Should You Have Written Agreements
Everyone urges you to have written agreements for your design projects. There really isn't a good reason for not having a contract. However, we were rarely able to accomplish the goal of 100% of projects having a written agreement.
Our best effort to achieve this goal was to simplify the process. The two tools that we found helpful were a Letter Of Engagement, and our own Standard Agreement. There isn't anything wrong with standard AIA agreements. They aren't even hard or time-consuming to complete. But formality and exactitude get in the way.
The Technical Design Diagnostic came to our attention about 1990. Unfortunately we have lost track of its origins - perhaps Fred Stitt?
The concept of the Technical Design Diagnostic is that it is a first step in getting a handle on the project. If your goal is to find the best design that meets your client's program, including budget and schedule, which it should be, then the Technical Design Diagnostic is the most direct way to do that.
The Technical Design Diagnostic also takes less time than a design study that ignores the parameters that will inevitably bring you back to just a subset of what you once thought was possible. We have found that by using the Technical Design Diagnostic, the project design concept becomes very clear in just a few days for most projects.
The Technical Design Diagnostic is intended to be followed one step after the other in roughly the order shown here. When you have thought all these issues through, then you are ready to start designing.
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.
Every project has an interior.
Having established that, you may need Interior Construction Details from time to time, I have rounded up a selection of details that includes old standbys for interior partitions and a few exotic ones like catwalks and ships ladders. Click the images for an enlargement or click the listed detail to go to the detailed description.
These two details can help with your documentation of interiors.
I haven't done any real drawing for ages, but that doesn't keep me from having an opinion about how it should be done. Let's see what you think.
As background you should know that my firm designed non-residential projects, so that is what my reference point is. Occasionally the projects get quite large - hangars, warehouses, etc. Whatever the building size, the sheet size was predetermined - 36" long x 24" wide. No exceptions. However, I could be talked into changing the standard size to 34" x 22". I will explain later.
CAD makes this size work with little effort. Provide an overall plan at whatever scale fits the sheet. Provide match lines with generous overlaps to show the plan at the scale that is best. But why you ask.
Large sheets are a nightmare on the construction site. "Sails" is the affectionate term given to them. As an aside, this will all seem so quaint when tablets (no doubt waterproof) are ubiquitous on job sites. Even this 36 x 24 size is considered unfriendly by many contractors. Because of the legibility of CAD drawings, contractors often purchase half-scale sets to make life easier.
And that is the main driving factor for 36 x 24 sheets: they work great at half scale. The advantages are:
How tall does a sign need to be to be readable from a mile away? I needed to know that because a regional airline we were designing a hangar for wanted a sign readable from the terminal across the airfield. Luckily hangars are big. We needed a spot that would accommodate a 25' long x 12' high 6-letter logo - 'Comair'.
Font Size vs Distance
I had been vaguely aware of the relationship between font size and distance. I knew from past experience that 10" letters worked well on schools, but that was about it. I think I found a rule of thumb in Graphic Standards; and, once we had a graphic, we verified the suitability with the sign manufacturer.
Signage Rules Of Thumb
Everyone's heard of AIA Documents. I just saw this ad in a magazine and wondered what the buzz was all about. They are now a browser-based resource rather than a computer-based tool. So you can be anywhere when you work on their contracts and forms.
I think AIA Documents do a good job for all parties, and they have a good reputation as an industry standard. These days they are very easy to use, and the browser-based aspect is very nice. The other thing about AIA Documents is that they cover way more types of situations than you can ever do justice to - all types of construction contracts, change orders, BIM, sustainability, and on and on. There are 180 documents. Many of them would appeal to non-architect design professionals, too.
I think they are especially good for public projects. If you get into a legal shoot-out, you don't want to be 'armed' with your home made documents.
So how do you get them and how do you use them?
Back in the day, you bought them from your blueprinter or the local AIA office; then you filled them out with a typewriter. That was only slightly easier than stone tablets and chisels. Now, as I mentioned above, the AIA Documents are browser-based. In a nutshell:
The service is kind of pricey but there are buying options. And under the terms of an AIA Agreement, the cost of these forms for bidding or construction would normally be a reimbursable expense! At least with the unlimited licenses, maybe the individual document service too, you can save standard clauses for re-use. Here are the purchasing options from most to least expensive. The cost for AIA members would be less.
