I got the opportunity to design some school buildings right out of college. They were fairly large projects taking six months to a year for the design phases. There was lots of time to recover from missteps. After a couple of these I got an admin building for a small school district. By comparison this was a three-bedroom house in scale. Before I had a handle on what the project would entail, I started focusing on the entrance and how I wanted that to work. After a day or two, the question came. "What the hell are you doing?" I explained about the importance (to me) of the entrance. "Do you even know if this is going to be 1-story or two? Does it fit the site?"
Specification Notes should have a role in every project. By Specification Notes [SpecNotes] I mean a section by section listing of the key requirements of every type of work, arranged by CSI Division and Section Number. The SpecNotes are placed on the drawings. We usually place the General Requirements on a G-series sheet right behind the Cover Sheet. The Architectural Technical Specs are placed on sheet A001, A002 (if needed) per the National CAD Standards. Take a look at the embedded document to download our 30+ page master SpecNotes to start your own.
I like to select colors. I think I'm pretty good at it. I don't do it often enough to be great, but I think my results are pretty darn good.
Maybe if I selected colors all the time, I would know more about the politics of selecting colors and get good at that aspect, too. Because politics is the problem with selecting colors.
After an interiors person returned from a color-review meeting in tears, I developed the following process to head off more unpleasant experiences. Honestly we haven’t gotten to use it often enough to know if it can be improved; so feel free to contribute your experience/advice in the comments. The world -needs- a solution to the “color problem”!
Years ago I stumbled upon a series of inexpensive management booklets published by Dorling Kindersley Limited. The one that was most helpful to me was Project Management. In particular the section on Planning A Project. The booklet describes eight steps that I have used every time I tackle a new project. As designers we have learned to do this, but not in a formal way that always leads to a good plan. Too often we just jump on the first ideas and start designing. Or for non-design projects - just start doing stuff without a clear picture of the whole process.
This Schematic Design Process has been developed over many projects. But the nature of design is that there are many ways to get to the end result. The benefits of this Seven Step Process is that each step builds upon the last to avoid re-work, which is the killer of efficiency. Use the process to explain to your client why you need information from them now rather than later (to avoid additional design costs for them). Whether you use this process or one of your own making, I highly recommend that you standardize on a methodology that your team can use to anticipate what to do. Even with a standard like this, no two projects will follow it exactly. I think Eisenhower is supposed to have said something along the lines of "The plan is rarely very helpful, but the planning is indispensable." Also, remember to review each step with your client to make sure your interpretations and understandings are on target with their needs. Yes, pesky, but necessary.
When you are looking for work, this may seem counter-productive; but it is a good practice to evaluate every job beforehand.
Your insurance agent, your attorney, and your marketing advisor will all agree that making sure this project is worth pursuing is a good thing. The insurance agent and the attorney are looking at the potential for trouble that working with this type of client, this particular client or this project type can lead to.
Your marketing advisor is looking at the big picture of where you want to go and whether this opportunity is a step forward, sideways or backwards. The type of work you do and the people you work for speaks volumes to all your clients and potential clients. Choosing the right projects and the right clients is a key element in developing your niche and reaping the rewards that come from not being a commodity.
From a purely business perspective, a project is like a new product line. You should evaluate both before jumping on board. For a project a detailed evaluation doesn't need to take much time, especially if you have an established method for doing the evaluation. The attached form came from combining several processes that were recommended to us over the years.
The thrust of the evaluation is to uncover any concerns you have about the project or client beforehand, and then to develop a plan for addressing those concerns or "passing" on the project.
We found it works best with just two or three people involved: the person who found the opportunity and who knows the most about it, a principal of the firm, and perhaps one other senior person.
Once you go through the process a few times you will find that you want to keep the form handy as a kind of questionnaire to use with potential clients.
When I first got out of college, twenty years before the internet, I searched and searched for a description of how to do project management. I wanted a how-to. A checklist.
I never did find one.
