Scope x Quality = Budget

Scope x Quality = Budget. This is a formula you’ll never want to forget as you develop your next building project.

Many times, a project owner gets into trouble by believing that he can control all three variables of this formula. However, you will save yourself a lot of time and frustration by understanding that you only control two of the three variables for any one project.  For example, here is what I mean. Suppose you go into a car dealership and tell them you want the scope of a six seater, the quality of a Mercedes and only have $10,000 to spend. You will probably find out very quickly that one of your components will have to give! As with any building project, you can only control two of the three components and your design team will serve up a “reality check” on the third.

How can you make sure that “Scope x Quality = Budget” becomes a formula for success? Here are two tips:

  • Break up your project into smaller pieces. Once you’ve broken a project into smaller components, you can apply this formula to each part and control the two variables you believe are most critical to the success of that particular project component. For instance, the mechanical system has its own scope, quality and budget. You may want to control the scope and quality because you know that there are performance and maintenance issues involved. On the other hand, you may decide to control the scope and budget of the floor coverings and allow the design team to determine the quality.
  • Remember that the delivery method is secondary in importance to a good plan. A firm can successfully deliver your project by using the design-bid-build, negotiated contract, or design/build methods as long as you and your design team conduct proper planning up front and understand the desired scope, quality and budget for your project. It all boils down to planning, designing the plan and implementing the plan. Anyone can implement a good plan!

The PDMi team has been implementing the “Scope x Quality = Budget” formula for over 25 years. We have found that it really does help make our clients’ project a success. Contact us to learn more.


Details Details Details

You have often heard me talk about the fact that PLANNING – DESIGNING – BUILDING are constants on facility projects. I firmly believe that Planning is the foundation for which all successful projects are built. If that is true, then Detailed Design is the superstructure. Without detailed design documents the Building phase is guided only by guess work.

A while back, we were contacted by an owner that was doing a tenant build-out of an existing building. He had already hired a contractor, had completed the interior demolition, and was ready to start the building out of the space when he realized he had a problem; he had no Detailed Design documents to give direction to his contractor, only sketchy permit drawings. When the building inspector showed up for his first inspection, he put a stop-work order on the project due to lack of specific details. The owner called us to help solve his problem. After a job site meeting, we began the process of producing documents for his contractor to work from and for the inspector to know exactly the scope of the project. Before we completed our work, this project had a sad ending – the building burnt down.

Unless you plan to have your building burn down before it is completed, you should have detailed construction documents produced. These documents should…

  • Communicate the design parameters and details to the contractor and the agencies. PDMi uses 3D modeling as a great tool to accomplish this.
  • Provide Constructible Details. Just because a detail can be drawn on paper (or for that matter, dreamed up in your mind) does not mean it can be constructed. The PDMi staff has spent many years alongside contractors to understand constructible details.
  • Specify Material Selection. The right materials used in the right places will assure a project’s success.

We know that good Detailed Design documents will guide your project. Give us a call to talk about how PDMi can work with you on your next project.

Cart Before the Horse

Just as implied by the old cliché, “Don’t put the cart before the horse”, starting construction on a project before doing the planning, creating construction documents and obtaining permits usually turns out to be as efficient as trying to push a loaded cart down the road with a horse’s nose.

We have been working with a client to develop a master plan for expanding their parking lot & develop a new children’s playground park on an adjacent piece of ground. At our first master planning meeting, we were surprised to see that a portion of the site had already been cleared and stone paving placed. It was explained that the excavator offered to save them some money by going ahead in preparing the site and placing the stone paving. The owner thought it was safe to get this work done since they were pretty sure he knew where the paving needed to go.

There are always consequences to our actions, and this story is no exception:

  • After the stone had been placed, the city issued a stop work order since proper permits and zoning variances had not been obtained.
  • The owner had planned to ask the City to waive the requirement to pave the lot within one year, but given their jumping the gun, the planning board was not in such a charitable mood.
  • A central focus of the master planning was to preserve and utilize a huge 100+ year old oak tree on the property. We noticed that the new stone had been placed right over the tree’s root system. We explained that the stone, and eventual asphalt, cannot encroach that close to the tree without damaging it severely or even killing it. The owner agreed to removing the stone and installing pervious paving blocks in the drip-line area of the tree, at an additional cost to the project.

As the meeting ended the owner realized that he will need to file for a use variances as soon as possible to make amends with the city. He also came to understand that the root system to the cherished tree that he wanted to save was most likely damaged by the compacting of the soil and placing the stone around the roots. The final reality set in, the money he saved on not having a second move-in cost to the excavator will be gone several times over.

Please give us a call so we can help plan and manage your next project, in the proper order, allowing you to pull your cart down the road at a brisk pace to increase your bottom line.

Trust but Verify

We got a call a couple of weeks ago from one of our clients that owns multi-tenant retail shopping centers. The reason for the call was to ask us to develop a “practical” detail for extending the existing demising wall, between two of his occupied spaces, from above the ceiling to the underside of the roof deck in order to make it a one hour assembly.

We developed the one-hour rated wall assembly detail and gave it to him, but then came our question “Why do you want to do this”? He said that the Fire Marshall came through the space and told him that the demising wall between the two spaces needed to be of one-hour construction and extend to the roof deck. We told him there are specific conditions spelled out in the building code where a fire rated demising wall is required but his condition is not one of them. We suggested he ask the official for the specific code section he was referring to so that the owner (with our guidance) could see exactly what needed to – or not needed to – be done. In the end, the code was clear and the wall was not required to be extended.

This made me think about all the code requirements owners so often think they need to do, or a building official tells them they need to do. Several of the more common ones we hear often are…

  • All exit doors need panic hardware
  • Every entrance/exit door needs to be handicapped accessible
  • Because of the energy code, all exterior door needs a vestibule

I am sure you can add to my list. The truth is that you need to trust the building officials to understand the codes and regulations, BUT you also need to verify with your design professional what needs to be done on your specific project. Our staff at PDMi is a great resource to verify the building codes and government regulations. Call us, we would be happy to help. As Ronald Reagan said, “Trust but Verify”.


As we have worked with our clients on designing their new facilities, building additions and/or interior renovation projects one topic always seems to come up: Restrooms. The questions about restrooms range from; How many do I need? Can they be unisex? Where should they be located? And the biggie; Do all of them need to be Handicapped Accessible?

A while back, we were working with a client on a renovation and addition to his office building. There was only one existing unisex restroom in the building, and it was very small. In fact, as my father-in-law would say “It was so small, you’d have to step outside to change your mind!”. During the planning process, we told him that due to the specific conditions of his building, the building code would not require him to change, enlarge or relocate his restroom. That was good news to him.

The most frequently asked questions we get about restrooms seem to be about required handicapped accessibility. They include…

  • Do all restrooms need to be handicapped accessible?
  • Do I need to upgrade my existing restrooms to meet today’s ADA requirements?
  • Why do the accessible restrooms need to be so big!

The answers to each of these questions are always the same, but they also always vary based on the specific conditions of the building. Give us a call and we will be glad to answer your restroom questions.

One last final thought: It is true all restrooms must comply with the current building codes; but remember those requirements are the minimum and what your final restroom layout looks like in your facility must support your business. That is a successful design!!!