SIZING A Conference Room
I think conference rooms might be on the endangered species list because of all the alternatives. But let’s say you are past that discussion, and you need to size a conference room.
The first thing to remember is that conference rooms are always too small. If you get the size correct, your conference room will be a more valuable asset. The two main factors in sizing a conference room are number of attendees and the function of the room. Since not every group needs their own conference room, part of the sizing process is to determine what everyone's needs are.
While you are surveying everyone's needs, determine the function of the room, too. The three main functions are discussions, presentations and teleconferencing. If discussions are the main function, then the size depends on the table and appropriate clearances for chairs. These clearances should be 42" in most cases. 36" is adequate for six people or less, and 48" is desirable for 10 or more people. For more than 24 people, it may be desirable to place a bank of chairs behind those seated at the table. In this case 84" is the ideal distance from table to wall.
Next consider the table size and shape. Round tables are good for discussion-type meetings of six or less. Rectangular tables are best for presentations and any group over six. Allow two feet of table edge per person along the sides and add one person at each end. The table width should be at least 36"; and 42" or 48" is better for groups of eight or more. For groups of 12 or more consider a boat-shaped table (wider in the middle) or increase the table width to 48 or 54 inches.
If the function of your conference room includes presentations, then you should increase the chair clearance at the presenter's end to a total distance of 84 inches or more up to 120". For presentation-type conference rooms the door location becomes important. Place the door in one of the corners away from the presentation area and reserve the walls at the ends of the table for displays. Presentations will work better without windows to outdoors, which is true of almost any conference room.
Teleconferencing is beyond the scope of this article because the system selected becomes a major factor in the size of the room. The market for these systems is shrinking because of the prevalence of inexpensive or free alternatives: GoToMeeting, join.me, Google Hangout, Apple’s FaceTime, Skype.
For the other types of conference room, you should be well on your way to determining the size that is right for your needs. Start with the table, add clearances for chairs and presenting. Add a door. Consider accessibility, which would add, at least, part of a five foot diameter circle near the room entrance.
Remember, when in doubt, make it larger. In operation, a too small conference room can be a problem; too large never is.
A system for storing our standard and typical drawings has eluded us for years. After all, the real promise of Computer Aided Drafting is saving time by not having to draw the same thing over and over. Everybody wants that.
What this has amounted to for us is scavenging details by cut and paste from one project to another. Everyone has their preferred sources that they have worked with in the past. Standardization implies “perfected over time”, but scavenging implies “re-used as is”. There’s a big difference.
For the longest time we tried to make the CSI 16 Divisions work as the filing system. This was very unsatisfactory. Then we hit on UNIFORMAT assembly divisions and found that it worked great for the filing system. The only problem was that it took too long popping open file after file looking for appropriate details.
Finally we came upon the concept of storing the details of each assembly in its own sheet of drawings. That minimized the search to opening just one file and panning around. This guide below was placed in the folder with all the standard sheets of details as a reference.
Most recently we hit on an improvement to this method of storing and retrieving standard and typical details. And that was to store the details in a template drawing that would actually be used in each project where its contents apply. The process was to simply copy the whole .dwg file to the current project folder; re-name the file; 'viewport' the applicable details; and add custom work as needed.
EXAMPLE: In a template sheet named “A-50b-InteriorDetails” collect all your drywall, masonry, casework details, etc. These are in Model Space. The “b” in the name is a placeholder for the actual sheet number when you know it. If any of these details are ALWAYS used, say a standard drywall partition detail, place it in a viewport in the Sheet view. On the next project that comes along, copy the file to the project folder, ’viewport’ any other details that apply, and then continue as always.
You can get a jump on this sheet template system by assembling good examples from past projects to use as your templates. Delete the non-standard stuff and you are ready to go. Add in other standard details as you find or create them. In about a year you will have a very nice addition to your firm’s intellectual property that will continually pay dividends.
We haven’t completed the transition from the system shown above in the image to using template drawings. However, we think the templates hold a lot of promise because even a Site Plan, which is always unique, could have a template sheet populated with items that will be needed: north arrow, legend of line types and symbols, paving key, standard boilerplate notes, etc.
Are you inspired to start saving time on the mundane stuff so you can spend it on Design?