About ten years ago a friend, who designs public schools in Ohio, shared this with me. I believe the state architect developed this as a guide to keeping projects for the state on schedule. There are 45 steps in the process. One for every week of the expected duration of the combined three design phases - Schematic Design, Design Development, and Construction Documents.
You will notice that we began making it our own, and you might want to do the same thing. I have included a link here so you can download a Word.doc of the document to help you customize it.
I recently shared some (poor) photos of the final result of our adventure with frosted glass. Check them out here.
How we got to the final result is a more interesting story. After all, you aren't interested in duplicating our design; you will have a different project to use frosted glass on - drinking and dining establishments, office or conference room glass walls, and many more. I saw a fascinating wall in a Rem Koolhaas building at the IIT campus in Chicago. Google 'Rem Koolhaas IIT campus' to see the context and other interesting features of the building. The photos below show a similar idea to frosted glass. I suspect that this was done with a printed translucent image sandwiched between two sheets of glass.
I’ve never worked for a federal client, but numerous times for state agencies and almost as many times for city or county government. The state agencies included the Administrative Office of the Courts, School Boards, projects funded by Community Development Block Grants, and regional Agencies like planning, water and sewer districts. Finally there are the Counties and Cities. These tend to be the least bureaucratic and most like private clients except for that one thing that is common to all public clients - procurement regulations. These regulations are very similar in intent, which is preventing misuse of public funds by closing loopholes. The big difference for the architect is that several additional tasks are required and there isn't a lot of leeway in how you do them.
This link takes you to an article on the bidding process.
Besides the procurement regs there are a few other issues that come up; they are listed here by phase.
Politics can be a wild card in the process. It is wise to remember the naval advice: "Loose lips sink ships."
When you find yourself working with a Building Committee, you will normally find that they do not have any particular experience of serving on building committees or managing a building project.
There are exceptions - public schools, higher education, hospitals and organizations with a facility manager - but your first step is to determine what work they have done so far.
You want to know if they have a documented plan for the project as most Owner/Architect contracts state. So, if they have a documented plan and program, budget, and schedule, and they all seem realistic, you are ready to start designing.
If they do not have a boni-fide plan, and if you begin designing in order to 'stumble upon' a solution that works for them, then you will almost certainly have some re-designing to do sooner or later. You and the building committee need a coherent plan for their project - a plan that will require little or no re-design.
If there is no plan, or if it doesn't make sense, then you will need to back them up and take them through the planning that they need to do. The engineers and contractors on the committee will balk at this. This is where you point out that you are being asked to go 'off-script' and to proceed in a way that is unpredictable and that is not anticipated by the contract. So either way, planning first or jumping into design, you will need a larger fee than has been proposed because the scope of your work has changed.
If you are asked to begin designing anyway, you should try to get the fee for Schematic Design changed to an hourly basis to compensate you for the inevitable redesign that you will have to do. You might consider spending some time, in that case, doing the planning that needs to be done so that the redesign doesn't come back to haunt you after Schematic Design is approved and you are back to a standard fee for Basic Services.
If you are given the chance to help them with the planning, here is an outline of how you might proceed.
orig post date Nov2012
Every project needs a building permit. Jurisdiction doesn't change the code that you must comply with, but it often changes the process of obtaining a building permit. I like to apply for the permit before going out for bids so that any changes that are required by the plan review can be included before the bids are received.
The components of a permit application are jurisdiction, the application paperwork, the printing of sets of drawings / specifications, delivery, and the response to the inevitable corrections letter.
Building Permit Application
Corrections Letter Response
You will almost certainly want to modify this process for your circumstances. But the point is to have a plan that you work toward implementing while you are completing the drawings and preparing to go out for bids. We have found in recent years new code-related requirements are cropping up. Two that come to mind are:
Having a documented process makes it easier to hit all the compliance bases without losing your momentum or encountering delays.
Not everyone is 'wired' to look for ways to improve a process. Some people like tackling a task differently every time it comes around. But even the act of designing is a candidate in spite of every design problem being unique. Recognizing your unique method of designing can make it a smoother process. Here's an example of what I mean.
