It’s All In The Plan

PDMi’s Professional Staff of Dan Gagen, Joe Humbert and me have over 35 years of experience, each, in this industry. We have seen projects designed and built with all the delivery methods (Design-Bid-Build, Construction Management, & Design Build) and every variation of contractual agreements (Lump Sum, Cost plus a Fee, & Guaranteed Maximum Price). One thing that has been constant over the years is the fact that all projects go through three phases: PLANNING – DESIGNING – IMPLEMENTING. At PDMi, we work with our clients on all three of the phases of the project. Over the next several eBits we want to look at these three phases, starting today with PLANNING.

We believe that Planning is the most important of the three project phases because it establishes a foundation for the other two phases to rest upon. We have seen some companies think that calling a contractor and getting a price for a project is “planning”. Others spend lots of time and a bunch of money developing scopes and schematic drawings that they call their “plan”. We at PDMi understand that planning does not have to take a lot of time or money and it is certainly more than establishing a budget cost. We believe that PLANNING should include three basic things:

  • Establish what you value using the Scope x Quality = Budget formula.
  • Provide complete understanding of the Constraints (Site Conditions, Utilities, Building Codes, Regulatory Agency requirements, etc.) that will affect the project.
  • The use of visual tools like 3-D Modeling to communicate the project’s character and dimension.

We love to Plan. We know how to Plan. We would like to put our three-basic-step planning process to work on your next project. Call me; your next project can be a success when you PLAN.


Well, “March Madness” is here again! You may call it “Bracketology” or “The Big Dance”. Whichever, it is all good as long as your team is in the mix. As soon as your team gets beat, or did not even make the “first four out” list, life will quickly get back to normal. But for those whose team stays in, it will be a fun three weekends. Whoever your team is: wear the colors, root them on, and enjoy the ride.

All this talk about March Madness makes me think about what it takes to win; whether that is on the basketball court or on your next building project. The answer is: Preparation, Team Chemistry, and Execution. I heard Bob Knight say years ago, “It is not if you have the will to win that makes the difference, it is the will to prepare to win”. Even when you are prepared, if you do not execute, you will find yourselves on the losing end of the game. I believe team chemistry is what makes preparation and execution work. Team chemistry is about everyone on the team working together for the common goal of making the endeavor a success. It is not about an individual team member winning or losing. This is true in building projects where the team always includes:

  • The Owner. The Owner sets the goals and objectives for the project. He then approves adjustments to those goals and objectives based on real life conditions (codes, regulations, existing conditions, etc.)
  • The Professional. The Engineer/Architect provides solutions to meet the Owner’s goals and objectives. He then produces documents to communicate those solutions to the contractors.
  • The Contractors. The Contractors blend the skill sets of their workers with the materials from their vendors to form a working unit to build the project and meet the Owner’s goals and objectives.

When all the members of the team are working together well, you will be “cutting down the nets” at the end of the project and celebrating another successful run. We would love to be there with you.

It is a Jungle Out There

We completed a tenant office build-out for the Veterans Administration. Being a Federal agency, we knew at the start that the design would need to be based upon more stringent governmental ADA requirements than the Indiana Building Code.  The VA has their own super-stringent ADA requirements that supersede the federal and state standards. To meet the VA requirements, offset hinges had to be placed on every door to obtain minimum clearance, the corridors had to be wider than normal, and the restroom stalls are required to be bigger in each direction. If we had not identified these “hidden” requirements early on, the liability to try and “fix-it” later could have been very costly. This is just the latest example of hidden regulations and codes we have dealt with through the years. In other words, “It is a Jungle Out There…” Here are a couple more examples:

