Contributed by Eric D. Lussier
With 2018 behind us, and with that another great year of articles, podcasts and many workshops across the nation (and even one in Canada), Let’s Fix Construction looks forward to 2019, as do many others. A new year starts with fresh energy, renewed spirit, a hopeful change of habits and a positive outlook.
With 2019 facing us and 2018 in the rearview mirror, Let’s Fix Construction is using this post for a Call to Arms. A challenge, if you will. Hopefully you can identify your role, or more than one, in this list. Don’t see a challenge that calls to you? Identify your own. Step out of your comfort zone and move yourself and the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry forward.
Educate yourself before you proceed with your project, especially if it is your first one! Take the time to learn the roles of the major players in a building project. Vet your architect, construction manager, general contractor and any other major contractor or consultant that you are going to be contractually obligated to. You don’t have to be best friends, but it will go a long way if you know who you will be working with and get along with them. What makes them tick? What sets them off? What are their expectations? What are their expectations of you? And in the end, if you really want to educate yourself about a project, get a copy of the Construction Specifications Institute’s ‘Project Delivery Practice Guide’. It could just be the best $129 you’ve ever spent. AND save you a thousand-fold in the long run.
Projects are getting increasingly complex and the demands on you, your supporting staff and ultimately, your entire office are growing as well. The world we live in changes rapidly and with that the demands that are put on all the major players in a project. You’re being asked to do much more in much less time for the same amount of money. Practice saying no. Don’t be afraid to lose a client that expects more from you without understanding your point of view. Make sure you and your staff are compensated appropriately for your time. Track all costs and analyze your data. If you are able to reference a completed project that is similar in size and scope of a new project you are working on, you will be able to substantiate to the Owner why you have the requests, both financial and otherwise, that you do.
Contributed by Brent Williams
Hi, I’m Brent Williams and I’m a self-described construction materials geek. I come from an architecture background, but I was serendipitously detoured into the product rep world…and I’ve never looked back. Why, you ask?
Because I love working in the visual oriented design world that we live in. I’ve been lucky enough to become a hyper-specialist in one, weird little construction product. But my product is unusual & amazing, it solves a myriad of issues in the industry and I completely love my amazing job.
A big chunk of what a professional building product rep does on a daily basis is explain exactly where, why, how and how not to deploy these products to the design community. In medical terms, our friends in the Architecture world are General Practitioners, while the rep is a Micro Neurosurgeon. Architects, by the design of their craft, need to know at least a little bit about everything. Me? I need to know everything that there is about one tiny little thing. More importantly, I need to know what THEY need to know about my tiny little corner of the world.
And therein lies the magic, the alchemy, as it were. Product Reps have to communicate quickly and accurately, at an incredibly high level of proficiency, in both directions…both to and from the client. You simply must be empathetic, intuitive and proactive. Not the simplest matrix of executables and doubly tough to execute rapidly and on the fly. Nothing less than excellence will be tolerated by the modern construction industry.
An experienced rep needs to be both an incredible listener yet anticipate issues and questions almost before they are spoken. Frankly, all of us in the product representation arena either hold this skill set, or we’re not around very long. Check any employment website, or look on LinkedIn, and there are lots of vacancies for reps and lots of reps looking for employment.
If you think about it, just about everyone involved in the design industry must possess most of this skill set in order to be able to sustain the construction process. You either communicate at scale, or you’re gone. No quarter. You can’t do a proper program unless you can communicate at a very high level, with all of the constituents in and on a project.
Contributed by Marvin Kemp
In a musing about leading meetings, I wrote that "I'm an architect by education and licensure. I'm a project manager by definition of my firm." Since a recent strategic planning exercise our firm went through, I've been thinking about what it means to be an architect and a project manager. The architect part is easy, legally speaking: you've earned a first professional degree in architecture from an accredited university, completed the Intern Development Program (now known as Architectural Experience Program AXP), passed the Architects Registration Exam (ARE) and have applied for and been granted a license to practice architecture in the State where you reside. Okay, so maybe its not that easy, but it is a straightforward and linear process.
The philosophical notion of what it means to be an architect is much more complicated and probably meant for a different blog post or maybe even several blog posts! But, from the beginning of my career, I had the goal of becoming an architect. I accomplished that in 2001, just shy of seven years after I graduated from college. I also had the goal of being a project manager and eventually a partner or principal in a firm. Project manager may seem a strange goal for someone educated as an architect. I was never the strongest design student in school. At first, I wasn't mature enough to understand or focus on the studio curriculum. That set me back in terms of my design maturation. I probably could have caught up but let my ego and confrontations with several professors get in the way. I graduated with a respectable GPA north of 3.0, but had many C's in design studios, though I did manage a B on my thesis project.