I like to start a design problem with context, understanding the present situation, taking note of the surroundings. Context tells me what "kind" of solution the problem "wants". From there I often look at constraints next, zoning, codes, approvals needed. I want to know where the danger zones are, where I might waste time looking for solutions that will never be "clean". You can see that my overall approach is about elimination. I am much more comfortable knowing up front where the boundaries are. Infinite possibilities is not reality. There are always boatloads of solutions that won't work well. I like to get rid of them up front.
Next is a quick peek at schedule and budget followed by a rough estimate of size and needs. Then I like to mull the whole thing over while I dig into the size and needs issue in more detail.
I had few projects early in my career where there were serious misfits that took way to long to understand. One was a suburban library that wanted to be one-story because it just wasn't big enough to justify two stories. The site was a truncated wedge shape. The building wanted to be in the narrow end of the wedge and the parking in the wider end. About twenty schemes later I realized I had two problems where I thought there was just one. I had been working on the 10 lbs. in a 5 lb. bag problem without realizing it. Not only did the shape of the site make things difficult, the SIZE of the site was just large enough to accommodate building, parking and setbacks. Things started to fall together once I realized the real limitations.
There is no point in trying to hurry the process while I am working on space an needs (or watching someone else work on it). The whole thing needs to simmer for a while. Something critical to the process happens here. If you rush it, you don't really make any progress. The bigger the challenge, the longer it takes. This probably looks like procrastination, or a learned disfunction from college days. I prefer to think of it as time needed to marinate.
My method of design works much better when I can follow these steps at my own pace.
Take a look at this article to see some other benefits of Unique Methods and a tool that I use. Two other articles on documenting methods are here and here.
The construction of the building isn't (normally) the Architect's responsibility - the General Contractor or Construction Manager has that role. However the Architect does have a role in seeing that what is built meets the documents that he/she has prepared, and that the Owner receives the building that he/she has paid for.
Continuing with the Architect's final tasks during construction...
Some projects don't have changes, but nearly all do. Humans are fallible. Owner's change their minds. Better ideas come to light. In each case the contract for the construction work needs to be amended by a Change Order. The Change Order states the amount of money for the change, a description of the work it encompasses, any change in project duration, and any background information like details, pricing, and so on. The dollar amount of the Change Order may increase or decrease the Contract Sum. Not surprisingly, increases outnumber decreases by about 20 to 1 in both quantity and amount of money. Owners do not like Change Orders. The Serene Architect avoids Change Orders.
The Punch List
See this article. When the project is nearly complete, a Punch List is prepared to determine any work needing correction. It is in everyone's interest to correct the work as it proceeds, and the Punch List isn't intended to be a list of what is left to be done. Some Owners want to be involved, most do not. Your engineering consultants should make their own reviews and lists. Once complete, the Punch List is given to the constructor to oversee completion of the items; and the Architect makes one or more re-visits to confirm that the work has been corrected acceptably. Getting subcontractors to return for an hour's worth of work is challenging. But the project can't be closed out until the Punch List is complete.
Certificate of Substantial Completion
An AIA form is often used to document this milestone, and many contracts require its documentation. Sometimes Substantial Completion is the trigger for retainage (money held back from pay requests) to be reduced or released. If the project is bonded, the constructor's surety must give consent to any change in the amount retained by the Owner. The main prerequisite for declaring that the project is substantially complete is having received a Certificate Of Occupancy from the authority having jurisdiction. The Certificate of Substantial Completion documents the constructor's and the Owner's agreement on when insurance will change hands, when responsibility for security will change over, what remains to be complete and by when, and the start date for warranty periods.
The process of closing out a project is the reason that the end of the Construction Administration Phase is blurry. You and the Owner want to receive a number of documents. The Owner still has to make the final payment to the constructor, and that is the only leverage for ever getting those documents. Here is a listing:
Because many warranties lapse after one year, it is a good idea to make a walk-through at about ten months after Substantial Completion. Some Owner-Architect agreements require it. If not, you might offer it as an additional service or look upon it as a marketing opportunity. Most things that are warranted are not items that you can check visibly. Often you will need to interview those who would know whether anything leaks, the AC works, hardware functions, etc. Having overseen the completion of these warranty items, the project is complete and the Construction Administration Phase ends.
