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

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

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

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

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,

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