that an eleven-month schedule was required. This left us with the option of proposing a schedule and fee that matched the client’s delusions, or present the reality. Do we tell the truth and risk losing the project? Do we tell the client what they want to hear? Should we lie? The answer was obvious - present the truth. As an owner’s representative, it is counterintuitive to mislead the owner. We are, after all, supposed to watch out for their best interests. We secured

Who Pays?

If you have been through the design and construction process, regardless of the delivery method, you will at some point been presented with an add service from the design team, or a change order request from the general contractor. I am often taken aback by the client’s immediate insurgence that someone else should pay for the item in question, including ourselves, the owner’s rep.  I have found that those with the least amount of tolerance for any additional costs often look to design-build as a solution to mitigate this pain but it certainly won’t eliminate it. Why do owners feel justified in denying requests? 1. You made the mistake. Owners don’t understand why when someone makes a “mistake” on a project that they don’t automatically pay for it.  After all, it was the lack of coordination, improper documentation or lack of follow-through that was the cause, right?  Equally

Present Like A Super Bowl Announcer

Being from Chicago, I was blessed by having the Bears’ games announced by Pat Summerall and John Madden (I won’t even mention Harry Cary since this blog is football-themed).  I learned from these greats and others that presenting is an art form and every presentation matters.  What can you learn from these professionals? 1. Know when to stop talking.  Some call it diarrhea-of-the-mouth, but the fact is, what you say may not be as important as you think. If someone asks a question they usually just want an answer, they don’t need the entire history of how you came to your conclusion. 2. Know your audience. The Super Bowl announcers do a great job of getting their message out to a mass audience. This game draws a wide demographic, not just the religious watchers, to what will be an epic clash. When you present, keep in mind that not

Why Colorado in Primed for Public Private Partnerships

Originally published in the Dec. 2015 issue of Building Dialogue. There has been a lot of discussion about Public-Private Partnerships (P3s) recently in Colorado, and for good reason. Colorado leaders have positioned the state to be a leader in this delivery model and is on its way to proving that that this approach can be a viable choice for vertical buildings (social infrastructure), in addition to transportation projects.  P3s have been proven to be highly successful in Canada, Australia and Europe and it is only a matter of time before we see this project approach become more prevalent in the U.S. The most notable Colorado P3 project is the construction of additional lanes along U.S. 36. In order to allow for this project to move forward, the state passed legislation that cleared the way for funding to be applied, which is a barrier many other states can’t overcome.

Vetting Out a Cultural Fit part 2

Architect Selection Case Study - Part 2 The Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus had its official grand opening Friday, November 20th, 2015.  As we look back when we started the project on December 12, 2008 (yes, nearly seven years ago) one of the more memorable moments was the selection of the design team. In Part 2 of this two-part blog, we will focus on the interview process. In Part 1 of the blog, I discussed how we created a unique RFP, populated with questions tailored to this specific project. This approach provided the architect selection committee the ability to quickly identify firms that clearly, based on their responses (see below), didn’t understand their culture and mission. From a “highly-qualified” stance, there were obvious front runners, but some lost ground because they did not connect with the client and the spirit of the project. Some teams brought

Vetting Out a Cultural Fit part 1

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

Stop Watching Porn

We know you do it, be it online, with magazines or other medium…you can’t help yourself; but, you need to stop.  There are all types to fit your desires, but is it healthy? You view these mediums so much that they become reality and you may be living in an alternate world. Of course, I am talking about…architectural design and the media that showcase glorious architectural designs. In the 1960’s, Playboy set expectations of how the average “girl next door” should look. Now we are in the digital age, where anything goes. Just as this may not be healthy for your relationship with your partner, the same could be said for the architecture medium you are consuming.  You might tell yourself that Houzz, Architizer and The Architectural Review are sources of inspiration, but doesn’t it distort reality, leaving us to feel our design are “less-than?” Are you entering the

Ask An Owner’s Rep

Our staff is frequently asked for our opinion or insight on various industry matters, from the latest technology to best practices in securing work from specific client types. We encourage you to post a question in this blog or email me directly at pwember@wemberinc.com. Our knowledge is yours. ~ Paul Wember, Owner's Representative

Don’t Start Out Like a Drunken Sailor

In the past week, I had three clients use the word ‘f#*k’ in conversation. When clients swear around you, receive it as a compliment. Why, you ask? Think about it this way, who do you swear around? Is it your boss? Probably not. Your significant other? Maybe a bit. How about your closest colleagues and friends? More likely. In other words, do you swear around people you trust? Hell, yes! So how do you know if you can even get to this level of trust with a client? Here are some tips: Use your head as some clients are obviously off limits. It’s never going to happen. Do they wear a black shirt and a white collar? Do they spend more than 80% of their time around children? Do they have a PhD? Do they knit for a hobby? Look for clues that they may be receptive... Our

2Pac vs John Lennon

Two great artists. Two tragic deaths. Two very different styles. Is your style like 2Pac or John Lennon? 2Pac was “Me Against the World” and “All Eyes on Me”. Where John Lennon was “Imagine” and “Instant Karma”.  Where do you fall in this spectrum? You would think the obvious answer should be John Lennon, but note, this industry is not all unicorns and sunshine. Having a positive attitude is a great, but if you don’t have a little precipitation there will be no rainbows. When you begin working with a client everything is “so great, we can do it, we can meet the budget, we can give you everything you want.” While this feels like spreading peace, we all know that no project ever goes perfectly; you might want to pour a glass of Hennessy and get real. John Lennon was an inspiration and uplifting, garner his great qualities,

Love Letters

I ran into a client at an industry-related Valentine’s party and when speaking about a staff member of ours, he stated “I love working with your Project Manager and the Board loves him too.”  At Wember, we work hard to have our clients reach this level of satisfaction. How does a business get to the point of love? Why would we target this specific word, and, why should you? First, the “why.” All I can say is, who doesn’t want to be loved? It’s human nature and it’s not restricted to a significant other or family member. Being loved is the highest form of flattery and, when stated honestly, it makes you feel special. More importantly, being loved is good for business. So, how do you get to this point in a relationship? Think about it as you would if you were on Match.com. Profile Page – This

Your Most Important Task

I enjoy meeting with business development managers, principals and marketing managers and talking about the current state-of-the-industry, upcoming events and exciting opportunities. I find it fascinating to learn what each type feels is important to winning work. Marketing managers talk a lot about proposals and graphics, owners are more focused on design and why they are better, while business development managers seem to keep their scores by how many people they know.  I appreciate all they do in generating new work, but have to say, the most important task is rarely done. In my opinion, the most important thing you can do to win work is to understand why you lose work. In a year’s time, we review about 60 RFP responses from architects and contractors. On average, we get calls for feedback from approximately five firms. As a colleague who also submits proposals, I respect that it

What I am Not Thankful for This Year

To have good, you must have bad; up must have down, and to be thankful, you need to have the unthankful.  As we come into the season of giving thanks, there is so much I am thankful for, a sustainable business, a healthy family, my soft bed.  That said, there are a few things this I am not thankful for, I suggest you state the following, as Jimmy Fallon does in his bit, thank you…. Thank you AEC Marketing professionals for all the emails telling us how thankful you are for having clients that make you great. Are you great or thankful? It gets a bit blurry. I’d be thankful for having you remove me from your email list. Thank you to the company that our client didn’t select to serve on the team.  I understand that it’s frustrating to lose a project that you thought you were

Your Building Smells Like Crap

We often focus on the aesthetic of our buildings, but unless the rendering comes with a scratch and sniff component, sometimes we are only seeing the pretty picture. Odors can ruin the quality of occupant experience, no matter how beautiful the building. Water, gas, and other elements can be sources of foul smells, haunting a building as they are very hard to trace. We have had two instances where this has been a project challenge. In the first situation, the building would randomly smell like gas. There was no consistency to the situation, making it hard to resolve. We applied cognitive thinking and deductive reasoning: Determine if there was a gas leak. There was no pressure loss, so that was ruled out. Determined where the smell was coming from. The odor was coming through the vents. Analyze the mechanical intakes. It turned out that there was a gas