The newest product added to the Architekwiki Store is a set of templates. MGMT-01 is a collection of 3 master files related to Owner-Architect contracts: a Contract, a Letter of Engagement, and a Supplemental Authorization.
These documents were introduced in the earlier posts linked above. Hopefully you will get some useful ideas about contracts themselves or the process that can make it easy to manage getting a written contract.
The Letter of Engagement is a simple way to get an agreement as soon as you are asked to start work. It contains enough Terms and Conditions to lay a decent groundwork for your legal relationship with your client. Because it describes how you will get paid, it also is a good test to see if the client is for real. This Letter of Engagement is intended to be supplanted later with an AIA (or similar) contract; or with the Contract included here.
The third template is a simple one-page authorization form that you can use when the inevitable change in scope occurs or when additional services of another kind come up. This form gets the cost ramifications on the table as simply as possible.
There is also a ReadMe file describing how the templates are set up so that you can convert these masters into 'your masters'.
The PDF and Word versions are FREE with sign-up.
I have only seen three filing systems in my career. The first was Manila folders with Acco fasteners. The project name was put on a Pendaflex folder. A Manila file collected all the paper for each phase in chronological order. Three or four folders per Pendaflex hanging file. We rarely needed to retrieve anything from the file but it was a job best left to the secretary.
The second was a binder system modeled after the system that I observed a Japanese client using. They retrieved items all the time with no bother at all. I adapted their system of binders to work for an architect’s needs. We quickly found that more than one binder would be needed per project - three normally. Design, Project, and Construction. We used a custom-designed set of tabs for each binder, the same every time.
The Design Binder was used for all the design phases with code research, estimates, schedules, materials research and so on. As it filled up we started the Project Binder and moved contract-type documents with Owner and Consultants into it, added Bidding Phase documents.
With the Construction Phase we started the third binder for Field Reports, Pay Requests, inspections, Test Reports (soil and concrete), Submittal Log, Punch List and Closeout Documentation. The project manager owned the binders, but didn't necessarily do the filing, so you knew where the binder for a project was located. You also knew where to find anything because the same tab system was used on every project.
The third filing system is the one we use now. It is as paperless as we can make it. See description of the paper part. The electronic part of our filing system relies on the binder system for its organization scheme. The tabs have become sub-folders on the server, where every project’s records reside as original native format files like Word, Excel, MS Project, Dwg, etc. There are also many, many PDFs from all the paper documents that we scan or document attachments that have arrived by email. Here is what our Project Folder Template looks like.
You may see ways of improving upon this, or see other folders that you would like to add. Here is what goes in each folder. Most labels are fairly obvious but others not as much.
The advantage of this system is that no special knowledge is needed to find any project-related file. Usually, you can do it in seconds. And you can email a copy while you are at it. Besides sorting by name or date, you can do a search for whatever you need. And, since we use Dropbox as our file server, you can access all of this data on your smart phone or tablet wherever you have cellular data, which is just about anywhere. I haven’t taken a briefcase, file folder or roll of drawings onto a job site since owning a tablet.
Note 1.) All the projects underway are filed under PROJECTS. Every year or so we relocate closed projects to a 'zArchive' folder under PROJECTS. That way every project is handy, easy to find, but not cluttering up access to the work-in-progress.
Note 2.) Our project-naming system is unlike any I have seen elsewhere. We use 3-4 letters to designate the client’s name, which is separated with a dash from another 3-4 letter ID representing the project name. The client name is abbreviated like a corporation’s stock ID, e.g. APPL for Apple, Inc. The project ID often stands for the initial letters of the actual project name, e.g. FAX for Fine Arts eXpansion.
Ages ago I found an article describing when design decisions should be made to minimize re-work. The most interesting thing about the recommendations was how they had been broken down by the same 'assemblies' system that I had seen in RS Means.
Later I learned that this was the Uniformat system. What is unique about the Uniformat breakdown of everything that goes into a building is that each division aligns with a whole group of related tasks. To some extent these divisions align with groups of drawing sheets, too. Bottom line: the Uniformat system, especially the older version, aligns with groups of responsibilities that you might want to delegate to team members so they won't be stepping on each others toes, or having a lot of coordination to do.
The table below is the way we documented the article to make it concise and accessible.