Other articles in this series:
Construction Administration - Part 1
Construction Administration - Part 2
The construction of the building isn't (normally) the Architect's responsibility - the General Contractor or Construction Manager has that role. However the Architect does have a role in seeing that what is built meets the documents that he/she has prepared, and that the Owner receives the building that he/she has paid for.
Continuing from Part 1 with the Architect's tasks during construction...
Submittals consists of shop drawings that show how the fabricator plans to implement the Architect's drawings. There are also Product Data Sheets and Samples that will be submitted for approval. Within a week or ten days of receiving these submittals, the Architect reviews them, marks them with any deficiencies, and returns them, while retaining a copy for his records. See this article. It is common for the subcontractors to submit documents showing the way they always do things instead of the way you have specified. It gets really messy when you approve a submittal and later realize it is wrong. Attention to detail can save you time in the long run, not to mention the 'egg on your face'.
Usually once a month the constructor submits an invoice for the work completed. Nearly everyone uses the AIA forms for this or a spreadsheet formatted in the same way. This Request For Payment should show a logical breakdown of the costs of the project so that it is easy to determine if you agree that each aspect of the work is complete to the extent claimed in the pay request. You might want to visit the site to see if you agree with the breakdown. Allowing the contractors to be paid for more work than they have achieved reduces the only leverage you have for good performance - the money. If you disagree, tell the constructor to change it. Modifying it yourself, while legitimate, invariably creates accounting headaches for the parties involved. They would rather change it.
Periodic site visits and reports varies in frequency by project and also by the work in progress. For example, earthwork may take months and may be tested by the soils engineers, so a monthly visit is more than enough. Concrete work on the other hand covers any evidence of faulty work as they go and you may want to be present before every pour. I am always curious about what work is expected to be undertaken in the next two weeks in case I want to check on the way it is completed. It is normal to prepare a Field Report about your visit, which notes date, time, weather, who is present, work in progress, your observations and any instructions you may have given to the superintendent.
Requests for Information
When the constructor has a problem, a formal Request For Information may be used to get direction. The Architect needs to act on these requests as soon as possible. It is not unheard of for the Architect to be sued for delaying the construction. The direction you give must be in accordance with the construction documents. If not, a change may be required to the contract.
In Part 3, I will cover: Change Orders, punch list, Certificate of Substantial Completion, close out, and warranty inspection.
The vast majority of the posts that you will find here are about the designing of buildings. The goal of design, of course, isn't a design, but a building. The construction of the building isn't (normally) the Architect's responsibility - the General Contractor or Construction Manager has that role (hereafter referred to as constructor). However the Architect does have a role in seeing that what is built meets the documents that he/she has prepared, and that the Owner receives the building that he/she has paid for.
So here is an overview of the Architect's role during construction.
The Construction Administration [CA] Phase usually starts when the
constructor receives a signed contract or a Notice To Proceed [NTP]. The end of the CA Phase is often blurry, but is roughly when the Owner occupies the building. No two projects are the same, however the main tasks during this phase are described below.
As soon after the the constructor is selected as you can arrange, hold a kick-off meeting. This is referred to as the Pre-Construction Meeting. Here is a typical agenda. This is a one-time affair, but you might want to hold similar meetings just before the start of critical parts of the project to make sure everyone is on the same page, e.g. masonry, roofing. In each case the purpose of the meeting is to make sure the contractors understand what is required and expected of them.
Multiple times during construction there should be meetings to discuss progress and any issues/problems that have arisen. The tighter the schedule the more frequent these meetings should be, but they are normally held monthly, bi-weekly or weekly. The constructor is supposed to run these meetings, but it is not unheard of for the Architect or even the Owner to be in charge. The constructor often uses these meetings to remind his subcontractors of safety procedures, establish access to, and use of, the site and similar issues. The main purpose, though, is to discuss progress and what problems need to be overcome to stay on schedule. Sometimes the constructor needs 'help', and it is OK to offer advice; but be careful that you don't dictate ways and means, which are the constructor's responsibility. You could be held responsible for your directions if there are problems.