Scary Merger Names

We have been seeing a lot of mergers and acquisitions in the last couple years, scary stuff. We were thinking about what would happen if the trend continued and the following merged….even scarier. Happy Halloween. Zehren & Associates+Zmistowski Design Group+Zone 4 Architects = Zzzz Architects B2sj Design Group +Zone 4 Architects+Yow Architects = BS 4 Yow Group Greenfield Architects + Brown David P + Blueline Architects PC + Colorado Architecture Prtnrshp = Rainbow Color Design Hairabedian ARG Architects + klipp = Hair Klipp Conger Fuller Architects + Shike Design = Fuller Shike Architects Craig Melvin Architects + Hobbs Design Firm = Celvin and Hobbs Architects Vaught Frye Architects + Theodore K Guy Associates = Frye Guy Architects Barker Rinker Seacat and OZ Architects = BROZ Way Architects + Unreal Construction LLC = Way Unreal Construction Reynolds + Arapahoe Architects = Reynolds Arap Architects Gunson Architects + Abo Group

The Great Toothpaste Challenge

Recently my wife and I entered into a battle of wits, strength and cunning.  The challenge began while brushing our teeth, neither of us wanted to get the new tube of toothpaste out of the basement pantry, we couldn’t possibly walk that far.  For days we battled back and forth with using a lot of toothpaste to nearly none, in the hopes that the other would be left holding this hot potato.  When the toothpaste tube appeared to run out I would seemingly come up with endless creative solutions to extract everything I could.  I would roll the tube, scrape the tube, stick the brushes down in the tube, and then, one time, I couldn’t get another spec out. I waited for her to use it first knowing that it wasn’t possible to extract another drop baring cutting it open, would she?  Maybe I should first. As she

Hard Bid and Ice Sculptures

Imagine for a moment you are a maid of honor and are planning an engagement party on behalf of the bride’s parents who graciously offered to pay for the event.  The bride has sent you exact details of what she wants from the venue location to the type of wine along with a wish list of a few items, including Cinderella carriage ice sculpture.  The bride has asked to have the costs and the final list of vendors prepared for a meeting with her mother and father in four weeks, on a Saturday afternoon.  You bravely agree to assist, take the specific instructions and begin planning. The first week you are busy and don’t make any progress other than reviewing the information and generally compiling a list of who might be a good match to be a part of this big day. The second week you proceed to

My Super Model Is Hotter Than Yours

It’s long been debated who is the most beautiful person.  Be it Maxim’s Hot 100 or People’s Sexiest Man Alive, there is a lot of room for debate.  If you look at my wife you would know that I prefer tall blondes, my brother-in-law short brunettes. We could debate forever on what is better, but in the end there truly is no better, just what we prefer. When making your personal ranking would you create your shortlist by selecting someone who has done the most photo shoots, won the most awards or is the highest paid?  No, but sometimes we do. Stop playing the better game, it doesn’t work. You can’t convince anyone that your design is superior any more than you can convince them you should be on the Hot 100 list. When you look at the Hot 100 list you may see the typical definition of

Let’s Collaborate, or Not

So much has been made of collaboration and implementing integrated project delivery systems; the benefits can be exciting, but the process can also be disappointing and a point of contention.  Wember continuously advocates for project management technologies, in particular the use of our online Owner’s Representative software.  We are also using Bluebeam, Skype, Doodle and many other tools to collaborate and fortunately, other members of the project team do as well, including architects and contractors; unfortunately, they are often different from one another.  They work in a variety of industry software including Vela System, Timberline, Submittal Exchange, Plangrid and many more. This makes for many different platforms, which can defeat any time-saving promises made by using an integrated process. We have found when working with larger firms that have an established IT department and standards policy, they mandate to work be done on their systems, no exceptions.  When

Interview No-Show

As a small business of eight, I, as the owner, have never had to miss an interview in person; until today.  This raised the question of what do you do if you, or one of your team members is a no-show due to a conflict.  Let’s start with what we have seen as options: The cardboard cutout.  Albeit cute, the cardboard cutout lacks any sense of personal connection.  You might as well bring a cutout of a supermodel or sports star, it will be more interesting to look at. The substitute.  More personal than the cardboard cutout, but imagine going on a date with the person’s friend as opposed to your future wife, it just doesn’t feel the same. Send in the sales team.  Sending in the sales team can be effective as presentation skills and talking points are dialed in but this is risky and can fall

Do you have project stress?

Design and construction projects are filled with constant negotiations, decisions, and deadlines. The combination puts a lot of pressure on the core teams involved, and although usually evenly distributed across the life of the project, there are times when stress is particularly elevated: 1.  An estimate is over budget 2.  A design goal is not achieved 3.  Changes are requested or required late in the project Over the years we have found that project stress brings our predictable behaviors for those with certain personality traits: 1.  Someone who is overbearing will dominate the conversation 2.  Someone who consistently makes ethical decisions will do so with stronger conviction 3.  Someone who avoids confrontation will do whatever they can to make the issue disappear We recommend that during a project, starting at a selection process, you pay attention to people’s personalities. As you develop theses relationships focus on individual’s conflict

Zombies

Working on public projects often entails a phase that private projects don’t…the public process.  This process is always unique simply because the people attending public meetings have their own opinions and personalities.  When presenting you never know if you will have a happy or hostile crowd; supportive or outwardly against anything you propose, no matter what you do.  We have been a part of many public meetings, some more successful than others but none that actually let people vote, until now. This particular client’s communication team came up with the concept that the public should but be able to be part of the project at a higher level, by voting on the design.  The design team worked with them and determined we had to narrow down what they would actually vote on that wouldn’t impact the design timeline in a negative way.  After some discussion we agreed that

Time Management is a Proposal’s Best Friend

You have been tracking a particular job for a year and the request for proposal is finally out. It’s time to dive in…immediately. Don’t wait, don’t set it aside, assess your game plan. It is common to forget the amount of work it takes to compose a proposal. Waiting to close to the submission deadline to begin creates chaos for all of those involved and results in a dull submission, void of articulation to the project at hand and often, full of canned responses. Creating a response to an RFP may take a total of thirty hours; however, it should be viewed as thirty hours over the course of the time elapsed from the RFP issue date to the due date.  Waiting till the week ahead, or even worse, a few days out, is stressful and the proposal has had no time to breathe. Spacing the work out

Charrette Syndrome

Do you suffer from Charrette Syndrome?  You can determine the degree of your ailment simply by counting the number of times you use the word “charrette” in an interview. 1-2 times – Early onset and you should be monitored 3-6 times – You have the syndrome and you should seek therapy 6 or more times – You should be institutionalized and no longer attend interviews After interviewing architects with clients, they often ask, “what is a charrette and why do I need one?”  We don’t give them the institutional answer, but for this blog, we will provide some detailed information. The word charrette refers to any collaborative session in which a group of designers drafts a solution to a design problem; it is born out of working up to the last minute of the deadline.  According to Wikipedia, the word charrette is French for “cart” or “chariot". In the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 19th century

I Wish Owner’s Reps Would _______.

At a recent meeting with a design team, we performed a market-survey of sorts. We wanted to gain insight into what we as Owner’s Reps should be mindful of in providing services. We covered many topics from writing better RFP’s to project frustrations. At the end of our discussions, we asked each participant to fill-in-the-blank: “I wish owner’s representatives would ______.” Below are some of the responses. 1. Generate better RFP’s by asking more relevant questions. All too often RFP’s are copied from one project to another resulting in a document that sets all kinds of technical requirements but don’t seek to find the best fit. Rules and formatting requirements can force the submitting companies into boxes; it doesn’t take long for the teams to all look so similar that all that is left to differentiate is a quantitative scoring (how many similar projects have you completed). Although

Hard Bid and Air Travel

My father was a pilot for United for 36 years and I benefited from his job by being able to travel standby all the way through college. When I started flying, 50% of Americans had flown on a plane compared to nearly 80% today. Airplanes had class segregation via a solid curtain. First-class had an open bar and real silverware, including knives. Then came the race for low fares spearheaded by the Southwest Airlines' hub-and-spoke model in lieu of larger airlines’ less efficient network system. Wrap it in a bow called the internet and you have what the construction industry has dealt with for years, hard bid. Last week my wife purchased her round trip ticket to Chicago for $209, note that when we moved to Denver 14 years ago a round trip ticket cost $200. She was thrilled with the price and made it safely to her

I Wish My Design Team Would _________.

