Author: Gerry Bollman

Circle the Wagons

I grew up watching TV Westerns. Shows like Gunsmoke, Bonanza and Wagon Train. I loved watching the exploits of the gun slingers, cowboys and ranchers as they protected what was theirs. Out of that era came the phrase “Circle the Wagons”. This expression came from the 1800’s immigrants to the Old West and suggest that a group of people must work together to protect themselves from external danger or attack.

Like many idiomatic expressions with long histories, “circle the wagons” has taken on new meanings as time has passed. It is now used when overwhelming circumstances arise and the team needs to focus not only on the problem but viable solutions that work.

Often when projects we have designed and documented are being constructed, stuff happens and someone will say “It is time to Circle the Wagons”. We circle up the team, lay out a plan and get through it. So how do you solve problems faced in the midst of a fast moving construction schedule?

Determine the extent of the problem and understand what caused it.

  • Design or document deficiencies
  • Poor workmanship
  • Owner changes
  • Unforeseen weather conditions

Identify where you need to go to get the facts/knowledge to solve the problem.

  • Other stakeholders
  • Agencies
  • Vendors

Weigh the risk & rewards of the different solution options as they relate to…

  • Schedule
  • Cost
  • Scope/Quality Compromise

Decide on a solution and implement it!

When you face your next problem, “Circle the Wagons”. Get the stakeholders together, focus on the problem and follow a process of problem solving. Then and only then can you get back on the trail. Give us a call we would love to help.

Digging for Gold

Several years ago the Fort Wayne News Sentinel newspaper ran an article that caught my eye. The headline said “Unearthed Plans for City Coliseum”. That would not be much of a news story except for the fact that the article tells how the general manager of the Memorial Coliseum was cleaning out his closet and found detailed 1917 construction documents for a project that was conceived long before the design and construction of the 1952 Memorial Coliseum we know today.

As I read the article, memories came flowing back to me of numerous occasions spent digging through rolls of old blue prints in an owner’s closet, his basement storage room, or his highly secure storage cabinet – a big old cardboard box. Sometimes you get lucky and you find what you are looking for, but most of the time you go away empty handed. However, the hunt is always worth it because you never know what “gold nugget” you may unearth.

If you are fortunate enough to have blue prints of your facility I recommend:

  • Inventory your drawings so you know what you have and don’t have
  • Place your drawings in a place that is secure yet accessible. With existing blue prints this can be done by having the drawings scanned and digitally filed.
  • Remember the drawings are not “museum pieces” they should be used for reference, but never allow them to be removed from the premises without a transmittal of who took them and when.

If you don’t have documentation of your facility, give us a call and we can help you create them.

Nailing Jello to the Wall

Back in April of 1912 Theodore Roosevelt coined the phrase “Like nailing jelly to the wall”. By the 1960’s the phase had become “Like nailing Jello to the wall” and has come to describe a task that is very difficult because the parameters keep changing or because someone is being evasive.

Earlier this year we were awarded a project to design & engineer an addition to a facility in Fort Wayne. This client was, and still is, great to work for, but the project has taken on the characteristics of nailing Jello to the wall. From the start of the planning process to the time of the contractor’s bids, we often heard “We will get back with you on that question”. Working with the client, we successfully got through the design, documentation and bidding process, but it certainly was “Wiggly & Giggly” at times.

So how do you keep your next facility project from feeling like wiggly giggly Jello nailed to the wall?

  • Set parameters needed to solve the problems the project faces early on. This begins with working together as a team to gather the project parameters and constraints (“programming”), understanding their function and establish their priority ranking. This makes the process of finding the best solution easier.
  • Embrace the idea that compromise does not have to be a bad thing. It only becomes bad when you compromise without purposefully knowing you are compromising. Understand that “perfect” just may be the bigger stumbling block to the success of the project.
  • Limit input on any issue to only staff and consultants that have a direct influence over or experience in that area. Everyone has an opinion, so seek the opinions and guidance from the people that the question effects.

PDMi has seen a lot of “Jello nailed to the wall” over the years; give us a call if we can be of any help on see to it that your project will not be one of them.


Top Ten Reasons to Hire a Consultant

The Top Ten reasons to hire a consultant for your next facility project are…


Number 10: You need extra “horse power” to get those out of the ordinary projects completed.

Number 9: You need individuals with specialized skills on building codes, architectural design, engineering and construction management to supplement your in-house staff.

Number 8: You need political cover from the corporate “sacred cows” and all that jazz.

Number 7: You’re looking for Best Practices from someone who has served multiple clients facing similar problems across different sectors.

Number 6: You are looking for a fresh set of eyes that are not bound by daily routines.

Number 5: You are looking to validate ideas that have already been created within the organization.

Number 4: You are looking to understand the building codes & government regulations and leverage them to your advantage.

Number 3: Lawyers are too expensive.

Number 2: Your brother-in-law is busy this weekend.

And the Number 1 Reason you should hire a Consultant is….It’s fun to look at all the drawings


For whatever reason, PDMi would look forward to being a part of your team on your next project. Give use a call.


If you are a parent (or Grandparent like me) you get bombarded with questions from the little ones. At times it may seem a bit much but then you realize all they want are answers.  Well as a Professional Engineering and Architectural firm we get questions too. We do not get tired of the questions because we know our clients are also just looking for answers.  One of the questions we get regularly is “Do I really have to fire sprinkler my space?”

A few weeks ago we got that question again from a tenant who had leased a large vacant warehouse to use as an event center. They weren’t sure what code issues needed to be addressed for the build-out of the space, so they called the local Building & Fire Departments. The inspectors came out, toured the space and gave them a list of upgrades that would be needed for the new use. At the top of the list was adding a fire sprinkler system to the non-sprinklered space. Due to the complexity of work the quote they received was $85,000.00.

PDMi was recommended to the tenant by their realtor, who had been to one of Dan Gagen’s seminars about Building Code options for changing use of an existing building. Dan told them…

  • The local code officials were not totally incorrect in saying that a sprinkler system is required, because unless a little known design option in the Building Code is used to mitigate having to comply with all current code requirements, a sprinkler system would be required.
  • The option to mitigate code compliance items for changing use of an existing building involves technical evaluation and scoring of the building under (19) different life safety categories. If the building passes the evaluation certain code requirements are waived.  This allows for economical reuse of some existing buildings while still assuring public safety.

To make a long story short, we did the evaluation and the building passed without having to add a sprinkler system. We completed construction documents and submitted them along with the evaluation & scoring documentation to the state and received the Certificate of Design Release (CDR) confirming that the project can be built without a fire sprinkler.

PDMi enjoys helping clients with these types of projects; give us a call if we can be of any help on your next project.