When I took my first job out of school, it was with a small firm that did good work, but not great design work. Generally, the two partners were the designers and with our clientele there was little opportunity for more than basic design solutions. I got my shot at some basic planning and elevations studies, but rarely had the budget to do much more from a design standpoint. At the same time, one of my bosses and first mentors, began taking me to client meetings. I found I really liked being out of the office, meeting with our clients and getting to know more about that end of the practice of architecture. It seemed more real to me.
I also had four solid examples, other than the two partners, of what good project managers do in that office. My first desk was in a studio with three of them! What a treat to work with them, interact with them and listen to their phone conversations on a daily basis. It was in those early experiences that I decided I wanted to be the hot shot project manager, not the hot shot designer.
Nearly 21 years later, what does it mean to be the "hot shot project manager?" Here are some notions.
Contributed by David Bishton
The ranks of the great overused and often misapplied phrases in architectural and engineering drawings and specifications include gems such as:
To this list we must add the ubiquitous and often redundant phrase “…as required.” A further aside on instructions to kids: “Clean this room as required“ may lead to somewhat unsatisfactory results.
Many times I have reflected on the possibility, after wrestling through a problem in the field, that one extra phrase or even a word added to a drawing note or specification might have prevented the problem from occurring. The phrase “as required” has never been associated with such reflection. Musing in my previous chapter, I wondered if a slightly longer version such as “…AS REQUIRED BY ANY SANE PERSON WITH HALF A BRAIN THAT OBSERVES THIS CONDITION” would be more helpful. Recently I began to wonder which other technical/scientific fields or even everyday endeavors regularly use this term with success when providing instructions.
What if this term was used regularly in cookbooks? You’d list all the ingredients like 2 oz. vodka, 1 oz. melon liqueur, pineapple juice to taste…wait a minute, that’s the recipe for a Pearl Harbor. What else do you need after you have the ingredients – ice and a glass? Let’s try something more complicated. Say it’s an extra special dinner to impress your family at a holiday. Something liked the filling needed for a Stuffed Boar’s Head. You have your 2 lbs. cooked ground pork sausage, 7 cups boiled long grain rice, 5 tbsp. melted butter, 2 cups chopped onion, 1 lb. coarsely chopped walnuts, and on and on. After all that work the last thing you want to see is “Boil boar’s head in a large stockpot, scoop out head meat, stuff and bake as required.” Or even less “Prepare and cook per manufacturer’s instructions.” And yes, the full recipe actually exists in Joy of Cooking. I’ve never tried it.
Contributed by Cherise Lakeside
This past October, Let's Fix Construction once again attended CONSTRUCT in Long Beach, California and as members of the Education Advisory Council, we found it to be one of the best yet. We are honored to partner and work with CONSTRUCT as the show holds much the same philosophy as we do here at Let’s Fix Construction: bringing all parties of the project team together to learn, discuss issues and grow as a TEAM.
CONSTRUCT offers an environment where attendees can discuss issues in a way that we often cannot under the rules of communication in a construction Contract. There are few other conferences that have representative voices from the entire built environment in a room discussing our industry and needs - all with an equal seat. The best thing about CONSTRUCT is that it is not focused on any one discipline within the AEC Industry. Architects, Specifiers, Contractors, Engineers, Consultants, Subcontractors, Product Reps and Owners all have educational opportunities to learn and further your career. The social and collaborative environment of the show makes the education provided that much more valuable.
CONSTRUCT is an annual event that offers the opportunity to share best practices, learn the latest in construction industry design and processes, project delivery, specifications, contract administration, building product manufacturer (BPM) education and much more. The education, events and show floor are all formatted in a way to serve any member of the building team. The education is enhanced by the ability to discuss and share experiences on topics that we deal with every day in this industry.
CONSTRUCT is a great conference because of the diverse industry professionals that join us to share knowledge, solutions and real-world practices that can be used as soon as you return to your office or the job site. Speakers and instructors from all across the industry join us so we can all come to the table and learn from each other.
CONSTRUCT WANTS YOU!
The Call for Sessions for 2019 is out for submissions. CONSTRUCT is looking for industry leaders - in ALL disciplines - to consider submitting a proposal to speak or teach at CONSTRUCT. Now is your chance to share your knowledge and turn what you’ve learned into a unique presentation that will help improve the construction community. Consider submitting a proposal for CONSTRUCT 2019, which will be held October 9-11 at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland (right across the bridge from Washington DC).
Let's Fix Construction is an avenue to offer creative solutions, separate myths from facts and erase misconceptions about the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry.
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