We recently had a team meeting to discuss many topics, from writing better RFP’s to project frustrations. The design team that joined us ended the meeting by asking each of our team members to fill in the blank “I wish my design team (architect and engineers) would ______.”  Below were some of the responses from our diverse team of professionals. Be more up front As Owners Representatives we are put in the position of gathering information and providing updates to the stakeholders.  It’s not unheard of for us to propose a schedule to the team, discuss it and agree to it only to find out later that the design team (architect or engineer) didn’t have the horsepower to meet the schedule. We feel betrayed as we made the effort to work together to define the goal and it look as if we are not effectively working together. Things happen

Village Lofts Post Tension Garage Work

Top Five Indicators You Should Not Submit a Proposal

Remember the old cartoons when the character’s head would turn into a big sucker? Ever feel that way after getting left off the shortlist or when being notified who the project was awarded to? Here are some things to look for when deciding to submit a proposal in response to a request for proposal. Short proposal timeframe - If an owner has given you less than two weeks from the time the RFP is advertised to the date you are required to submit, they may be hoping you won’t find the RFP, and, if you do, that you won’t have enough time to respond. Hidden advertisement - Public agencies are required to advertise RFPs but often there is no requirement where they do so. If you locate the announcement in an obscure journal, take pause. RFP asks you to define your scope of services - Some owners don’t have an

My DD’s Don’t Look Like Your DD’s

Your client is confused and confusion leads to frustration. You have presented an AIA agreement to them calling out multiple project phases including Programming, Schematic Design, Design Development and so on.  Respect that many of these terms are new to clients and they don’t understand why you are making this so complicated, why not go to 0 to 100% complete? Design teams often state that critical sign offs are needed during the process. These industry standards are in place to protect the design team and require them to make sure the client is getting what they want. Read that last sentence again and check your heartbeat if it didn’t make you cringe.  Why on earth do we need a process that would require the service provider to confirm the client is happy?  The truth is, that’s  a hard sell.  The reality is these phases protect the design team

Mullets and Drawing Phases

My father-in-law was a barber for nearly 40 years and he had his process dialed in. He was able to deliver a great haircut and evolved a method that allowed his customers to be engaged and informed while signing off on critical phases. I found some similarities to architectural design phases and thought I would share. Concept Design – When I sit in the chair he confirms what I would like done, this changes based on the time of year (summer/winter) or if there is an event coming up, maybe I want a mullet for the upcoming carnival. I share with him pictures of previous haircuts that I liked or a picture of the latest celebrity style that I want to emulate. We agree and I “sign off” on the Concept Design. Schematic Design – Before cutting anything he asks me numerous questions such as do I like my neck tapered, how

Village Lofts Facebook Page

Wember has developed a Facebook site for the project. The purpose of the site is to provide updates throughout the project, and perhaps more importantly, offer the residents the opportunity to engage the project team directly through comments and messages. The following link can be used to access the site

Village Lofts – Exploratory Work

The project has reached a major milestone with the beginning of the exploratory work commencing on October 15, 2013. This work will require ASR to cut small openings in the ceilings of 122 units so that the structural engineer can verify the existing conditions, make necessary design changes, and ultimately limit the amount of time spent in each unit during the actual repairs. During this initial work, photos will be taken in the units prior to any work taking place. These photos will only be reviewed if needed, and will be stored on a secure database. The project team and residents do not have access to these photos! The project team has communicated with residents through postings, emails, and direct phone calls in an attempt to make this as seamless as possible. If you have not provided your preferred method of contact and contact information, please do so

Utilizing Facebook Pages to Gauge Public Opinion

Businesses and organizations have been trying to find a way to gauge the opinion of their client base for years. With the help of social media it is now possible to engage with prospects, clients and fans and find out what exactly they like, need and want. This is immensely beneficial for organizations like developers, city planners and civic industries where the public opinion is important in shaping the design plan since most of these organization want to make sure the product they are designing and spending money on is one that will be appreciated and utilized by the public at large. Also, social media can really help gain more public opinion because it allows people to engage in their own time. Attendance at public meetings has dwindled over the years especially in non-controversial projects but with social media organizations can still gain perspective without having to worry

Village Lofts – General Update – October 2013

After years of waiting, the approach is clear and the end is in sight! ASR Companies was selected as the General Contractor, and is the last piece of the puzzle along with Owner’s Representative Wember and Structural Engineer JR Harris. The Exploratory Work, October 15th to November 6th, is the first step in the process (for more information see Blog: Exploratory Work), and will be followed by the structural remediation and garage post tensioning. Currently, all phases of the project are planned for completion in early-July 2014. Wember is dedicated to providing updates and communication throughout the project. Updates can be found on blogs, emails, newsletters, as well as Facebook https://www.facebook.com/VillageLoftsHOAPresentedbyWember. In addition, ASR has provided mailboxes that will be up for the duration of the project where you can return contact information and provide feedback. We look forward to interaction, and encourage all to participate!

This LEED Tastes Like Crow

As mentioned in our last blog post, we recently conducted a study of a portfolio of our projects pertaining to LEED and energy performance. After analyzing energy consumption and cost over 20 buildings of similar size, type, and region over a wide range of year built and LEED status components we found some interesting results. This blog will cover one area of our findings, LEED vs LEED light. I have not always been a big proponent of LEED due to the increases costs, point system and paperwork. But after my study on our projects performance I have to change my opinion as upon reviewing the data and talking with facility managers it became clear that making a true commitment to LEED increased performance versus projects that did not commit to LEED. We liken the results of someone training to run a 6 minute mile versus running fast. Per

LEED is Half the Battle

We recently conducted a study on a portfolio of our projects pertaining to LEED and energy performance. After analyzing energy consumption and cost over 20 buildings of similar size, type, and region over a wide range of year built and LEED status components we found some interesting results. This blog will cover one area of our findings, the human component. When we finished one of our first buildings designed to LEED standards we, of course, went through owner training. When the training started the first comment from the facility manager was “oh no, a computer”, not good. We had given the client a relatively sophisticated system but nothing out of the ordinary for a modern building, the problem was the manager hadn’t worked in a modern facility. Training took place but it wasn’t long before the person was demoted and a new manager with the needed experience was

Bad Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Ideas

The LEED scorecard is a tool pretty much standard on projects in the United States and seeing immense growth overseas. But like any tool it’s not perfect and we thought we would share a couple of situation where LEED may lead you to an improper design solution. Raised floor mechanical system in a Detention Center. Showers in grade school facility. (Sure they may have a lot more bike riders but isn’t it more sustainable not to shower anyway?) Additional Bike Racks at a Senior Center. Dual flush in the men’s toilet stall (you may have to ponder this one for a minute) White roofs in Alaska. Solotubes in a movie theater As professionals I’m sure errors of this magnitude wouldn’t be encountered but the point is think about how to approach your project for what is right for you and your client, not the guideline. What other LEED

ConsensusDOCS vs. AIA Construction Forms

It has long been a contention in the construction industry that the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Construction forms have been biased towards design professionals and they place too heavy a burden of liability on the shoulders of contractors and owners. To that end, in 2007, a new set of construction and design forms were developed called ConsensusDOCS. While AIA Construction Forms and ConsensusDOCS share many more similarities than differences, there are some key differentiating factors that your firm should be aware of before you choose one over the other. It’s a common perception in the engineering, design and construction realms that AIA Construction forms favor architects, and to some degree, this is true. It lacks a specific definition of the relationship between the design professional and the owner and it places less responsibility on the architect/engineer with regards to the interpretation of the architectural plans during construction.