Not every Uniformat division can stand completely alone. Here I have tagged each division with a group letter ID to show which are best to keep together, and also describe the sheets that go with that group of divisions. Of course, coordination among all groups is necessary. However, if speed requires everything to move forward at once, this is a starting place for how you might assign multiple people to the job with a minimum of overlap.
Clearly group A has the most work and takes the lead in decision-making. Group A might consist of the project manager and/or principal and the project architect. Group B is very stand-alone, Group C is significant, but might be easily combined with Group D. Group E can stand alone or be folded into Group A. Group E doesn't even exist for one story buildings.
A - GENERAL Floor Plans
A - FOUNDATIONS AND SUBSTRUCTURE Coordination with in-house or consulting structural engineer
A - SUPERSTRUCTURE Coordination with in-house or consulting structural engineer
A - INTERIOR CONSTRUCTION Floor Plans, Reflected Ceiling Plans, Partition Types, Room Schedule, Door Schedule and Door Details, Interior Details, Enlarged Plans, Coordination with mechanical and electrical engineers
A - EQUIPMENT Schedules
B - SITE Site Plan and Site Details, Coordination with civil engineer
C - EXTERIOR CLOSURE Wall Sections, Exterior Details, Window Schedule
D - ROOFING Roof Plan, Roof Details, Coordination with mechanical engineer
E - VERTICAL CIRCULATION AND CONVEYING SYSTEMS Stair Plans, Stair Sections and Details, Elevator Plan, Section and Details, Coordination with structural engineer
F - MECHANICAL SYSTEMS by in-house or consulting engineer
G - ELECTRICAL AND LIGHTING SYSTEMS by in-house or consulting engineer
"Style Book - About Us" - revised in case the embedded document didn't work for you.
Office Handbooks can be a big waste of time. The bigger they are the less likely they will be consulted. Once you set policy, you are responsible for enforcing it. Bleah!
In our office Style Book (IntraNet). we opted for an About Us page containing expectations. See what you think...
Download About Us here.
"Style Book - Drafting"
For our IntraNet, we have developed several standards that everyone can refer to when needed. We call this our Style Book. Modern software like ArchiCad takes care of a lot of these issues for you.
If you are still old-school about drafting tools, meaning AutoCAD and the like, standardize your drafting conventions for the last time. Here are our conventions. Modify to suit your taste.
DRAFTING CONVENTIONS - LINE TYPES
LEVEL LINES – FLOORS, TOP OF MASONRY, TOP OF CONCRETE, ETC. Show these lines as a light centerline type with a `target' at the end. Place these lines to the left of drawings and details unless clarity is served by placing them to the right. The line usually starts near but not touching the referenced item. Extend all lines
away from the referenced item so that the `targets' line up. A `Target' is a circle with cross hairs through its center. The perimeter of the circle is a light line about 3/16" in diameter with the upper left and lower right quadrants filled solid.
FINISHED GRADE - Show the Finished Grade as a solid 2.5mm (3/32") thick polyline that represents the desired grade at the face of the wall or other item of construction. Extend the Finished Grade polyline about
8' beyond and in the same plane as the wall, except where other construction intrudes.
EXISTING GRADE - Show the Existing Grade as a dashed medium thick line that represents the existing grade at the face of the wall or other item of construction. Extend the Existing Grade line about 8' beyond
and in the same plane as the wall, except where other construction intrudes.
OTHER LINE TYPES - OVERHEAD LINES - Show lines that occur overhead or behind (not beyond) the picture plane as a dashed line with longer line segments - 1/4" to 3/8" each with 1/16" spacing. Pick a CAD line
type that delivers these results. HIDDEN LINES - Show lines which occur below or beyond (not behind) the picture plane as a dashed line with shorter line segments - 3/32" to 3/16" each with 3/32" spacing. Pick a
CAD line type that delivers these results. PHANTOM OBJECTS - Show the lines of objects that are missing as a dotted line with dots or extremely short dashes space closely together. Pick a CAD line type that delivers these results. Alternatively use a "GHOST" line weight.