Some of the work is tested by a third party, who submits a report on the findings. You will need to review these reports promptly to determine if the work meets the specifications; and, if not, take action to have it corrected. Except for remodeling projects, the soil compaction and concrete strength are normally tested. Masonry mortar and grout, roofing, paving are often tested. The International Building Code requires 'Special Inspections' for many buildings, although the local authorities having jurisdiction often interpret this requirement in vastly different ways.
In Part 2 and Part 3 I will cover submittals, pay requests, site visits, RFIs, Change Orders, punch list, Certificate of Substantial Completion, close out, and warranty inspection.
OVERVIEW OF “BRIDGING” CONSTRUCTION
“Bridging” is a hybrid of Design/ Build and traditional Design-Bid-Build. The selection of the Project Delivery System, i.e. how you are going to get your facility designed and built, has a great impact on the outcome of the project because it determines the environment in which issues of quality, cost and schedule will be decided.
Bridging was popularized by George Heery. Bridging saves time and money as compared to Design-Bid-Build. Bridging controls costs as compared to Design/ Build by getting a defined cost for a defined scope of work, rather than an undefined scope of work.
The Steps of the Process are somewhat familiar and fall into the three phases listed below.
In all project delivery systems, a Schematic Design comes first. The Site-Related Permits should be resolved as soon as a site plan can be agreed upon. These are permits such as zoning, wetlands, NPDES, highway encroachment.
A key feature of Bridging is that you have a well-defined scope of the project which is represented by the Design Phase drawings and specifications which include the bidding documents.
Schematic Design documents for a Design/ Build project delivery are notoriously vague, but you get a fixed construction cost. Whenever that vagueness doesn’t produce the result you need, the construction cost goes up. Even a Guaranteed Maximum Price clause crumbles before these “changes in scope”.
With Design-Bid-Build, when Schematic Design documents are complete you have your architect’s estimate of costs; but it could be month’s before you have the hard numbers that bidding brings.
For public projects, which require open bidding, you solicit bids from Design/Builders in a process similar to the normal bidding process:
• Place a legal advertisement in the newspaper and place the bidding documents on file with Dodge Reports. Specific Design/ Builders might be contacted informally to make sure they are aware of the project.
• Potential bidders obtain bidding documents which describe the project in detail and specify what will be required of them – bonds, insurance, previous experience, specific time for completion, etc.
• Sealed bids are received at a public bid opening.
Based on the submitted information and reference checks, the best bid is awarded the contract. The Contract is based on an industry standard – the American Institute of Architects Document A191, Part II, Standard Agreement Between Owner and Design/ Builder.
The Final Design for the project is prepared by the Design/ Builder or his associated design firm which provides for:
• Verification of Scope.
• Obtaining Building Permits.
• Construction Drawings.
During this phase, you and your architect review and approve all documents. You and your architect provide overview of the building permit process. You and your architect review Submittals and Construction to verify Proper Scope and Quality.
There is also review of progress to verify that the schedule is being met and that the amounts of pay requests are legitimate. Your Architect is available to assist with the management of any changes that you make or that are suggested to you.
The Design/ Builder who is awarded the bid is completely responsible for design and construction of the project so you have one point responsibility for any issues which arise. The Design/ Builder cannot increase the cost of the project unless you change your plans.
The Steps Of The Process When Bridging Construction
You Have One-Point Responsibility For The Final Construction.
You Have A Knowledgeable Advocate On Your Side Throughout The Project.
You Have A Firm Price Early In The Process.
You Save Time And Cost Over The Traditional Design-Bid-Build Process.
You Receive Better Value Than The Design-Build Process.
Project Delivery Method: What is it?
