Why What How

We have found that our clients mostly know that a facility project goes through three phases (Planning, Detailed Design & Construction) before it is completed. Our experiences also show that many of our clients know why they need to expand their facilities or build new ones, what they do not know is what to do and how to do it. This is where the specific process of Planning, then doing the Detailed Design, then doing the Construction comes into play.

When facing a facility project you need to answer the Why – What – How questions, in that order.

  • WHY: The why question is answered during the Planning Phase of the project. The answer to the why question gives purpose to the project.
  • WHAT: The what question is answered during the Detailed Design Phase of the project. The answer to the what question gives definition to the scope and quality of the project.
  • HOW: The how question is answered during the construction phase of the project. The answer to the how question gives organizational context to the project.

When the process of Planning (the Why) then Detail Designing (the What) then Construction (the How) is followed you can be assured that your facility project will be a success. Give me a call; we would look forward to helping you answer these questions on your next project.

Blind Trust

We got a call from one of our clients that own several buildings. One of his facilities is a multi-tenant building. 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 handicap accessible
  • Because of the energy code, all exterior doors need a vestibule

I am sure you can add to my list. The truth is that you need to trust that the building officials understand the codes and regulations, BUT you also should never have blind trust. Always consult with your design professional on what needs to be done on your specific project. It just may be that what the official is telling you is not the only answer.  Our staff at PDMi is a great resource to verify the building codes and government regulations. Call us, we would be happy to help.

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.