DRAFTING CONVENTIONS - LINE WEIGHTS
LINE WEIGHTS - Line weights convey information and make a drawing easier to understand. The line weights that we use are as follows - name/color/lineweight/screening/color name:
HEAVY / 7 / 0.70 / 100 / WHITE (BLACK)
MEDIUM / 6 / 0.50 / 100 / MAGENTA
LIGHT / 2 / 0.35 / 100 / YELLOW (GREEN & CYAN, TOO)
VERY LIGHT / 9 / 0.25 / 100 / LIGHT GRAY
VERY VERY LIGHT / 5 / 0.15 / 100 / BLUE
GHOST / 8 / 0.25 / 20 / DARK GRAY
LINE WEIGHT USE - PLANS: HEAVY for exterior face of exterior walls; MEDIUM for interior face of exterior walls and for both faces of interior walls; LIGHT for doors, windows, overhead changes of plane (long dash), below floor construction (short dash) and notes; VERY (LIGHT for stair construction, plumbing fixtures, casework; and VERY VERY LIGHT for showing internal material changes like veneers or poche' of wall materials or designations for wall types.
LINE WEIGHT USE - ELEVATIONS: HEAVY for outline of building and any major offsets in plane; MEDIUM for minor offsets in plane (overhang, freestanding columns, etc.); LIGHT for doors, windows, gutters, downspouts, other changes in plane, etc.; VERY LIGHT for mullions, change of materials in the same plane; and VERY VERY LIGHT for showing poche' of wall materials, jointing patterns, texture, etc.
All text except titles should be the same size, font/style and case. Our standards are: 3/32" high, Roman S, and ALL CAPS. Use Light line weight for notes (cyan, yellow, green or red) Generally place notes to the right of what they refer to so that the leader is at the beginning of the note. Notes are preferable to key notes; however, use a keynote if space is not available to place the note without overlapping any other lines. Overlapping lines are NEVER desirable and rarely acceptable.
The font/style name for titles is `Bold'.
Apply the appropriate material designations at the latest possible moment to avoid having to change the poche' as new information is added to the drawing.
FLOOR PLANS - None for Schematic Design. Apply at the end of Design Development. Remove 80% of poche' at the start of Construction Documents, leaving poche' at corners and wall intersections for clarity.
REFLECTED CEILING PLANS - NA for Schematic Design. Apply at the end of Design Development (if any). Update at the end of Construction Documents.
ELEVATIONS - None for Schematic Design. Apply at the end of Design Development. Remove 60% of poche' at the start of Construction Documents, leaving poche' at corners and wall intersections for clarity.
CROSS SECTIONS - None for Schematic Design. Apply at the end of Design Development. Remove any 'in the way' during Construction Documents.
DETAILS - NA for Schematic Design. NA for Design Development. Apply all poche' at the end of Construction Documents, poche' only after all lines, dimensions and notes have been completed.
"Style Book - About Us"
Office Handbooks can be a big waste of time. The bigger they are the less likely they will be consulted. Once you set policy, you are responsible for enforcing it. Bleah!
In our office Style Book (IntraNet). we opted for an About Us page containing expectations. See what you think...
Download About Us here.
PROJECT FOLDER TEMPLATE
If you are happy with your way of storing your files so that they are easy to find, then this won't help you. If not, you may get an idea or two here.
Although I am explaining the system we use for Dropbox, any Cloud service or network server* will work the same.
We save almost no paper, even work-in-progress may have to be referenced from the cloud.
The first level of folders in our system are the main aspects of a design firm:
Before focusing on Projects, let me say that the Standards folder holds all of our Reference files, like codes, our Templates for everything from letterhead to change orders, and Procedures files that explain how to do stuff.
The Projects folder is the most complicated. The graphic shows the arrangement that every project starts with so that there is some uniformity. The folders at the next lower level tend to adopt the character of the project. So, for instance, there may be a separate folder for zoning and additional folders for phased permit applications.
Of course the actual names are not crucial, just the fact that there is a system and that you can depend on files 'being where they should be'. The names you see here are pretty self-explanatory with the exception of 'backstage', which is our designation for all the stuff that is somewhat private. Backstage is where we keep a copy of the contract, proposal letters, consultants proposals, invoices and accounting reports, fee calculations, etc.
The 'zarchive' folder, so named so it appears last, is where files are moved as they become obsolete. This is not always used, but it gives us a place to put things on-the-fly that have gotten in the way.
Somewhere between 10 and 20 items in a folder, confusion sets in and we reorganize into a new group of subfolders. The one exception are the dwg files, which remain easy to find regardless of number because our file naming convention for them is ABCD0A201. 'ABCD' is the project ID that is used for everything. '0' is a version ID in case one is needed. 'A201' is the sheet designation. If you are using Revit or ArchiCad or VectorWorks, this is taken care of within the project database.