Project Delivery is the method chosen for the design and construction of your building project. There are over a dozen project delivery methods in common use, and more to come with the advent of true BIM. Fortunately all the methods fall into two main categories - design-bid-build and fast track. (See Part 1.) All the other variations amount to different contracting methods for providing one of these two styles of project delivery. (See Part 2.) It is important to resolve the Project Delivery Method early in the process, because you cannot easily change methods because of existing contracts, fees and relationships.
Two Additional Wrinkles
Any of these methods can be further complicated by 'Multiple Primes' and 'Work By Owner'.
Multiple Primes means that several contractors work directly for the Owner instead of just the General Contractor. Multiple Primes will affect the development of the construction documents and the amount of work required of the architect during construction.
Work By Owner is similar. The 'Work By Owner' may be work that the Owner will perform with his own employees or a separately contracted entity. If this work will happen simultaneously with the other construction, there will be coordination issues for the contractor and perhaps coordination with the design work as well. A couple of examples are security and wiring, graphic design and signage, or perhaps interior design and furnishings.
One Last Option - 'Bridging'
Bridging is a hybrid method invented by Heery and Heery, an Atlanta architectural firm. Bridging maintains many of the best features of the various project delivery methods. Here is how it works. The Architect develops a sophisticated preliminary design based on the Owner's needs and budget. The focus of the design is the Owner's core needs, what is important to the Owner. This design forms the basis for bidding the project to several Design/Build firms, who are urged to use their creativity in delivering a solution to the preliminary design. The Architect assists the Owner in awarding the design/build contract and remains in a consulting role through the final design and construction. The benefits are that the Owner has someone on his team throughout the process, the Architect; and he has one point of responsibility for the final product, the Design/Builder.
Which method is the best? I am partial to Design-Bid-Build (no surprise) with a contractor hand-selected to provide the work on a cost-plus fee basis. If any part of the project goes over budget, you can work with the contractor to re-design and re-bid. If you have an adequate number of alternate bids up front, which is one of my favorite tactics for bringing a project in on budget, the 're-design and re-bid' actually amounts to just adding the features you can afford from the alternate bids that have been obtained.
My next choice is Bridging if the circumstances are right. Bridging works particularly well for a project that is out of town. We have experienced just about every type of Project Delivery. With the right contractor, construction manager or design/builder and with complete and competent design documents any method works well.
Project Delivery Method: What is it?
Project Delivery is the method chosen for the design and construction of your building project. There are over a dozen project delivery methods in common use, and more to come with the advent of true BIM. Fortunately all the methods fall into two main categories - design-bid-build and fast track. See Part 1. All the other variations amount to different contracting methods for providing one of these two styles of project delivery. It is important to resolve the Project Delivery Method early in the process, because you cannot easily change methods because of existing contracts, fees and relationships.
The Project Delivery Contract Methods
The traditional method of contracting for design and construction is for the Owner to hire an Architect and a Contractor, who is selected through the bidding process. A variation is for the Owner to hire the Contractor based on other criteria than bidding. In this case the Contractor is often paid the cost of the work plus a fee.
The design/build method of contracting involves the Owner selecting a design and construction team based on proposals, competition or a preliminary design. The Owner has the benefit of one point of responsibility for both the design and the construction. Because the design is not complete, it is very likely that 'issues' will arise that were not included in the cost. Often this contracting method includes a Guaranteed Maximum Price. What is 'guaranteed', in my opinion, is the Design/Builder's profit. A change in the scope of the project always comes at a price - more money or elimination of something else.
The construction management method of contracting for design and construction comes in two flavors. The Construction Manager may be the constructor, and thereby at risk, or he may be an advisor where he is paid a fee. This second flavor makes the Construction Manager similar to the Architect. In either case the Architect may work for the Construction Manager, although this almost never happens when the Construction Manager is an advisor.
You will note that some of these project delivery methods are set up to have the Architect working for someone besides the Owner. Be aware that who the Architect works for affects his loyalty. It isn't realistic to expect the Architect to side with the Owner of the project against his client, who he may have an on-going relationship with. Most contractors, not all, would prefer to have the architect work for them so that they can control the architect and his scope of work. Again, be aware.
In Part 3 we will look at some additional wrinkles that create hybrid methods.
