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 and schedules can be modified, but it’s best to notify the team weeks before.
- Do what you say you are going to do
This may seem like an unusual item but all too often teams agree upon, and even document, “next steps” that are not followed through on. Deadlines are missed, phone calls are not made and promises are not kept. Nothing erodes trust faster than not being true to your word.
- Don’t be so emotionally attached to your design
We hear comments from the design team dismissing other team member’s ideas, including the owner’s or contractor’s team. Admittedly, we don’t believe in design by committee, but if a member of the team has an idea that makes sense, it should be pursued. If the owner doesn’t like your design, try again. Changes happen, projects are over budget and sometimes owners simply want something else. Be open-minded and ask them if they like the direction we are going.
- Know when to stop designing
Design is a process and although we don’t believe owners will ever fully understand the phases and why they exist (see my other blog) the design team does. Construction Documents should be that–documents for construction, not design. The entire team including the owner should be in a position to let the design team complete their drawings. A couple lessons learned:i. Working through the final phase of construction documents often leads to changes
that can make the project better, this is fine but you must communicate those changes to
ii. Don’t be your worst enemy, know when to stop. Project managers should have the authority to tell owners or lead designers that it’s too late to make the change unless the owner approves it and allows more time for the change.
During recent interviews many design teams have presented that they are the “listening architects” and that they respond to the needs of the client. We agree, some are, but we continue to encounter limited project collaboration and requested changes not being made in the drawings.
- Design to the budget
Sometimes the owner doesn’t have a lot of money, they are probably not happy about it either. We recently managed a project where during programming, the client asked us what a similar project would cost, we gave them images of the designs and costs associated, they reviewed it briefly and cut it by 20% and said go. After receiving this as a goal of the project the entire team worked to it, being cognizant of showing the owner items they could afford and not over committing to what they couldn’t.
- Lead the project and entire team
The design team, specifically architects, is uniquely trained to lead projects from concept through construction completion. A trend has emerged in the industry to reduce risk by bringing on contractors and a multitude of consultants. Clients look to the design team to deliver not only great design but also innovative ideas and coordinated drawings. If a contractor is brought on early, work with them, but as with all your consultants exercise your knowledge as the conductor of the project, your client will love you for it.
Paul Wember ~ Owner’s Representative