The beauty of developing and using a system like this is that even years later, you know exactly where to look for a file.
* I think network servers are a millstone around your neck. You buy a server-grade computer, a battery backup, server software, client licenses, a tape or cloud backup system. You pay to have a firewall and a VPN set up. If you did it right, you can access all your files over the internet. If you didn't, oh well.
We would spend at least $500 per year having this setup "worked on". For just about the same cost per year, we pay for monthly subscriptions to Dropbox, who in turn buys the servers, battery backups, etc and we get access to all our files wherever there is internet service or 3G/LTE service for our phones/tablets (like on the job site). I will admit that I am oversimplifying, but not much, and not about the costs and aggravation.
One of the things that I notice about a room is the ceiling. Especially the way a ceiling grid is placed relative to the walls. I think that when the grid terminates against the wall with a tiny piece of tile it looks like shit. I wonder, "Did the architect cause that because of some other relationship that I can't see? Did the contractor just do it?"
My mentor taught me better. "No pieces less than a half tile - anywhere." I found that you can almost always do that. It might mean that you have to center the grid intersection in the room, or center a tile in the room, or start with a slightly offset grid. But there is always a solution. If you try.
There are special challenges - non-parallel walls, skewed walls, floating items like a section of wall or columns. CAD really simplifies things since you can move a grid around until you are happy with the edge conditions. Include fixtures in that exercise and kill two birds with one stone. Some times there might not be a great solution unless you can change the layout, which seems a bit excessive. Light fixtures complicate things. Occasionally you find that you can't place fixtures where you want and locate the grid ideally.
One way to minimize the issues is to use a planning grid of 2'x2' or 4'x4' when laying out the walls in the first place. If you stay on the grid, which is hard to do, you get a great ceiling tile layout automatically.
At some point we decided to write a recipe and move on to worrying about bigger issues. We called that recipe:
Rules of Ceiling Grid Placement
Rules 2 and 6 are key.
Rules 1 and 7 can be violated for good cause.
Rules 3, 4, and 5 can almost always be met.
Most of us don't give a thought to a Janitor's Closet. We put a sink in a small room of 5'x5' and move on. Well there's a little more to it if you want the space to serve the building owner. We learned what is really needed when we designed a supply warehouse for Banana Republic / The Gap. The owner's project manager, who was in charge of supplying the whole company with stuff for operating the individual stores, was basically an executive janitor. We received very specific requirements for the janitor's closet. I am passing on his wisdom to you.
I am also trying out a new tool, Notability, to create the graphics of the janitor's closet. Notability is a very nice note-taking app allowing writing in script, type-writing, free-hand sketching and some rudimentary tools for creating 'figures'. I am a big fan of InkFlow, but Notability shines, too. - But I digress.
The Janitor's Closet has four main requirements. First is shelf storage for supplies that the custodian will need in the course of doing his job. Second is space to store the cart that the custodian uses. Third is extra floor space to store equipment. And fourth is the sink.
The sketch, which is our minimum standard (now), shows a room with dimensions of 9'-4" deep by 7'-4" wide. These dimensions are masonry coursing, so this works out fine with masonry or drywall partitions. So what do you do with all the extra square footage? After all this is almost triple the 5'x5' size I have used all to often.
It turns out that you need open space that should be suitable to store a ladder, vacuum cleaner, mop bucket, and possibly a floor buffer and/or steam cleaner. You will need a deeper room if all of this is stored here. The four notes marked on the plan are explained here. [Click the image to download the drawing.]
A] DOOR - The door should be at least 36" wide, 40" is better. Our master should show the door swinging out 180 degrees to lay back against the outside wall. In for those rare cases where you can't swing it out, you will need an overhead stop for the door since wall and floor style stops won't work.
B] SINK - The sink should be a floor-set mop sink measuring 2'x3'. "Wall mounted mop sinks went out of style a century ago." The narrow end goes against the far wall where the water faucets should be placed using a braced spigot with an integral bucket hook. Above the long side there should be a wall-mounted mop-hanging bracket so drying mops can drip into the floor sink.
