Foundations: Can’t Live Without Them

We are working with a client on producing schematic documents that will establish the scope and quality of a proposed building addition. The goal of the documents is to set the foundation for the project so that when corporate approval is complete, the design, permit/construction plans & specs and construction can start immediately.

Setting the foundation of the project during planning is a lot like setting the foundation for the building during construction.

  • Building Foundations support the superstructure from settlement and failure. Planning provides the base to keep the project from veering too far right or left before it ever gets started.
  • Building Foundations are seldom seen after they are constructed, which makes them an “underappreciated” building component. Planning is also “underappreciated”, because it is not what you see at the end of the project.
  • Building Foundations are very difficult to repair after the building is built; Planning sets the why, how and what for the project. If the answers to these questions are not correct, it becomes very difficult to get the project correct after it is moving forward.

At PDMi, we can help you establish that sound foundation on your next project. Give us a call; we want to put our experience to work for you.

Never say Never

A while ago, we engineered and designed a large distribution facility for a grocery chain on the east coast. Due to the size of the facility, they needed a large parcel of land to support not only the building but also the truck traffic and trailer storage needed for the day to day operations. They located a site that seemed to be perfect: why did they choose this site? Well as the old real-estate phrase goes “Location, Location, Location”! This site was located along a major transportation corridor; it was large enough to meet the opening day needs along with plenty of acres for future expansion, and it was in a small town where the tax structure and available workforce were favorable to the corporation.

With all the positives of “Location, Location, Location” came the reality of “Problem, Problem, Problem”. The problems on the site were: it had designated wetlands; it had three different endangered species of wildlife and the biggie – it had three Historical Cemeteries. But: Never say Never. The sleeves were rolled up and the work began on these constrains. Some of the wet lands were mitigated and some were built around. The client purchased more land so that the construction would not encroach into the part of the site where the endangered species lived. They went through the process of moving two of the historical cemeteries and designed the driveways to miss the third one.

So when you love the “Location, Location, Location” but face the reality of “Problem, Problem, Problem” here is what you do…

  • Identify the constraints early in the project.
  • Gather your team and determine how to manage the constraints.
  • Don’t let a couple of constraints cause you to move on. Remember “Things worthwhile don’t come easy”.

Let us know if we can help on your next project.

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.