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 without being reviewed, discussed, and updated by the appropriate team members and owner because the proper amount of time was not allotted. The reality is that designs, code requirements, and planning commission members can change during the process–this is not within your control. What is within your control is the ability to conduct a page-by-page review of the set before submittals are made. As owner’s representatives we work with the owner and design team to map out the processes and perform drawing reviews at designated milestones prior to submission, which greatly reduces the cost of re-submitting corrected plans and delays are avoided.
3. Contractors should be advised when building a realistic critical path schedule. Knowledge of sequencing work, product availability/lead times, and subcontractor availability add value to building a schedule that can produce a high quality project in a safe and cost-effective manner. Too often, the request of the owner is to “just get the drawings through permitting” and the decision to deal later with the myriad of outstanding decisions, such as flooring, light fixtures, and millwork, can cause re-design and disrupt the project progress. If the speed of the project schedule sets up the contractor for risk, a few things are likely to happen: delay claims for weather will increase; an increase in change orders after scope is clarified; and a premium may be applied to cover labor overtime costs. The schedule can also effect team members’ attitudes to be either collaborative or combative—a consequence not to be taken lightly.
4. Close-out. During the management of a project, we once experienced a situation in which one of the tenants stated they would move into the 40,000-square-foot facility over a weekend. We admired their tenacity to “get it done”, but we also knew that the expectations of events that would follow the move-in were likely to lead to disappointment and the need to be re-scheduled. The time it will take to pay for storage of items, the coordination effort of working with all the parties that need to be in the space, and even risk of consequential damages, is too great to not have a realistic schedule in place.
The best way to approach building a realistic schedule that strikes the balance between efficiency and cost is to outline the goals of the project and define the major milestones over the course of a thoughtful planning process. Utilize your owner’s representative team to work with the entire group of hired experts to outline realistic milestones, listen to their expertise, and accept advice on how to meet your project goals by outlining the most productive sequencing possible.
~ Paul Wember, President