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

By |August 2nd, 2018|

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 the story of Frank Lloyd Wright and Falling Water, you may have heard how he designed the project in a two hours the day before the client arrived to review the plans. The reality is that Frank Lloyd Wright had a year of contemplation and design effort. Keep in mind that even if the design team is not feverishly producing set after set of design documents or renderings, it doesn’t mean that they are not working on your project. The best plan of action is a result of thinking things through from many different perspectives.

2. The entitlement review time, processes, and approvals have never been fast—it’s not designed to be fast. The key to managing them is to outline the process in the project schedule with appropriate float. All too often, submittals are provided to approval agencies [...]

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

By |August 18th, 2017|

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 to be awarded this project?
What’s up? Did you select CMaR as the delivery method, if so we would be interested in pursuing.
Congrats! When is the RFP for our services being issued?
Congrats! Let’s grab lunch and we can tell you about our team.
How did you win this?

It was then that I began to realize another myth that exists about owner’s representatives:  Myth #7 – The Owner’s Representative Selects the General Contractor. As an owner’s representative it is our priority to help assemble the project team while remaining fair and neutral to the A/E/C industry. We encourage interested firms to reach out to us to gain a greater understanding of the project before the RFP is published. It is our in our clients’ best interests to understand how interested parties are [...]

A Look Back at 2016

By |December 23rd, 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 ones, although slower than the 2015 record of 234 sales of U.S.-based A/E firms a 5.4% increase over 20141 is still occurring.

Size Matters
We experienced clients basing project decisions on the continued escalation of design and construction costs. We saw trends of projects increasing in both size (square feet) and programs of work (i.e. large school programs). Clients desire for risk mitigation increased and owners defaulted to the large-sized, resource rich companies. These larger firms didn’t just win the large jobs in 2016, they won jobs of all sizes; it seems significant portfolios, robust teams and the ability to quickly generate designs was the winning strategy in 2016.  As the big guys continue to absorb small firms, albeit at a slower rate than the 2015 record-year, you would think they would depart from the recession mentality of chasing [...]

Here’s Your Fee

By |June 23rd, 2016|

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 he worked to adjust to his new region’s pricing culture. Was he implying fees should be established by region and project type? Should owners dictate what the fee is, or should firms, be it owner’s representatives, architecture firms or general contractors, have an understanding through professional organizations, albeit non-union, to advise on how to establish fees? It seems to me, free market tendencies apply the same to the A/E/C industry as they do any other industry; should that change?

In the recession of 2008, fee adjustment was common as firms worked to survive. It was also common to see — and exciting to witness — younger, independent architects striking out on their own, setting fees they could make a living off and hiring help or forming consortiums if and when needed. This set of professionals (myself and Class of ‘95 [...]

Indemnification – House Bill HB15-1197

By |November 13th, 2015|

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 if you have changes to the agreement you must notify the potential client at the time of submission?  We refer to this clause as the “kiss of death” as many clients simply don’t want to change their agreement as it takes time or simply they don’t want to get their legal counsel involved.
The indemnification clause itself.  Is it fair, meaning, can your insurance provider cover what is written, is it even legal?

I am not a lawyer or insurance provider and urge you to engage your legal counsel and insurance provider as you move to signing an agreement

Indemnification.  In simplest terms, it can be defined as an obligation by one party to make another financially whole for a loss that the other party has incurred.  The new, modified legislation moves to make agreements more fair and balanced. [...]

Punch List Strategizing

By |October 21st, 2015|

I suspect you have been involved in the close-out phase of a project and are keenly aware that one of the most critical elements is the punch list. I have heard team members joke that it’s called “punch” list because by that point in the project, you are looking for some Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) action. The actual history stems from the pre-computer age when each subcontractor would physically punch a hole with their unique hole press in the deficiency log to indicate they had completed the work. Why is this phase often so riddled with challenges and how can it go more smoothly? Here are some thoughts and suggestions.

When to punch list.  If a contractor has liquidated damages, the pressure is on the punch list, as per most AIA agreements, the architects will issue a letter of substantial completion with the punch list attached signifying the owner can use the facility as intended. Many contractors will request the punch list meeting as soon as possible. The conflict arises when the design team agrees to prepare the punch list and discovers the project is not truly ready. As the list becomes exorbitant, it becomes difficult to manage. A recommended solution is to walk one of the rooms that the general contractor determines complete to conduct a verbal punch list. This sets the expectations of all involved, including the owners. At this time, the team can agree if something seemingly minor should be included or not. A preliminary walk-thru allows you to determine if the facility is truly ready. If it’s not ready, consider delaying; it is not uncommon to do so.
Who generates the punch list?  Usually, it is the responsibility of [...]

Design on the Cheap? Think Again.

By |July 9th, 2015|

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 trained, talented, passionate professionals that provide a unique service to their communities—a service no less important than that provided by attorneys, accountants, doctors and engineers. Comparing legal or financial services to buying toothpaste would be laughable, but for some reason the contribution architects make to society is fair game.

Fortunately, many clients know that opting for the lowest bidder is rarely the best strategy. They’re informed, and want the best outcome for their projects having learned, likely through experience, that you get what you pay for. Here’s why.

When architects decide to lower their fees, they may indeed be “hungry” or just trying to survive, as in the case of the recent recession, which peaked in 2009. Or, firms, on occasion, may choose to write off the difference as a marketing expense when they’re trying to enter a new industry [...]

Ask An Owner’s Rep

By |April 23rd, 2015|

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

What I am Not Thankful for This Year

By |December 4th, 2014|

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 the best match, but, please know that hanging up on me really wasn’t productive. In fact, the owner’s response was “I guess we made the right decision in the end.”
Thank you to the gentleman that told me to shove it up my attorney’s ass. I understand our profession is full of frustrations, but, I have no intention to go near my client’s attorney to fulfill this request.
Thank you to the firm that missed the allowance item in the bid documents leaving us $200,000 short. We saved your butt by playing diplomat and working some magic. I do hope you will be gracious if I ever need assistance.
Thank you guardian angel for being a badass mofo. Next time, please don’t let me get on the motorcycle.
Thank you former-client [...]

Your Building Smells Like Crap

By |November 20th, 2014|

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 pressure release valve located close to the exterior mechanical unit, far enough away not to be a concern under normal conditions, but the unit was in a recessed area with solid walls on two sides creating complications. When the valve released gas it would swirl around, and if the wind was blowing a certain direction, it would be sucked into the building creating unhealthy indoor air quality. We relocated the valve and the situation was resolved.

On another project, occupants complained of a strong sewage smell. The project was a large facility addition and renovation involving an extensive team of trades; the challenge to resolving the issue was not only tied to uncovering the source of the sewage problem, but also to who was to be held accountable. As you could expect, it was easy to make [...]