Apps – Using Technology to Make Your Job Easier

The first time I saw an app was from the IT Director on a project during construction. He proudly showed me his level on his new Iphone. I advised him that he might not want to bring that out during the next OAC meeting. This initial experience and many following left me underwhelmed by the possibilities of this new revolutionary technology but times have changed and so has my opinion. We have been using our phones for communication be it texting, email, and live video (showing consultants field conditions in live format) for some time but the field of applications has changed immensely and is continuing to evolve. Recently I was on a site walk with a client and we were trying to determine where the property line might be, comparing a concept drawing to a google map on my phone was ok but didn’t give me the

Setting the Mood

So you have settled into the interview and your carefully crafted PowerPoint presentation is ready to go. The audience is waiting to hear what you have to say. Your heart rate is up and you are wide awake and full of anticipation. The committee members are sipping coffee and trying to sort through all the data; they are exhausted from cramming in the re-review of five proposals.  You are interview number three, it's 1:30 p.m., they just had lunch and are ready for a siesta….and then, off go the lights. People often say using PowerPoint in the interview process are always a bad idea, but is it really the PowerPoint that’s the problem? I can tell you, as someone sitting across from presenters, it’s not the PowerPoint, it’s the mood. I personally have been in an interview where the team closed every blind, stood in the corner of

If you’re going to tell a story have a point…

It makes it so much more interesting for the listener. Steve Martin - Planes, Trains, and Automobiles We have ended many interviews with this classic movie line rattling around in our heads. The interesting thing is that the selection committee usually knows you are headed in that direction from the first slide. How do you prevent the long painful journey? Have a point? No. Have three, good things come in threes. What are we getting at? Talking points. We have found in our experience (remember that we to interview for our projects too) that we can address nearly any situation if the team knows what to rally around. Talking points provide a roadmap for your team they make your message consistent and drive home the reason you should be selected. Your talking points should be integral to your presentation regardless of format. Photos of projects, words, and deliverables

Stepping In It

We have all bombed in an interview in our personal lives or when representing the company that keeps us gainfully employed. As an Owner’s Representative we have the opportunity to witness some great interviews and some horrific blunders. So what do you do when things are not going so well? We recently interviewed a design firm for a project. They were highly qualified, well prepared, and considered a front runner. The interview started off with introductions and general niceties and proceeded into a discussion about the site. The firm went on to talk about what a great site it was and how wonderful it was that there was plenty of room for parking, building orientation, and ease of access. Then they needed to pause. The body language and murmurs in the room led them to believe something was amiss, and it was. The team asked if there was

11 Reasons Why You Should Hire an Owner’s Representative

Communication: You have a team of experts with your architect, contractor, legal, and accounting team but who sees the big picture? Having an Owner’s Representative facilitates communication across team members in a timely fashion. Note, the owner’s can often times be the culprit of why projects are delayed; an Owner’s Representative can assist on preventing these delays and miscommunications. Cost Savings: You hire an accountant to do your taxes and often their efforts often return results that cover their fees. Owner’s Representatives should not make a claim that they will save their entire fee through their efforts but it is a rare case when their involvement does not result in savings to their clients. Like an accountant you also are receiving piece of mind that your project is following industry protocols reducing your risk. Time: You as the Owner have a job and most likely it is more

More On Talking Points

Per our previous blog we discussed the importance of talking points. This blog builds on that concept. Remember that friend you had in college, the one you loved hanging out with? They always seemed to have a crowd around them often made up of the opposite sex. Recall why you enjoyed their company? Chances are they had these things going for them: They liked to laugh They had wit They could tell a good story So what does this have to do with an interview and talking points? A lot! Ever have an interview that’s going well and then train wrecks in the Q&A? You’re not alone. Chances are you had practiced the presentation portion but weren’t prepared for the free form part of the interview: you may have been thrown a real zinger of a question. You may have known your talking points but you didn’t know

Look Who’s Talking

My first project interview as an architectural project manager was terrifying. Not being adept at public speaking, not being familiar with the specifics of the job, and having the feeling your job was on the line, was too much. Fortunately, it didn’t matter. When it came time to interview, our orchestra of a presentation turned into a one-man band. Our forty minute introduction led right into Q&A, which rarely ended up in my court. When I was called upon to contribute, it was usually at the direction of my own superior, the principal-in-charge, not the client themselves. I don’t have sour grapes, in fact, I was truly relieved. As Owner’s Representative, we are involved with the interviewing of firms of types on a regular basis. We see the nervousness in not only the young staff, but principals too. Face it, there is a lot on the line. As

Collocation

At the Construction Owner Association of America (COAA) conference we recently attended in Baltimore there were a lot of sessions and even more discussion on Integrated Project Delivery (IPD). One of the critical items for success was identified as collocation of the team. The consensus was that to truly collaborate teams need to be put together and removed from “silo’s” and sometimes office influences (I think this means ownership and their own agendas). This integrated approach goes beyond just putting people in the same room but removes them from the culture of their office and thrusts them into a level of communication not normally practiced in the industry. Although a great ideas in concept the conversation led to some real issues that would need to be addressed. Logistics: Location: So if you are going to collocate where do you put the people. If it is a truly neutral

Describing Construction Delivery Methods

One of our roles in the AEC industry, especially as an Owner’s Representative, is to educate clients on a multitude of items, including Construction Delivery Methods. We have presented the options to clients many times over, only to watch their eyes glaze over with all the acronyms and options. So now, via this blog, we take a bit of a different approach to highlighting the similarities and differences between each methodology. The Context: Your anniversary is coming up and you want to treat your spouse to a very special dinner; you have budgeted $125 per plate, and you think about what you want to achieve to make it special. Scenario One. You go to your favorite restaurant and meet with the head chef. You ask him to come up with a meal that includes three courses - salad, dinner, and desert - as well as a bottle of

Tale of Two Libraries: CMGC vs. Hard Bid V1.3

As outlined there are many differences between CM/GC and Hard Bid projects which were called out under pros and cons in the first installment of this blog. I realize now one significant oversight that was not mentioned, staffing. When you hire an Owner’s Rep or Architect on a project you will often ask to meet the design director, Project Manager, Quality Control offices, and even major consultants such as the mechanical engineer and lighting designer. This process holds true in selecting a CM/GC. As the contractor under this delivery model joins the team early you will want to know who is handling preconstruction manager, estimating, who is the project manager, and most importantly who is the superintendent. In the same way you would want to shortlist your design team based on qualifications such as experience with a project type you may even be interested in if they have

Tale of Two Libraries: CMGC vs. Hard Bid V1.2

On the Green Valley Ranch Library (our DBB project), we have just officially finalized the contract with the General Contractor (GC). Now the “rubber meets the road”, and we get to see how the GC will deliver the project for the amount bid. It should be noted that the contract amount came in roughly 30% below the budget and the low bid contractor has seen the other bid totals. At this time the two pros listed in our previous blog regarding DBB have been realized: The process provided a lower price for the Owner The process allowed more contractors to bid the project The design team incorporated many alternates into the bid documents with the hope of accepting at least a few of them at the time of bidding, as stated, the market netted bids well below the estimate provided by the design team. All of the alternates

Social Media in the AEC Industry

Blogs and Social Media Social Media continues to gain significant momentum and, like many, we are challenged to understand the full meaning and impact of LinkedIn, Face Book, Twitter, and blogging. Our use of these tools has increased and, like anything, the more you use it the more you understand the value. What we do know is that the AEC is relationship based and with the increased competition and turnover in the workplace your network and relationships with clients are more important than ever. LinkedIn is a tool that we are using heavily from posting job ads to finding consultants. Recently we were searching for a consultant to assist on a marketing endeavor. By using the search features we discovered that one of our employees was connected to a local professional that was a great match. We easily could determine who some of the marketing consultants clients were,

Tale of Two Libraries: CMGC vs. Hard Bid V1.1

In the year ahead, we will be in the fortunate position of project managing the design and construction of two new libraries of very similar program (needs, size, and budget)for the Denver Public Library – one located in Green Valley Ranch and one in the Stapleton neighborhood. This will put us in a unique position as Green Valley Ranch is being delivered via the design-bid-build method and Stapleton by the Construction Manager/General Contractor (CM/GC) method. This scenario will allow a side-by-side comparison of these two delivery methods, and a great way to contrast them “real-time”. We’re calling it “The Tale of Two Libraries”. For context, and to set the stage for our future blogs on this subject, the status of each project is as follows: Green Valley Ranch – the project has been fully designed, and we are in the final stages of contractor selection; construction will likely

