Contributed by David Stutzman
Design and construction projects require an enormous number of participants to complete each facility. The basic teams include owners, architects, contractors, and suppliers. The lines of communication are well defined, especially after the construction contract is executed. But how are the teams collaborating before the contract is signed?
In no particular order…
The relationship between the owner and architect is well defined by the agreement for the design services. According to AIA agreement Document B101, the owner and architect share information at each design phase. The owner provides the project program and budget. The architect reviews the information and advises the owner if there are any concerns before the design is started. They discuss alternatives for the design approach and for the construction project delivery method. The communication is nearly continuous as the design is refined and solidified while progressing to the completion of the construction documents.
When the owner retains a contractor or construction manager for preconstruction services, the architect communicates with the contractor about cost, schedule, and constructability. When the architect and contractor are collaborating during design phases, the owner can have greater confidence that the ultimate design will meet the owner’s budget and schedule.
Product representatives, whether manufacturer’s direct employees or independent representatives, will meet with the architect team, including the specifier, to advise about the use of specific products for particular applications. The discussion is particularly valuable to resolve unusual conditions, to verify the product performance will meet the owner’s project requirements, and to understand the product cost implications created by the design decisions.
The specifier typically begins by challenging the architect – asking many questions to determine the design intent and confirm project systems, assemblies, products, and materials. The Q&A process becomes a dialog to ensure all aspects of the project will be specified correctly so the owner realizes the quality expected in the completed facility.
The specifier may recommend alternative systems and products that offer advantages to the project. And the specifier will connect the architect to suppliers, subcontractors, and other resources needed to solve particular design problems. The architect and specifier discuss alternatives to determine the optimal design solutions for each application.
Subcontractors provide invaluable real-world experience, with both product and installation. They can advise architects and specifiers about the practicality of construction details, installation sequencing, system costs, and product availability through local distribution channels. The owner may engage subcontractors during design to provide design assist services to develop project specific details and shop drawings before design is complete.
Unlike suppliers who typically furnish product prices only, subcontractors can provide installed system costs that reflect the expected project complexity.
Availability can be a significant issue, especially for short duration projects and just-in-time manufacturing. When architects select the perfect product that is not available in time, project completion may be delayed.
Traditionally, the subcontractor is rarely given an opportunity to contribute during the design process, except as part of a design assist process. The architect team, including specifiers, tends to rely on suppliers for product and system information. Suppliers are rarely responsible for complete systems, while subcontractors always are responsible for complete systems. Be sure to include subcontractors in the process.
Each team and every team member has a contribution to make. The best design responses will take advantage of experience and expertise that is readily available. Together, through active collaboration before the construction contract is signed, the teams can help ensure the owner’s project requirements will be met when construction is complete.
(Editor's note: This blog post, along with numerous others, appeared originally on the Conspectus website. You can view an archive of Conspectus' posts here.)
Contributed by Karl Michels
The recent growth of programs advocating sustainable design is numerous: LEED, Living Building Challenge, mindful MATERIALS, etc. Through all of these, though, there seems to be a disconnect between specified products and installed items. The owner is paying for something he didn’t receive, the architect is delivering a product they didn’t envision, the contractor is building a project that is not as described, and the manufacturer missed out on a sale of a product designed for the task.
The Boss noticed a continuing pattern of building projects where there is a difference in collaboration and specification language of sustainable design between architects, engineers, and contractors and he wants me to look into it. Something’s not right in these specs and I can’t quite figure it out, but, I’m on it. My name is Specman; I carry a bunch of technical sheets.
* * * * * * * * * *
8:15 AM. The sun is bright, the coffee burnt, and my head is splitting. I have been at this since 5 am this morning. I reach into the desk drawer, shake the last two aspirin out of the bottle, and knock them back with the lousy coffee. It’s going to be one of those days. Thank God for the pharmaceutical guys; they’re my helpers. The 010000 General Conditions and 018113 Sustainable Design specifications are pretty clear. Why didn’t this project get built with the appropriate materials as specified? I don’t quite get it.
9:02 AM. I phone the architectural specifier. “Specifier”, she barks into the phone. “What do you want?” She’s a hard driven cookie; smart, but tough. Billable hours are important, there’s no time for small talk. I called her Honey when I first met her; she made it quite clear she wasn’t an ex-wife or current girlfriend. Just because she was female didn’t mean she didn’t know her stuff and I would be well served to address her appropriately. She was right then and right now. She doesn’t know, however, that I call her Toots behind her back. “Look, I need some answers and I know you can give them to me”.
“Yeah. What’s the deal with the intent of sustainable design that only encompasses half of the project?” I ask.
“What are you talking about, Specman?” she answers. “A sustainable project is sustainable throughout. We just finished issuing the documents on that LEED Plutonium Level building. You know, the one intended to be loved and cherished by the community for time immortal. We covered all the bases: Fasteners are made solely of recycled horseshoes; Ventilation is air movement generated by the wings of 100,000 Monarch butterflies and the Finishes are comprised of the most ecologically responsible building materials with a minimum 20% recycled rainbow content verified by an independent third party. What more is there?” I increasingly get the feeling I might be grabbing a tiger by the tail.
“Well”, I answered, “someone else didn’t get the memo. The engineer hired by you to design the parts of the building no one sees in this same project advocated Electrical Wiring as “throughout” and Piping as “leak free.” Will that meet your sustainable design criteria?”
Contributed by Cory Robbins
I work for a multi-disciplined exterior envelope contractor. We have run into the same problem over and over for the past decade and are looking to address it sooner rather than later. We are talking about the huge gap/loophole that exists when installing a multi-layered dry-joint rainscreen system. Rainscreens are here to stay, and architects are designing buildings across the country to include them and show off some beautiful looking exterior facades that make everyone stop and stare when walking past.
