Design Assist

I came across a term that I think very well defines PDMi as a firm: “Design/Assist”. The term came from a seminar about managing and leveraging information needed to design and construct buildings through the use of Data Bases and 3D Modeling. As part of the session, the presenter talked about the three standard project delivery methods: Design-Bid-Build, Construction Management, and Design/Build. He went on to say professional firms do not build, but assist the owner and contractor in the successful completion of building their facility projects.

As I reflected on the topics of managing and leveraging information from the seminar, my mind kept going back to the delivery method discussion and the idea that we assist in the building process by using data bases and 3D modeling to communicate the design information to the owner and contractors. Project Design & Management, Inc. is committed to Assist our clients during:

  • Site Selection – We are not Real Estate Brokers, but we understand the real estate market and can assist in site selection, zoning/regulation requirements, and return on investment analysis.
  • Planning – Our 3D modeling process assists our clients in visualizing the plan. Projects are not built in 2D so why would you plan them in 2D.
  • Detailed Design/Engineering – As licensed professionals our detailed documents assist the contractor in translating the plan into a tangible facility.
  • Construction – We are not contractors, but our knowledge and respect for construction assists the contractor during the building process.

The Art of the Design

In our industry, there are two main philosophies that guide the design process. They are: “Form Follows Function” and “Function Follows Form”. Simply put, some designers believe that the way a building looks or its Form is more important than how it Functions while others believe the building’s Form is an outcome of its Function. There are good arguments to be made on either side of this debate, but this we do know; a good designer need not sacrifice either Form for Function, or Function for Form. If he or she does, they have not served their client well.

As with any fine or applied art, the basic design principles of proportion, scale, consistency, and contrast apply to building design. A strong aesthetic and functional design deals with all of these factors and their relationship with each other.

  • Proportion is how the size and shape of each building component relates to each other.
  • Scale is how the size of each building component relates to how the user experiences the building.
  • Consistency is how the color, texture, and scale of each component relate to each other while creating a single entity composition.
  • Contrast is what provides the visual “energy” to the composition.

The ability of the designer to balance these principles is what determines the aesthetic and functional success of the design. If a building is out of proportion, it fights itself. If a building is out of scale, people will be uncomfortable when using the building. If a building has no consistency the person trying to experience it can’t find a starting point. By skillfully applying contrast, the designer can provide energy to the composition, as well as provide visual organization to the components.

The PDMi staff of Engineers and Architects believes that strong visual Forms are easier to accomplish when they reflect a well-planned functional design. Give us a call, we would like to put the “Art of the Design” to work for you on your next project.

Risk vs. Reward

One of the many questions we get from our clients is   “Which type of Contract Methodology should I use for my facility project?” My response is always the same; “How much risk do you want to take in order to receive more reward?” When dealing with contract types, it always comes down to Risk & Reward. The one who accepts the risk should get the reward. So, no matter which method of contract you choose, how to allocate risk and reward is the measuring stick. Here are the three basic types of contracts used to deliver capital projects:

LUMP SUM:  With this method, the Risk/Reward is the Contractor’s. The following are true about this method:

  • Costs are fixed at time of bidding.
  • Schedule is fixed at time of bidding.
  • High probability for Change Orders if the scope is not well defined.

COST PLUS A FEE: With this method, the Risk/Reward is the Owner’s. The following are true about this method:

  • Costs are based on the project scope and passed directly through to the owner.
  • All bidding, negotiations, and construction costs are “open book”.
  • The fee or mark-up (lump sum or percent of cost) is negotiated at the start of the project.

GUARANTEED MAXIMUM PRICE (GMP): With this method, the Risk/Reward is Shared. The following are true about this method:

  • Maximum cost is guaranteed at the start of the project, based on an approved scope of work.
  • All bidding, negotiations, and construction costs are “open book”.
  • At the completion of the project, savings to the GMP are shared per a formula agreed to at the start of the project.

There can be one other factor that may influence the contract method you choose; you banker. The underwriter of the loan may require firm bids prior to closing on the loan. Financial institutions are not keen on accepting a lot of risk after the contract is executed.

As with many questions, there is no “One Size Fits All” answer; different contract methods work for different projects.  Give me a call and we can talk more about the truths of each method and see which method would best fit your next capital project.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

One of my all-time favorite movies is Planes, Trains and Automobiles. It cracks me up every time I watch it. For those of you that may not know the story line, here it is; the movie starts two days before Thanksgiving with Neal Page (Steve Martin), a marketing executive, leaving a business meeting in New York City and heading to the airport to fly home to Chicago. He was on a mission to get home to his family for Thanksgiving. As fate would have it, O’Hare was shut down due to a blizzard and his flight was diverted to Wichita.  There is where Neal gets connected to another stranded traveler, Del Griffith (John Candy), a shower curtain ring salesman, and the adventures of getting home by plane, train and automobile begin. Each “traveling” method they used presented its own set of challenges. They did get home in time for Thanksgiving dinner but not before a lot of diversions, complications and “speed bumps”.

Just like Neal and Del experienced, there are always multiple ways to accomplish your next project; some are just more efficient than others. Before you take off on your “project trip”, consider the type of vehicle (project delivery method) that will get you there in the most efficient manner. Here are three common project delivery methods available to you…


  • Owner hires Architect/Engineer to prepare drawings & specifications.
  • General Contractors competitively bid the project from the completed documents.
  • Selection of contractor to do the work is generally based on cost or schedule.

Construction Management

  • Owner hires A/E to prepare phased documents and CM to manage the construction.
  • Trade-contractors bid or negotiate the work of their trade.
  • Selection of trade-contractor to do the work is based on cost or schedule.


  • Owner hires a team consisting of the Architect/Engineer/ Contractor.
  • The team controls scope, quality, schedule, and budget throughout the project.
  • Trade-contractors bid or negotiate the work of their specific trade.

We would be glad to help you decide which delivery method is best for you and your project; give us a call. Whichever method you chose, you can only hope you will have as much fun getting there as Neal and Del did.

Tis the Season…

The Christmas Season, this is one of my favorite times of the year, but I must admit the one thing that I have never been crazy about (I don’t want a bunch of emails from the winter sports fanatics out there) is snow. My wife says I am nuts, but if it snowed on Christmas Eve and melted on December 26th then “Let It Snow”, “Let It Snow”, “Let it Snow”. Otherwise I prefer dry roads.

So, this Christmas season:

  • Enjoy time with your family and friends. There is no better time of the year to reinforce and grow these relationships.
  • Be generous to all. You may not have “it all” or for that matter “a lot” but you do have more than someone.
  • Always remember “It is not about ME”. The only way to a “Purpose Filled Life” is to put others first and you second.

I have come to know that the Christmas season is all about relationships and here at PDMi we are thankful this holiday season for the relationships we have had throughout 2019 and look forward to strengthening those relationships in 2020.

Our Staff wishes you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.