Colorado Department of Education (CDE) Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) Program V1.2

Wember Inc. attended the board meeting on February 16, 2010 held at the Department of Education office located at 1200 Grant Street in Denver. The meeting was well attended by submitting agencies, Owner's Representatives, design professionals, and contractors. The meeting started with a follow up to the discussion of North Routt Charter School who was recently denied the grant funds due to a failure to meet the requirements of the matching funds. North Routt requested that the committee to prioritize their projects at the time the match funds are produced. The committee decided to put approved projects like Mapleton and North Routt at the top of the list for consideration but would not agree to prioritize the projects. Much time was spent discussing the programs intention and future. At this meeting it was presented that the sources that fund the BEST program including the Colorado Lottery and Land

Colorado Department of Education (CDE) Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) Program V1.1

The Colorado Department of Education continues to develop and refine the program that was Established in 2008 with the signing of HB08-1335, BEST provides an annual amount of funding, in the form of competitive grants, to school districts, charter schools, institute charter schools, boards of cooperative educational services and the Colorado school for the deaf and the blind. BEST funds can be used for the construction of new schools as well as general construction and renovation of existing school facility systems and structures. The program is celebrating some successes and working through unique challenges. Wember Inc. attended the January 26, 2010 Board Meeting along with many others from the design and construction industry. The meeting was standing room only with the board members and BEST staff compressed in the center of the room. The meeting began with typical housekeeping and then went into of the North Routt Community

Making The Pitch To Bring On An Owner’s Representative

It is true; not all projects need an owner’s representative. Determining if you need one is complicated, but here are some points to consider: Project Size. The smaller the project, the less the likelihood that a third-party project manager is required. Generally speaking, projects under $1.5M lack the complexity and scale to absorb the additional costs. Consider engaging project managers’ on-call services to procure your the architect and general contractor, negotiate contracts, and serve as

The Three Cs of Interviewing

At a recent industry event, I was asked, “What are the three most important things clients look for from teams during an interview?” Over the years, we observed what wins over clients and what falls flat. First, congratulations on making it to the interview. In 2020 the average response count to CMAR and Design RFPs on projects which we are managing has been fourteen.  Standing out and making it to the top of the list

The Question I Am Most Asked

I often get asked, "Why did you leave architecture to become an owner's representative?" When asked this question at a recent conference, I found myself robotically repeating what is a partial truth, albeit a diplomatic response. It goes something like this: While I am still technically an architect, I did indeed choose a different path. When I worked as an architect, my responsibility was to manage a team of designers, draftsmen, interior designers, and consultants.

Technology Enables Staff, Culture Empowers Them

Many of our colleagues are working to adapt to the new reality of working remotely. As a team that has been operating this way for sixteen years, we say, welcome! In speaking with colleagues about this stay-at-home time reality, it is good to hear that so many are having an easy time setting up the remote technology to allow employees to make the transition while maintaining productivity. The unfortunate news is that there never was

The New Normal: Virtual Interviews

It didn't take long in this time of social separation for one of our clients to face the challenge of how to manage the procurement interviews. Our client remained bullish on keeping public sector projects moving forward and shifted to hosting the interviews online. In the end, the same interview elements that win awards from an in-person setting proved to be the same for the online format. It was gratifying to witness all of the

Leveraging Remote Technology

So, you're on WebX and feeling like you solved your work-from-home challenges. Your staff is staying connected and working on tasks. But there is more. The success of continuing effective collaboration in a remote business model is dependent on the training of employees in best practices and clarifying expectations are the real make-it-or-break-it. (Technology Enables Staff, Culture Empowers Them).  After sixteen years of managing an all-remote business structure, there are some pillars to success for

Scammed

Earlier this year, I received a call from my controller asking me to confirm the wire transfer that I requested for $35,000. Surprised, I asked, “what wire transfer?” She had received not only a request but responses from me by email approving the transfer.  Fortunately, she was astute to realize we have never done a wire transfer before and that we don’t send money without approved invoices. So, what did we do? First, we contacted

Stereotypes

It takes time to develop stereotypes, and with the owner’s representation being a newer niche service in the AEC industry, we have not fully formulated a stigma, but it appears to be in the works. As an architect turned owner's representative fifteen years ago, I have gained a perspective as I guide clients through the design and construction process. I quickly learned that there are owners sometimes buy into widely held beliefs stemming from architecture

Work from Anywhere (that your project requires)

One of the most common questions I receive about running Wember is about our work-from-anywhere business structure. Our company does not have an office. Yes, the cobbler's son has no shoes, and we, who manage design and construction, do not have our own office. How could this be? Let me explain how it all started. After winning a large program of work with Anythink Library, I hired my first employee; I was ready for the

The Construction Labor Shortage is an Owner Issue

It is predicted that there will be a pilot shortage. Over the next two decades, 87 new pilots will need to be trained every day to be ready to fly a commercial airliner in order to meet our insatiable demand to travel by air. Industry leaders are finding ways to attract today’s youth to a career in aviation, but given the time and cost it takes to become a pilot, the solution must be

Deciding Between Renovating a Clubhouse or Building A New One

Typically, when a clubhouse hits around 15 years since a major renovation has been conducted and the membership is beginning to feel either the neglect or lack of modern amenities, the ownership starts thinking, is now the time to embark on a major change in the form of a capital improvement project? The next elephant in the room to address is deciding whether to renovate or build new. The gut reaction might be to

Cars and Relationships

My wife’s car was twelve years old and between the paint touch-ups from my guy Benny and the engine that rattles more than an angry snake, it was time to move on. I reached out to my brother and resident deal-hunter for advice. He told me not to be afraid of buying a car out of state if it was the right car. He expanded on the concept by indicating that when you buy

Scary Merger Names Part 2

The A/E/C industry has seen many mergers and acquisitions in the past few years. As a follow up to the original "Scary Merger Name" blog, we gave some thought to a few more that would be fun to see! Zehren & Associates+Zmistowski Design Group+Zone 4 Architects = Zzzz Architects B2sj Design Group +Zone 4 Architects+Yow Architects = BS 4 Yow Group Greenfield Architects + Brown David P + Blueline Architects PC  = Rainbow Color

Is The Need For Speed Costing You More Than You Realize?

During the recession, the projects that were funded enjoyed the ability to move quickly through design and construction phases seamlessly. The abundance of “A” team members, available subcontractor labor, and an attitude of appreciation from all involved, created a climate for producing successful projects. As the bull market continues across Colorado, we are still seeing bear market attitudes toward schedules. Driving the project schedule is critical to the project flow and it has to

“Dear Abby, I’ve Been Married 20 Years And ….”

This year my wife, Vicki, and I celebrated 20 years of marriage; and we can both tell you we are grateful, it’s been mostly harmonious. What makes it work? I’m no Dear Abby, but as I reflect on how my wife and I interact, I realize there is an alignment between the actions that help personal relationships succeed and those that bolster client relationships. (1) Put the toilet seat down. OK, not literally, but

Myth #7 – Owner’s Reps Select the General Contractor

It was a good day, indeed. Earlier this spring, Wember was notified that we had been selected to serve as owner’s representative for the much anticipated State of Colorado, Department of Agriculture’s new laboratory. Our efforts of tracking the project for over four years paid off! We had worked diligently to align our company’s experience and key team members and poured hours into devising a thoughtful proposal. We knew this was a special project

Should You Be Using AIA Contract Documents?

In 2011 I wrote a blog comparing the two primary contract platforms in the A/E/C industry, AIA contract documents and ConsensusDOCS, https://wemberinc.com/consensusdocs-vs-aia-construction-forms/.   After a recent training session with a team of legal professionals, I was surprised by their strong support the use of the AIA Contract Documents. The AIA promotes the use of their documents through following statements below, also found on their website: https://www.aiala.com/why-use-aia-documents-2/ AIA documents are fair.  AIA contracts and forms are

Damn, I’m 45

“Turns out, 45 years old is just 45 years old. An age that means you are old enough not to feel young anymore, but not old enough to complain about it. It’s like the middle child of ages... no one is impressed or thinks your turning 45 is a big deal but you.”  Huffington Post When Wember turned 10, I was 42 and I wrote this blog, https://wemberinc.com/wember-turns-10/; it’s fun to be 10 after

Should you set GMP at Schematic Design?