  • While designing an expansion at a church camp, we discovered that the Indiana Department of Health’s Sanitary Code had jurisdiction since that agency regulates and licenses all camp facilities in the state. The Sanitary Code has a section specifically for camps that contains requirements for egress windows in sleeping rooms, exit signs, emergency lighting, and even interior finish materials that are all more stringent than the Indiana Building code.
  • When looking at designing a small two-story building for a small town in Indiana, we determined that because it would house a government agency, ADA Title II requirements would need to be followed, in addition to the Indiana Building Code. The big liability in this case is that state code does not require installing an elevator to provide handicap access to the second floor; ADA Title II does require an elevator, which costs $65,000.00.
  • We were called in to look at a surgery center that had been built in an existing medical office building. It had been open for over a year and just had their first yearly inspection by the Indiana Department of Health, since that organization regulates and licenses critical care medical facilities. The inspector threatened to close the facility down because the design and construction did not meet NFPA 101 Life Safety Code requirements that are a part of the Department of Health licensing. The Architect of the build-out had followed all of the applicable Indiana Building Code Requirements, but did not design to the NFPA Life Safety Code. The Life Safety Code is much more stringent than the state code with respect to fire separations, emergency & egress lighting, door hardware, and egress stair design. In this case, the liability to the designer and building owner would be very costly.

I tell these “horror stories” in order to let you know that in this time of ever increasing governmental regulation, it can be a dense jungle to try and fight through to understand what requirements your building really needs to meet. It has gotten so it takes an experienced specialist to identify and respond to these hidden codes and regulations. Please contact us if we can help you avoid being lost in the jungle on future building projects.

Count the Cost

We got a call from a lady that had an idea for a new business. She is an entrepreneur in a specialty food market niche who was working out of her house. She had some success and began to think that it was time to take the next step – move out of her house and into her own building. She thought it would make great sense if she could buy an older building, renovate it and provide rental space for others in her “small business” situation. She found a building, in need of some tender loving care, that she could buy right. So she purchased the building and that is when we got the call.

She asked…

  • What are the code requirements for changing the use of the building (which she would be doing)?
  • Could she and her husband do the construction renovation work themselves?
  • What our reaction was to her preliminary layout for using the space and her idea of phasing the work.

Our response…

  • The building Code is very specific about the requirements when an existing building changes use. Our first look showed that she may not have to make major renovations to satisfy the building code. But now that she owns the building she will be on the hook for whatever the code tells her to do.
  • We told her that the local building department requires a licensed contractor to do all the work. Not good news because she was hopping to put a lot of sweat equity into the facility.
  • Her preliminary layout showed us her thoughts on how she wanted to use the space, but a site walk through quickly reveled the obstacles in the way of an efficient layout and phasing of the work.

After hearing our comments she decided to put the project on hold for the time being and reevaluate her strategy. In the meantime she owns an old building that may not be the asset to her business plan she had hoped.

The lesson is: Always count the cost before you start. When you don’t, you too may just get caught owning an “old building”. Contact us; we are in the business of helping you Count the Cost…


Who’s Looking Out for You?

Over the last several years, we have e-mailed you pithy information about facility projects through our e-Bits. We hope you have found them useful and enjoyable. We will continue to send them twice a month throughout the year.

We want to be sure you have a full understanding of who PDMi is and the services we provide. You will find that information on our website which we invite you to visit.

In a nut shell…

  • Who We Are: We are a Professional Engineering, Architectural, & Project Management Firm.
  • What We Do: We manage the Risk Inherent in the Design and Build Process.
  • How We Do It: We believe in the Partnership of the Owner, Designer & Contractor.

We realize there may be many reasons why you would look for help with your facility needs, but we have found the two main reasons are: 1) You do not have the experience on your staff to complete the task effectively or 2) You are short on people and you need “arms and legs” for a specific project.

Either way, you need someone that is looking out for you. Someone focused on your agenda. That is what we do – we value what you value. Sure we provide Professional Engineering, Architectural and Project Management, but it is not “WHAT” we provide, but “HOW” we provide it that keeps our clients satisfied.

Call me and we can talk about your next project and I will gladly give you references of clients that got an answer to their question, “Who is looking out for me”?