Project Delivery Method: What is it?
Project Delivery is the method chosen for the design and construction of your building project. There are over a dozen project delivery methods in common use, and more to come with the advent of true BIM. Fortunately all the methods fall into two main categories - design-bid-build and fast track. All the other variations amount to different contracting methods for providing one of these two styles of project delivery. It is important to resolve the Project Delivery Method early in the process, because you cannot easily change methods because of existing contracts, fees and relationships.
Design-Bid-Build is the most commonly used method of project delivery. As the name implies you first design the building, then you take bids and finally you build. This is a logical and practical way to approach construction. Things can go wrong, but generally you have control over the cost and quality of the project. Trying to control the schedule, too, is an imperfect proposition.
Fast-Track is distinguished from Design-Bid-Build by starting construction before the project is completely designed and bid. In fact the only reason to use Fast-Track is an overwhelming need to complete the project as soon as possible, or at least sooner than it appears that it will otherwise be completed. Fast-Track holds out the promise of being faster, and it usually is. It is generally harder to control cost and quality because they both are often compromised in the interest of quickness.
Briefly the Contract Methods that can be used are:
In Part 2 we will look at these different forms of contracts that add complexity to Project Delivery.
Which category is the best? I am partial to Design-Bid-Build. (Surprised?) However, we have experienced just about every type of Project Delivery; and with the right contractor, construction manager or design/builder and with complete and competent design documents any method works well.
Every project has some management 'boxes' that need to be checked off besides all the design 'boxes' that you usually focus on. These boxes refer to backstage issues like accounting set-up, working out a design budget, getting a signed contract, and so on.
We used to use paper forms to collect the info, and now they are editable PDFs. The whole thing would work better in Basecamp as part of your standard project templates. We will get there.
The main problem with this system is that it is often hard to provide the answers when the answers are needed. So things linger in limbo and are forgotten until they affect the project. The perfect example is time-keeping. You can't log time on the project until it has been "set-up". The original form that collected this info was two pages long and asked for a lot of things that couldn't be identified on day one. So we invented a sub-routine for tracking what was still needed. That may have been worse.
Eventually we ended up with more forms, each asking for a discreet piece of information when it was needed. In the document below, you can see the forms that we use. You can download a PDF of our PROJECT FORMS here. Use the comments if you have any questions.
Unique Methods is a concept that I learned from The Strategic Coach, Dan Sullivan. Everyone has processes that are unique to them. No two people go about writing a specification exactly the same, for instance. There are three main benefits to identifying your unique methods.
You can choose to do this solo, or you can get a group together and tackle the project together. There is no end to what you can think through this way. To give you an idea, here are some of the processes in our firm that we documented.
Another article on Unique Methods.
Updated October 14, 2013
It's easy. For the past fifteen years we have used an all-inclusive template for documenting our estimates of project costs. The first embedded template shows our format. This part summarizes every cost that we think the client will face. The construction costs are pretty obvious, and even the breakdown isn't very unusual.
However even during Pre-Design we are able to create this level of detail. The reason we can do that is the second embedded document - the assumptions and the quantities we derive from those assumptions. From there we feed the quantities into an RS Means CostWorks model for the construction type that we anticipate. The result is surprisingly accurate.
Having created a project cost projection, it is important to live within the assumptions that you have made. Very few architects do this and our reputation regarding cost control is a result. There are all kinds of weasel words to hide behind, but you don't see contractors shying away. It's not FM. It takes a little time, but you recoup it on every estimate you do thereafter.
The secret sauce is the quantity takeoff without drawings. This is done once and rarely needs to change. Special features just become new line items. You set up formulas in your spreadsheet to calculate every element of construction that you have. Many of these are very simple. For instance, the quantity of flooring usually equals the net area of the building. The amount of carpet flooring is simply the net area times the percent of the floors you think will be carpet. The quantity takeoff spreadsheet refers to the assumptions that you have documented on the assumption sheet of the workbook.