C] SHELVES - The shelves are three floor set metal units, each measuring 36" wide by 72" high by 18" deep. The shelves should be adjustable.
D] CART - The cart is often 30" wide by 48" long. Occasionally there will be two of them to support a large floor plate. Consider two rooms or one larger one.
Although floor space is precious, The Gap realized that you should give the custodians the tools they need or you may need more custodians.
Now you know how to design the ideal Janitor's Closet - and why.
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
Part of the firm’s knowledge is how to work with specific clients and consultants. We normally store project work in Dropbox, where we all have access to it. The folder structure looks like this:
This gives us a place to store all the projects for each client in close proximity, which is handy for finding details that can be re-used, or other things that are specific to that client.
One of those things is a “Lessons Learned” checklist that we file in the CLIENT folder. Pausing at the completion of each phase of work just long enough to collect a list of how this client works is really helpful for the next design team who works for them.
Here is a recent example we assembled while working with a first-time client.
Example Client - Lessons Learned (date)
Lessons learned about working for Example Client:
1] The "Owner" will be called something else.
2] They will submit for permits.
3] They may or may not require cost estimating.
4] The contract has very little to do with how they actually work - more informal.
5] Count on a rushed design period.
6] They treat rental units differently than units for sale. They are much more concerned about doors, windows, hardware, cabinets, if it is a rental unit.
7] They do not write the General Requirements, but everything else in the Front End documents they prepare.
8] Make sure they have an accurate list of allowances for their bid form. They usually have testing done by the Contractor under an allowance ($5,000?).
9] They will issue addenda, but we put it together in our format.
10] Project will probably have to go to City for a Historic Preservation review that we must take care of. Do as soon as a concept drawing is available.
You can do something very similar with your consultants for the benefit of new hires or just to collect info about what it is like working with them (time to try out an alternative?).
Both of these lists could also be stored in your IntraNet if you have one. We prefer this type of info to be right where you will see it in the normal course of things.
Kick off Construction with a Pre-Construction Meeting. This can take place as soon as a contractor has been awarded the work. Even before a contract has been signed is not too soon.
The document below is the agenda that we customize for each Pre-Construction Meeting. The Pre-Construction Agenda is downloadable. Very often you may want to have the contractor get started without waiting for preparation and signatures on the Construction Contract. The Contract is important but everything should be known once the award of the work takes place. It is just a matter of waiting for the attorneys.
If that is the case, issuing a Notice To Proceed [NTP] is normally recognized by the contract as establishing the official start date for construction. The NTP is simply a letter giving official notice. An example is below the agenda here and can be downloaded by clicking the image or here.
Door hardware is extraordinarily complicated.
As one of the few moving parts in a building, door hardware requires more consideration than most clients realize. Hardware consultants can help you make sense out of the multitude of options available for controlling and securing doors.
For interior doors the decisions involve selecting which of the following you want and its type, style and finish:
Fire-rated doors add another level of considerations!
Our standard selections are listed in the downloadable document below along with a hardware consultant’s description of the considerations for accessibility and fire safety.
Pre-Bid Meetings are pretty hard to justify based on what the participants get from them. Nevertheless most public clients like the ’due diligence’ feeling you get from holding a pre-bid meeting.
Below is a master agenda we edit for the project at hand. In spite of all this great info we review at the meeting, none of it is new. Every bit of it is in the bidding documents. It has to be.
Hearing it may help the bidders, but that isn't the architect’s job. There are never any good questions, because no one has looked at the drawings yet. The typical question, if you get any, is something like, ’Where do we submit the bid? Here?’
Download the Agenda here.
You may have a different experience. If so, share it with us in the comments below.
A project without Additional Services is pretty rare. No one likes to talk about an increase in fees. Which do you prefer? Losing money, but having a content client? Or getting paid fairly even if there is some discomfort involved?
Or maybe you are working by the hour or your fee is a percent of construction cost. Charging by the hour takes care of additional work automatically. The fee as a percent of construction cost might work if the change increases the cost of construction proportionally to the extra work. Often it doesn't. A fixed fee never gets you paid for a change. So here's what you do. Adopt a simple one-page form that you can complete in a minute or two and email to the client for a yes or no. We use this simple form. Here are the ways that it plays out.
We have found that no one faults you for being business-like unless they were hoping to take advantage of you. Getting paid for everything that you do is a form of Business Development!
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