When embarking upon the initial conceptual phase of a new project, there are a few items that are integral to avoiding the blame game as a project is nearing completion.
Here are a few recommendations on what I have learned regarding this process:
When a university project initially materializes, its roots typically originate through such avenues as a donation or state-funded initiative. The team involved will most likely implement any number of creative ways to get the project funding and its design intent off the ground.
Oftentimes, a department head will gather his managers to discuss how a new facility will encourage student interest, as well as create a new revenue stream for contributors.
The ultimate goal, in my opinion, is always to enhance the educational experience for the school’s tuition-paying students, while also placing the institution on a national stage regarding its planned new facility. Consequently, this always leaves room for the finished project to interact with professionals thus making the university or college more desirable to attend.
After interest (funding) is drummed up, an invitation is sent out to architectural firms, who then invite technology consultants to participate in a short presentation (typically only 3-5 minutes for technology) meant to impress upon the owner an understanding of the project’s design and technology design intent.
This process will eventually produce the winning design team.
It is worth mentioning that multiple architectural firms may often partner with the same technology consultants, especially if a specific consultant has a notable reputation for innovative design techniques and organized project management methods. This improves their chances of winning the project, because technology is an integral player in today’s world of “The Internet of Things.”
It is imperative that there is a written record of all design concepts, whether it derives from a bar napkin drawing, design charrette or an edict that comes from the upper ranks in the chain of command … these are the seeds of the program narrative, which comes next.
There is a point in every project when the ice begins to crack; this usually appears when the winning bidder develops their own set of drawings and specs that are based on the owner/consultant drawings and specs.
If the winning bidder does not spend quality time reading the original specifications and coordinating other trades when designing their drawings, then it is probable that there will be multiple clashes between the different parties in the design process.
This drives home the point that someone needs to be the entity that polices and approves all changes regarding this stage of the project.
A consultant can perform this role well, especially if this job description is spelled out in the original contract. This service can also be an add-service that gets implemented as the project grows, however this may add additional cost to the owner. To some, though, it is worth the gamble in order to maintain the possibility of saving money and time in the long run by adding a level of consistency and in streamlining processes.
Of course, if the technology integration firm is very good, then the cost will be realized, because the integration firm may manage themselves responsibly and prevent delaying the project due to their own professional actions and they will coordinate with the other trades as the project moves through each phase.
It is inevitable that coordination clashes will arise involving MEP, architectural finishes, and technology and begin to coexist on numerous, time consuming and expensive punch lists. Therefore when this stage of the project unfolds, there needs to be a record of where the road began.