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 the RFP should call out expectations, owners and their representatives should focus on extracting the specific expertise that the proposing team can provide. Consider asking more detailed and insightful questions related to project type or specific challenges, such as:”What challenges are present with a negative pressure room such as a natatorium? What have you done to specifically address this issue?””Our project has a Board of Directors that believes the project budget should be reduced by 20%. How do we convince them the budget put together is accurate and appropriate?”

2. Help owners make decisions in a timely manner.
Owners may have other responsibilities in addition to working on the project at hand, but the hired design team is focused, and has allocated resources to the project. They need owners to make timely decisions to allow for continuous project progression, ensuring deadlines are met. Stopping work and waiting is not efficient and costs the design team money and the project loses momentum. Owners and owner’s representatives need to ensure that key decision makers are present at meetings clarifying questions and making decisions necessary to keep the project on schedule.

3. Do not act as a competing contractor.
This was one of the more interesting comments received and certainly less common in the industry. The comment stemmed from a specific experience in with an owner’s representative who was not happy with the general contractor and removed scope of services, assigning them to another general contractor on the same project. This lead to serious confusion and increased liability for the design team.

4. Hold the owner accountable.
Owners and owner’s representatives play a critical project. They must be present and focused to keep things moving forward. The owner’s representative has the ear of the owner serving as an advisor and sometimes therapist. That said, the owner’s representative should be explaining options, outlining pros and cons and documenting decisions. Owners who consistently change their mind or bow to less-involved board members and peers, delay projects and cause frustration for the team.

5. Share the one “pain point” of the owner so we can address it.
This was a request from one of the marketing professionals and it makes good sense. When responding to an RFP submitting companies are sometimes exposed to the owner for the first time. By having the owner provide information related to the project beyond the technical scope allows the responding firms to define how they are a solid match.

6. Solve problems first, and then consider how it gets paid for.
Architects are problem-solvers and sometimes the first idea in response to a project challenge is not the best. Owners and owner’s representatives should work with the design team to ask questions, challenge ideas, but most importantly, keep an open mind while working towards a solution. If your initial response is “we can’t afford it”, you are shutting the door on exploration and creativity, which is a defeating approach when working with creative professionals. Explore, dream and then refine to obtain the right solution.

Paul Wember ~ Owner’s Representative