The issue that we have run into is quite simple, but tricky to fix. At the end of a project, if there happens to be a leak in the elevation including a rainscreen, the owner is in a heap of trouble. There is usually an Air & Vapor Barrier installer, and an Exterior Façade installer on the project and they both will complain and blame the other contractor for the leak. The worst part is they both have valid arguments. The AVB installer has an easy out in that “My work was watertight before the exterior façade installer drilled 50,000 holes through it, you can’t blame me!” The exterior façade installer says “My system is dry-seal, and is designed to let water through, how can you possibly blame me?”
And so…… The Blame Game ensues!
To make things worse, every AVB material warranty is void the moment it is pierced by any fastener. They specifically do not warrant workmanship and the best they will do is warrant their material failing. Manufacturers of AVB will replace the material (which costs next to nothing) and sometimes pay for the labor to remove their material, NOT INCLUDING the overburden/exterior façade. The owner of the building has two options at this point.
Both of these options are TERRIBLE! In both situations, the owner loses and the only winner is the lawyers who are making $400/hr. We have come up with a solution that can be incorporated into the specifications by the architect designing the project. The concept is simple, place the AVB installer/subcontractor underneath the exterior façade installer/subcontractor and make them one entity that provides a 10-year workmanship warranty for the wall system. This way, there is only one company to call when a leak is found in the elevation, the exterior façade installer. That subcontractor is in charge of the wall system, and they vouch for the AVB installer and their work. This does not mean one sole-source company, and it can be two separate companies, with one united goal, a leak-free rainscreen wall system.
The precedent for this has already been set in curtainwall when the curtainwall installer includes the storefront and glazier and caulker under one umbrella. Or, when a roofer brings along their favorite plumber for the storm drains that need to be installed. The 10-year workmanship warranty language also forces a more detailed coordination effort by the two installers, simply because they know they will be coming back if there are any leaks after project completion.
Contributed by Eric D. Lussier
Seven short months ago, after discussing issues in construction with Cherise Lakeside for what seemed like the infinite time, I blurted out that someone should start a 'fix construction' website and start tackling some of these concerns we were having. Being short of patience myself and wanting to strike while the iron was hot, I leaped at the opportunity when I discovered that the URL was available. I registered the domain LetsFixConstruction.com on a whim and brought up the core of the website you are reading here in a few short hours.
I was unsure as to what the response would be, but I was aware that we knew several individuals who were active construction bloggers and would be interested in what our core message was from the start: "to better the industry by sharing our knowledge, openly communicating and encouraging collaboration". It turns out that we seemed to be striking a chord almost immediately. Contributors were happy to share new and archival posts, the social shares were there and almost immediately, people were talking about #FixConstruction and what we were trying to do.
Fast forward seven months and dozens of posts later, we've now received recognition by having our blog nominated for not one, but two different industry awards. As previously mentioned, Construction Marketing Ideas has nominated us and 25 other bloggers for the 2017 Best Construction Blog award, which you can vote on here. In addition, #FixConstruction has been nominated in the 8th Annual JDR Industry Blogger Awards for Best Construction Business Blog along with ConstructConnect, ForConstructionPros and Miron Construction.
We are incredibly humbled and honored to be nominated by both Construction Marketing Ideas and Jackson Design & Remodeling. If you find us deserving, would you please take a moment to vote for Let's Fix Construction in the JDR Industry Blogger Awards here?
In the meantime, we're going to continue what we've been doing for the last six months: offering an unbiased and unsponsored platform for industry professionals to share their viewpoint on issues they're seeing in AEC and their solutions on how to swing things into a better light.
Contributed by Matt Porta
As we put 2016 to bed and kick off 2017, the need to rise above, stay positive, and the need to pursue excellence seems even more important than ever. Today's post is step one of my perspective and attempt to articulate in writing what I hope to accomplish with my firm, Hord Coplan Macht, in 2017. My goal is for this post to be one of a regular series, each building upon the previous.
Some time around 2003 we started to see a shift in the overall project schedule here in Colorado. For me, it was with the design and construction of the Excel Academy Charter School. It was a new school building for an established charter school in Arvada, CO. We were hired, along with our construction partner, Saunders Construction, in the fall. The goal was to design, permit, and construct a new 44,000 square foot school building on a five acre site in time for the 2004 school year. The SLATERPAULL design team geared up, worked side by side with Saunders and completed construction drawings before Christmas, broke ground in January and were complete in August. We were able to construct a very unique solution, outside of the gymnasium, and there is barely a single right angle in the building. The project won a tilt-up concrete construction award and began the basis of the new normal as it relates to the design and construction schedule.
Success begets opportunity and this same design and construction team was selected by the Jefferson County School District to build a new 63,000 elementary school, the first new school of their successful 2004 bond election. We interviewed and were selected in January of 2005, started design immediately, completed phased construction documents, with the site drawings issued in April and the building in June. Construction began in May and the school was completed by August of 2006. This new school, again a tilt-up concrete award winner, became the new benchmark for new public school design and construction and hence the official start of the new normal, where every bond funded school project in Colorado seems to follow.
What I have learned in our fast paced design and construction world is that expectations for excellence by our owners have not changed. A process that used to be scheduled over 30 months is now completed in 18. The biggest concern I have personally and professionally with this level of schedule acceleration is maintaining quality. Quality of our designs, quality of our details, quality of the overall coordination of our documents and the overall quality of construction.
So, if am worried about quality, what do I propose we do about it...
Stay tuned for part two.
Let's Fix Construction is a collective group of construction professionals who want to better the industry by sharing our knowledge, openly communicating and encouraging collaboration.
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