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.

Did You Know…

We had a client recently that was of the opinion that “I own this building and I should be able to do what I want to it”. He knew there was a building department which issued building permits, but he did not realize how far reaching these agencies went.

There is much talk these days about the swamps in Washington, but the forest of building regulations at the State and Local level has become increasingly dense and difficult to find your way through when constructing a new building, adding an addition or renovating an existing facility. Getting a building permit is not as easy as it once was.

Did you know…

  • that there are fifteen different State of Indiana commercial construction codes?
  • that there are multiple different local departments that may need to review and approve your project?
  • that most commercial projects are required to have detailed construction drawings certified by a design professional submitted to the state agency for review. Before a local building permit can be issued the state must agree that you have met their regulations and then issue a Construction Design Release (CDR)?
  • that if your project involves any new exterior building and/or site improvements, it must be submitted to the local planning department to be reviewed. Before a local building permit can be issued the local planning department must agree that you have met their regulations and then issue an Improvement Location Permit (ILP).
  • that your project must have periodic inspections by the building department during construction?
  • that each local department must be individually satisfied before the building department can do their final inspections and issue a Certificate of Occupancy (COO)?
  • that you cannot legally occupy the building or renovated area until the Certificate of Occupancy (COO) is issued?

Much like a traveler going into an unfamiliar forest, you as a building Owner, really need the help of an experienced guide so you can make your way through safely.

PDMi can see that all these things are done. Give us a call if we can be of any help.

Go Cubs Go

I spent a day this week with my wife, my son, and my grandson at Wrigley Field. It was a great day for a baseball game, time with the family, and having fun. I am a Cubs fan and have been for years. My son became a fan at an early age and now I am excited to see my grandson become a fan too. Certainly last October was great for us Cubs fans; it was a long time coming. I am not so naïve to think that everyone is a Cubs fan, but I do believe that everyone has a favorite team that they love to wear the team colors of and root for. Why? Because watching a team get better week after week and then end as a winner is fun!

When my team has had success it comes from many of the same reasons a building project has success. These include:

Commitment from Upper Management. For any project to be successful Upper Management must understand why the project must be done, what items are to be valued and how the project will be measured during construction and at completion.

Skilled, Experienced & Prepared Team Players. A project team includes the Owner, the Engineer/Architect and the Contractor. Just like on a sports team each member needs to understand their role, do not do more (or less) than that role requires and lean upon their experiences to make the whole stronger than the individual parts.

Execution of the Game Plan. You can have the most skilled, experienced & prepared team players backed by the most focused, united & supportive management, but if the plan is not executed it just does not matter. Creating a great plan and executing that plan will always bring success.

We at PDMi want to see your next project become a success. Contact us and we can help you create the game plan and be certain that it gets executed.