Should you set your Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP) at schematic design?  No, you should not set it at schematic design.  Should you set your guaranteed maximum price (GMP) at construction documents?  Let’s discuss this further. The GMP on a project is the point where you ask your contractor to lock in the costs for the project and, in theory, transfer the risk to them. And although we agree that locking in a price does

Feastability

Portmanteaus words are a way to add colorful meaning to a thing or occurrence; some terms have become so commonly used they are part of our vocabulary. From the Chunnel to tween and medivac, these words inform us in a twitter-style efficiency. Entrepreneur Magazine often showcases portmanteaus words and the digital age has created many new ones like: Cellfish – an individual who continues talking on their phone when it is clearly being rude

Who Should Own the Contingency?

A good contingency plan requires continuous thought and planning, whether you are going on vacation to Mexico, climbing Mt. Everest, or tackling a capital improvement project--things go wrong. As a father of three, and a business owner, I find myself commonly swerving through what could go wrong next and how to circumvent potential obstacles and recover from bumps in the road. I am not being pessimistic; I am being a survivalist. When it comes

Myth #1 Busted – We Have Long-standing Relationships With All Clients

Last year I was honored to be selected to serve on a panel of owner’s representatives at the 2016 AIA Symposium. While the discussions that ensued were informative and thought provoking, it was the dialogue that occurred off stage that stuck with me most. I was repeatedly approached by inquiring architects who wanted to know “Why don’t Owner’s Representatives issue better RFPs and guide their clients through a more refined selection process?” While I

A Look Back at 2016

John Glenn passed away, Donald Trump is President Elect, and developers are turning Nazi camps into luxury resorts; 2016 appears to be the year of “What just happened?” More close to home, I have reviewed the AIA, AGC, and the Deltek reports, spoken with numerous industry professionals, and analyzed trends on the projects we are managing to conclude the following opinion: generally speaking, there continues to be skeptical optimism related to continued growth and

Breaking Into a New Market

I was recently asked by a smaller-sized architecture firm how to win work for a project type with which they had no prior experience. Many of us have faced this quandary. It can be frustrating; but, with tenacity and smart business decisions it can be done. We went on to discuss some options. 1.  Hire for it. At one point, we had no school experience and wanted to break into the market. When we

Building is Scary!

It all started with a spider---a giant 13-foot spider.  “Harold,” who lives in my crawl space all winter and summer, emerges every Halloween in our front yard. He holds a special place in my heart as my kids and I designed and built it together. Halloween, more than any other holiday, reminds me of how design and construction engages a community and impacts all involved. Since the birth of Harold the neighborhood kids have

What Not to Say in an Interview

As Owner’s Representatives we have participated in hundreds of interviews witnessing some engaging, educational and enlightening presentations from an impressive list of architecture firms and general contractors. That said, every now and then we observe professionals fold under pressure and say things they might regret. Here are a few things we advise not saying during an interview. “Sweetie” Nothing is as impressive to a woman as using terms of endearment in a professional setting.

Feedback Etiquette

The cursed proposal, and the hopefully-to-follow, nerve-inducing interview, are both part of what the A/E/C industry endures to win work. The process costs teams thousands of dollars in staff resources, printing costs, even on small projects. It is a serious decision and investment to submit. When working with owners during the procurement process, we advise them to respect the efforts put forth by the submitting firms, particularly those who weren’t awarded the work. We

Here’s Your Fee

In speaking with a Principal of an established architectural firm that recently entered the Front Range market, I came to find out he and his colleagues were perplexed by firms’ common practice of sometimes using professional fees as a differentiator when submitting on projects. “What’s the deal with professional architectural fees in this market?“ he asked. Not sure where he was going, I replied, “How do you mean?” He went on to explain that

Amazon, Uber, Airlines, Toll Roads, Disney

Buy something on Amazon recently?  Purchased an airline or ticket and experienced upcharges for bags, seat selection, or a snack?  Want to drive on US 36 in the fast lane or been to Universal Studios in Florida and had the "fast pass" groups cut in front of you?  The current internet-generation is accustomed to this form of bidding and although many Gen Xs and older demographics feel nickel-and-dimed, the next generation of industry professionals

Denied

After 12 years it finally happened, we were rejected for non-compliance. Like a beat down from Mutombo, we were stunned. After attending a the pre-bid assembly, building a solid team, preparing a thoughtful proposal, and so much more, we received notification that our submittal was missing one form and, thus, was incomplete and rejected. What to do now?? We were crushed, but quickly went to work. First, we confirmed the accuracy of the error.

Liar, Liar

So, the dilemma unfolded, a crossroads of sorts. What to do? I am sure that most A/E/C professionals have been faced with a situation where they had to decide between telling a client what they would like to hear versus the painful truth. We received a RFP calling for a combined design and construction schedule of six months. Upon analyzing the project details, it was clear that an eleven-month schedule was required. This left us

Who Pays?

If you have been through the design and construction process, regardless of the delivery method, you will at some point been presented with an add service from the design team, or a change order request from the general contractor. I am often taken aback by the client’s immediate insurgence that someone else should pay for the item in question, including ourselves, the owner’s rep.  I have found that those with the least amount of

Present Like A Super Bowl Announcer

Being from Chicago, I was blessed by having the Bears’ games announced by Pat Summerall and John Madden (I won’t even mention Harry Cary since this blog is football-themed).  I learned from these greats and others that presenting is an art form and every presentation matters.  What can you learn from these professionals? 1. Know when to stop talking.  Some call it diarrhea-of-the-mouth, but the fact is, what you say may not be as

Why Colorado in Primed for Public Private Partnerships

Originally published in the Dec. 2015 issue of Building Dialogue. There has been a lot of discussion about Public-Private Partnerships (P3s) recently in Colorado, and for good reason. Colorado leaders have positioned the state to be a leader in this delivery model and is on its way to proving that that this approach can be a viable choice for vertical buildings (social infrastructure), in addition to transportation projects.  P3s have been proven to be

Vetting Out a Cultural Fit part 2

Architect Selection Case Study - Part 2 The Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus had its official grand opening Friday, November 20th, 2015.  As we look back when we started the project on December 12, 2008 (yes, nearly seven years ago) one of the more memorable moments was the selection of the design team. In Part 2 of this two-part blog, we will focus on the interview process. In Part 1 of the

Vetting Out a Cultural Fit part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stop Watching Porn

We know you do it, be it online, with magazines or other medium…you can’t help yourself; but, you need to stop.  There are all types to fit your desires, but is it healthy? You view these mediums so much that they become reality and you may be living in an alternate world. Of course, I am talking about…architectural design and the media that showcase glorious architectural designs. In the 1960’s, Playboy set expectations of how

Ask An Owner’s Rep

Our staff is frequently asked for our opinion or insight on various industry matters, from the latest technology to best practices in securing work from specific client types. We encourage you to post a question in this blog or email me directly at pwember@wemberinc.com. Our knowledge is yours. ~ Paul Wember, Owner's Representative

Don’t Start Out Like a Drunken Sailor

In the past week, I had three clients use the word ‘f#*k’ in conversation. When clients swear around you, receive it as a compliment. Why, you ask? Think about it this way, who do you swear around? Is it your boss? Probably not. Your significant other? Maybe a bit. How about your closest colleagues and friends? More likely. In other words, do you swear around people you trust? Hell, yes! So how do you

2Pac vs John Lennon

Two great artists. Two tragic deaths. Two very different styles. Is your style like 2Pac or John Lennon? 2Pac was “Me Against the World” and “All Eyes on Me”. Where John Lennon was “Imagine” and “Instant Karma”.  Where do you fall in this spectrum? You would think the obvious answer should be John Lennon, but note, this industry is not all unicorns and sunshine. Having a positive attitude is a great, but if you don’t