Another example is windows. This is more complicated because it works with assumptions about gross area, building proportions, number of stories, story height, and percent of exterior wall that is glass. The trickiest calculations are square feet of interior partitions and number of doors. These require factors pulled from a table. The factors can be found with some digging. If you work with just a few building types, you can develop your own from past projects.
Once the data is entered, we have all the quantities. The last step is to transfer the quantities to the model you built in Means CostWorks. With a little forethought this is a simple transcribing exercise that takes twenty minutes. When you have your system set up, which will take about three man-days, an estimate can be pulled together in an hour, including the twenty minutes of transcription. You are probably spending more time than that and getting poorer results.
Is there a really good way to do a Punch List nowadays?
Making a punch list of needed construction corrections started out as hand written lists. The list was shared. The architect showed his agreement with the completion of an item by punching a hole in the paper with his unique punch. You see where the process got its name.
The criteria for a modern version of the process would seem to need:
All of these can manage a list. The challenge is finding a tool that doesn't require a purchase or a learning curve for the contractors or for you. Those criteria eliminate most of the tools above as well as the possibility of interactivity and the need for authoring.
If you already use Basecamp for project management, Basecamp would work pretty well as an all-electronic punch list. Otherwise, I think the old standbys, Excel and Word, or their equivalents, are the solution. Of these two, the spreadsheet offers better filtering and sorting. Our Punch List system needs updating with some of the thoughts here. But if you set up a spreadsheet like this example, you can write items on printouts by hand on a walk-through or by typing them in on a tablet (I can't manage that when I have ’company’). The columns of the spreadsheet let you cover the 'what', 'where' and 'who'.
Take letter sized floor plans along on the walk-through for documenting the correct room number as you go. You can also have a 'Comments' column to store remarks or links to photos where a photo would help understanding. Dropbox, Evernote and Google Drive all support links to photos stored in them.
When an item is complete, place a 'Y' in the checkmark column and then filter for 'not Y' to see what is left to do. Distribution is old school, just send the completed list as a PDF by email.
Do you have a Punch List system you would like to share
Paperless submittals work very well. Technology is the key to saving time, postage, and paper/printing.
In the traditional way of handling submittals, there were numberous time consuming steps: log in the submittal, stamp the submittal with a 'received' date, stamp the pages of each copy of the submittal with the review stamp, review and mark up one copy, copy all the review comments to the other copies, prepare for mailing/delivery, add transmittal, update log.
Then repeat when the corrections are received. With paperless submittals, only the underlined steps above remain. Transfering the review comments is time-consuming, tedious, and exacting. The perfect scenario for making a mistake that could haunt you.
Transmitting the submittals by email works in most cases. A very large structural steel submittal might exceed the standard 10 Mb limit for attachments. In this case you will need an FTP site or a shared folder in Dropbox, Evernote, or Google Drive. Free versions of these last three will work fine if you clean up regularly after a submittal has been distributed.
Marking up the submittal can be done with a number of programs. On the Mac platform, 'Preview' has adequate tools. Evernote's 'Skitch' works well in both the Mac and PC worlds. You could use Adobe's Reader XI which now seems to have everything you need, including the ability to create custom stamps!
When you return the submittals, often the traditional review stamp is a stumbling block. We have combined the stamp with our 'Submittal Transmittal Form' to take care of that.
The last piece of the process is the log. A spreadsheet works the best because it can take any size that is needed. It rarely needs to be printed, so fitting it to a paper size isn't necessary. Print it with a plotter if it ever becomes necessary, otherwise just review the file. Over several projects you will develop a 'master log' that contains all the spec sections that normally have a submittal requirement. Copy the log from job to job and erase all the specific content leaving the spec sections as a kind of checklist of what needs to be submitted. You will find that additional rows have to be entered on every job, sometimes to accommodate a new spec section and other times to accommodate the second or third submission of the same submittal.
It goes without saying, but I will say it, SAMPLES don't work at all well using this Paperless Submittal process.
Hey, I'm Rick Wolnitzek and Architekwiki is my blog for sharing what I've learned practicing architecture for ... a long time. Enjoy!