Love Letters

I ran into a client at an industry-related Valentine’s party and when speaking about a staff member of ours, he stated “I love working with your Project Manager and the Board loves him too.”  At Wember, we work hard to have our clients reach this level of satisfaction. How does a business get to the point of love? Why would we target this specific word, and, why should you? First, the “why.” All I

Your Most Important Task

I enjoy meeting with business development managers, principals and marketing managers and talking about the current state-of-the-industry, upcoming events and exciting opportunities. I find it fascinating to learn what each type feels is important to winning work. Marketing managers talk a lot about proposals and graphics, owners are more focused on design and why they are better, while business development managers seem to keep their scores by how many people they know.  I appreciate

What I am Not Thankful for This Year

To have good, you must have bad; up must have down, and to be thankful, you need to have the unthankful.  As we come into the season of giving thanks, there is so much I am thankful for, a sustainable business, a healthy family, my soft bed.  That said, there are a few things this I am not thankful for, I suggest you state the following, as Jimmy Fallon does in his bit, thank

Your Building Smells Like Crap

We often focus on the aesthetic of our buildings, but unless the rendering comes with a scratch and sniff component, sometimes we are only seeing the pretty picture. Odors can ruin the quality of occupant experience, no matter how beautiful the building. Water, gas, and other elements can be sources of foul smells, haunting a building as they are very hard to trace. We have had two instances where this has been a project

Scary Merger Names

We have been seeing a lot of mergers and acquisitions in the last couple years, scary stuff. We were thinking about what would happen if the trend continued and the following merged….even scarier. Happy Halloween. Zehren & Associates+Zmistowski Design Group+Zone 4 Architects = Zzzz Architects B2sj Design Group +Zone 4 Architects+Yow Architects = BS 4 Yow Group Greenfield Architects + Brown David P + Blueline Architects PC + Colorado Architecture Prtnrshp = Rainbow Color

The Great Toothpaste Challenge

Recently my wife and I entered into a battle of wits, strength and cunning.  The challenge began while brushing our teeth, neither of us wanted to get the new tube of toothpaste out of the basement pantry, we couldn’t possibly walk that far.  For days we battled back and forth with using a lot of toothpaste to nearly none, in the hopes that the other would be left holding this hot potato.  When the

Hard Bid and Ice Sculptures

Imagine for a moment you are a maid of honor and are planning an engagement party on behalf of the bride’s parents who graciously offered to pay for the event.  The bride has sent you exact details of what she wants from the venue location to the type of wine along with a wish list of a few items, including Cinderella carriage ice sculpture.  The bride has asked to have the costs and the

My Super Model Is Hotter Than Yours

It’s long been debated who is the most beautiful person.  Be it Maxim’s Hot 100 or People’s Sexiest Man Alive, there is a lot of room for debate.  If you look at my wife you would know that I prefer tall blondes, my brother-in-law short brunettes. We could debate forever on what is better, but in the end there truly is no better, just what we prefer. When making your personal ranking would you

Let’s Collaborate, or Not

So much has been made of collaboration and implementing integrated project delivery systems; the benefits can be exciting, but the process can also be disappointing and a point of contention.  Wember continuously advocates for project management technologies, in particular the use of our online Owner’s Representative software.  We are also using Bluebeam, Skype, Doodle and many other tools to collaborate and fortunately, other members of the project team do as well, including architects and

Interview No-Show

As a small business of eight, I, as the owner, have never had to miss an interview in person; until today.  This raised the question of what do you do if you, or one of your team members is a no-show due to a conflict.  Let’s start with what we have seen as options: The cardboard cutout.  Albeit cute, the cardboard cutout lacks any sense of personal connection.  You might as well bring a

Do you have project stress?

Design and construction projects are filled with constant negotiations, decisions, and deadlines. The combination puts a lot of pressure on the core teams involved, and although usually evenly distributed across the life of the project, there are times when stress is particularly elevated: 1.  An estimate is over budget 2.  A design goal is not achieved 3.  Changes are requested or required late in the project Over the years we have found that project

Zombies

Working on public projects often entails a phase that private projects don’t…the public process.  This process is always unique simply because the people attending public meetings have their own opinions and personalities.  When presenting you never know if you will have a happy or hostile crowd; supportive or outwardly against anything you propose, no matter what you do.  We have been a part of many public meetings, some more successful than others but none

Time Management is a Proposal’s Best Friend

You have been tracking a particular job for a year and the request for proposal is finally out. It’s time to dive in…immediately. Don’t wait, don’t set it aside, assess your game plan. It is common to forget the amount of work it takes to compose a proposal. Waiting to close to the submission deadline to begin creates chaos for all of those involved and results in a dull submission, void of articulation to

Charrette Syndrome

Do you suffer from Charrette Syndrome?  You can determine the degree of your ailment simply by counting the number of times you use the word “charrette” in an interview. 1-2 times – Early onset and you should be monitored 3-6 times – You have the syndrome and you should seek therapy 6 or more times – You should be institutionalized and no longer attend interviews After interviewing architects with clients, they often ask, “what

I Wish Owner’s Reps Would _______.

At a recent meeting with a design team, we performed a market-survey of sorts. We wanted to gain insight into what we as Owner’s Reps should be mindful of in providing services. We covered many topics from writing better RFP’s to project frustrations. At the end of our discussions, we asked each participant to fill-in-the-blank: “I wish owner’s representatives would ______.” Below are some of the responses. 1. Generate better RFP’s by asking more

Hard Bid and Air Travel

My father was a pilot for United for 36 years and I benefited from his job by being able to travel standby all the way through college. When I started flying, 50% of Americans had flown on a plane compared to nearly 80% today. Airplanes had class segregation via a solid curtain. First-class had an open bar and real silverware, including knives. Then came the race for low fares spearheaded by the Southwest Airlines'

I Wish My Design Team Would _________.

We recently had a team meeting to discuss many topics, from writing better RFP’s to project frustrations. The design team that joined us ended the meeting by asking each of our team members to fill in the blank “I wish my design team (architect and engineers) would ______.”  Below were some of the responses from our diverse team of professionals. Be more up front As Owners Representatives we are put in the position of gathering

Village Lofts Post Tension Garage Work

Top Five Indicators You Should Not Submit a Proposal

Remember the old cartoons when the character’s head would turn into a big sucker? Ever feel that way after getting left off the shortlist or when being notified who the project was awarded to? Here are some things to look for when deciding to submit a proposal in response to a request for proposal. Short proposal timeframe - If an owner has given you less than two weeks from the time the RFP is

My DD’s Don’t Look Like Your DD’s

Your client is confused and confusion leads to frustration. You have presented an AIA agreement to them calling out multiple project phases including Programming, Schematic Design, Design Development and so on.  Respect that many of these terms are new to clients and they don’t understand why you are making this so complicated, why not go to 0 to 100% complete? Design teams often state that critical sign offs are needed during the process. These

Mullets and Drawing Phases

My father-in-law was a barber for nearly 40 years and he had his process dialed in. He was able to deliver a great haircut and evolved a method that allowed his customers to be engaged and informed while signing off on critical phases. I found some similarities to architectural design phases and thought I would share. Concept Design – When I sit in the chair he confirms what I would like done, this changes based on the

Village Lofts Facebook Page

Wember has developed a Facebook site for the project. The purpose of the site is to provide updates throughout the project, and perhaps more importantly, offer the residents the opportunity to engage the project team directly through comments and messages. The following link can be used to access the site

Village Lofts – Exploratory Work

The project has reached a major milestone with the beginning of the exploratory work commencing on October 15, 2013. This work will require ASR to cut small openings in the ceilings of 122 units so that the structural engineer can verify the existing conditions, make necessary design changes, and ultimately limit the amount of time spent in each unit during the actual repairs. During this initial work, photos will be taken in the units

Utilizing Facebook Pages to Gauge Public Opinion

Businesses and organizations have been trying to find a way to gauge the opinion of their client base for years. With the help of social media it is now possible to engage with prospects, clients and fans and find out what exactly they like, need and want. This is immensely beneficial for organizations like developers, city planners and civic industries where the public opinion is important in shaping the design plan since most of

Village Lofts – General Update – October 2013

After years of waiting, the approach is clear and the end is in sight! ASR Companies was selected as the General Contractor, and is the last piece of the puzzle along with Owner’s Representative Wember and Structural Engineer JR Harris. The Exploratory Work, October 15th to November 6th, is the first step in the process (for more information see Blog: Exploratory Work), and will be followed by the structural remediation and garage post tensioning.

This LEED Tastes Like Crow

As mentioned in our last blog post, we recently conducted a study of a portfolio of our projects pertaining to LEED and energy performance. After analyzing energy consumption and cost over 20 buildings of similar size, type, and region over a wide range of year built and LEED status components we found some interesting results. This blog will cover one area of our findings, LEED vs LEED light. I have not always been a

LEED is Half the Battle

We recently conducted a study on a portfolio of our projects pertaining to LEED and energy performance. After analyzing energy consumption and cost over 20 buildings of similar size, type, and region over a wide range of year built and LEED status components we found some interesting results. This blog will cover one area of our findings, the human component. When we finished one of our first buildings designed to LEED standards we, of

Bad Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Ideas

The LEED scorecard is a tool pretty much standard on projects in the United States and seeing immense growth overseas. But like any tool it’s not perfect and we thought we would share a couple of situation where LEED may lead you to an improper design solution. Raised floor mechanical system in a Detention Center. Showers in grade school facility. (Sure they may have a lot more bike riders but isn’t it more sustainable

ConsensusDOCS vs. AIA Construction Forms

It has long been a contention in the construction industry that the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Construction forms have been biased towards design professionals and they place too heavy a burden of liability on the shoulders of contractors and owners. To that end, in 2007, a new set of construction and design forms were developed called ConsensusDOCS. While AIA Construction Forms and ConsensusDOCS share many more similarities than differences, there are some key

Apps – Using Technology to Make Your Job Easier

The first time I saw an app was from the IT Director on a project during construction. He proudly showed me his level on his new Iphone. I advised him that he might not want to bring that out during the next OAC meeting. This initial experience and many following left me underwhelmed by the possibilities of this new revolutionary technology but times have changed and so has my opinion. We have been using

Setting the Mood

So you have settled into the interview and your carefully crafted PowerPoint presentation is ready to go. The audience is waiting to hear what you have to say. Your heart rate is up and you are wide awake and full of anticipation. The committee members are sipping coffee and trying to sort through all the data; they are exhausted from cramming in the re-review of five proposals.  You are interview number three, it's 1:30

If you’re going to tell a story have a point…

It makes it so much more interesting for the listener. Steve Martin - Planes, Trains, and Automobiles We have ended many interviews with this classic movie line rattling around in our heads. The interesting thing is that the selection committee usually knows you are headed in that direction from the first slide. How do you prevent the long painful journey? Have a point? No. Have three, good things come in threes. What are we

Stepping In It

We have all bombed in an interview in our personal lives or when representing the company that keeps us gainfully employed. As an Owner’s Representative we have the opportunity to witness some great interviews and some horrific blunders. So what do you do when things are not going so well? We recently interviewed a design firm for a project. They were highly qualified, well prepared, and considered a front runner. The interview started off

11 Reasons Why You Should Hire an Owner’s Representative

Communication: You have a team of experts with your architect, contractor, legal, and accounting team but who sees the big picture? Having an Owner’s Representative facilitates communication across team members in a timely fashion. Note, the owner’s can often times be the culprit of why projects are delayed; an Owner’s Representative can assist on preventing these delays and miscommunications. Cost Savings: You hire an accountant to do your taxes and often their efforts often

More On Talking Points

Per our previous blog we discussed the importance of talking points. This blog builds on that concept. Remember that friend you had in college, the one you loved hanging out with? They always seemed to have a crowd around them often made up of the opposite sex. Recall why you enjoyed their company? Chances are they had these things going for them: They liked to laugh They had wit They could tell a good

Look Who’s Talking

My first project interview as an architectural project manager was terrifying. Not being adept at public speaking, not being familiar with the specifics of the job, and having the feeling your job was on the line, was too much. Fortunately, it didn’t matter. When it came time to interview, our orchestra of a presentation turned into a one-man band. Our forty minute introduction led right into Q&A, which rarely ended up in my court.

Collocation

At the Construction Owner Association of America (COAA) conference we recently attended in Baltimore there were a lot of sessions and even more discussion on Integrated Project Delivery (IPD). One of the critical items for success was identified as collocation of the team. The consensus was that to truly collaborate teams need to be put together and removed from “silo’s” and sometimes office influences (I think this means ownership and their own agendas). This

Describing Construction Delivery Methods

One of our roles in the AEC industry, especially as an Owner’s Representative, is to educate clients on a multitude of items, including Construction Delivery Methods. We have presented the options to clients many times over, only to watch their eyes glaze over with all the acronyms and options. So now, via this blog, we take a bit of a different approach to highlighting the similarities and differences between each methodology. The Context: Your

Tale of Two Libraries: CMGC vs. Hard Bid V1.3

As outlined there are many differences between CM/GC and Hard Bid projects which were called out under pros and cons in the first installment of this blog. I realize now one significant oversight that was not mentioned, staffing. When you hire an Owner’s Rep or Architect on a project you will often ask to meet the design director, Project Manager, Quality Control offices, and even major consultants such as the mechanical engineer and lighting

Tale of Two Libraries: CMGC vs. Hard Bid V1.2

On the Green Valley Ranch Library (our DBB project), we have just officially finalized the contract with the General Contractor (GC). Now the “rubber meets the road”, and we get to see how the GC will deliver the project for the amount bid. It should be noted that the contract amount came in roughly 30% below the budget and the low bid contractor has seen the other bid totals. At this time the two

Social Media in the AEC Industry

Blogs and Social Media Social Media continues to gain significant momentum and, like many, we are challenged to understand the full meaning and impact of LinkedIn, Face Book, Twitter, and blogging. Our use of these tools has increased and, like anything, the more you use it the more you understand the value. What we do know is that the AEC is relationship based and with the increased competition and turnover in the workplace your

Tale of Two Libraries: CMGC vs. Hard Bid V1.1

In the year ahead, we will be in the fortunate position of project managing the design and construction of two new libraries of very similar program (needs, size, and budget)for the Denver Public Library – one located in Green Valley Ranch and one in the Stapleton neighborhood. This will put us in a unique position as Green Valley Ranch is being delivered via the design-bid-build method and Stapleton by the Construction Manager/General Contractor (CM/GC)

Colorado Department of Education (CDE) Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) Program V1.2

Wember Inc. attended the board meeting on February 16, 2010 held at the Department of Education office located at 1200 Grant Street in Denver. The meeting was well attended by submitting agencies, Owner's Representatives, design professionals, and contractors. The meeting started with a follow up to the discussion of North Routt Charter School who was recently denied the grant funds due to a failure to meet the requirements of the matching funds. North Routt

Colorado Department of Education (CDE) Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) Program V1.1

The Colorado Department of Education continues to develop and refine the program that was Established in 2008 with the signing of HB08-1335, BEST provides an annual amount of funding, in the form of competitive grants, to school districts, charter schools, institute charter schools, boards of cooperative educational services and the Colorado school for the deaf and the blind. BEST funds can be used for the construction of new schools as well as general construction

Are you embarking on a capital improvement project, renovation, or feasibility study? Call us, we are here to help.

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Colorado Springs, CO 80920

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CORPORATE HEADQUARTERS
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Are you embarking on a capital improvement project, renovation, or feasibility study? Call us, we are here to help.

LET’S CONNECT

CORPORATE HEADQUARTES
7525 South Jasmine Court • Centennial, CO 80112
(303) 378-4130

1880 Office Club Pte. • Colorado Springs, CO
30 N Gould Street, Ste N • Sheridan, WY 82801
155 E Boardwalk Dr. #442 • Fort Collins, CO 80525
881 Baxter Dr., Ste 100 • South Jordan, UT 84095