Selecting team members that are comfortable operating in an environment that demands transparency, teamwork, communication, and out-of-the-box thinking is fundamental to success. Without alignment in this culture, the process breaks down and the product suffers. The dynamics of the design process are such that constant team interaction and collaboration are essential for redesign and cost overruns to be avoided. We have come to realize that if the design team is held accountable for just producing documents for review at traditional design milestones, (Concepts, Schematics, etc.) the ability of the team to effectively interact is impacted.

The amount of documentation that is required at each of these large milestones combined with the fact that the information comes together virtually at the last minute, leaves little or no time for effective review of the design prior to design phase completion. We bring a different approach to this project. We suggest the design phase be broken into smaller, more manageable pieces rather than just the traditional milestones. This new approach is largely focused on early decision-making and the introduction of the same type of detailed scheduling process that is common in the planning phase of the project’s construction.

Our approach begins with a series of early workshops (prior to the start of Schematic Design) that are focused on deciding the direction of, and possible alternates for, each of the building’s systems and components. In order for these workshops to be effective, it is important that each of the design team members be on board and in active attendance. These early, comprehensive workshops give specific direction to the designers regarding each building system before the actual design advances even into schematics.

Once the project and its components are clearly established, the detailed scheduling workshops begin. Each and every critical component of the project’s design and permitting are discussed in detail and activity completion dates are established. Since all the design team members are present, the critical logic ties and finish to start relationships are established. This process also benefits greatly from the incorporation of the major subcontractors, (HVAC, Plumbing, Electrical, etc.) at the design development stage of the design. Our recommendation is that a detailed bid package is prepared at the beginning of the design development phase (this is possible because of the amount of early planning) and that competitive subcontractor pricing is solicited for each scope of work.

A subcontractor would be selected for each major discipline based on the commitment that their price remains the same and that they enthusiastically participate in the balance of the design in order to ensure that the final design meets or improves on the anticipated budget. These early commitments create a subcontractor relationship that can reduce operational change orders and production risk by making the subcontractor a part of the project development team.

Lastly, design document quality and coordination are critical to managing the cost risk during construction. We, along with the major subcontractors, conduct focused document reviews aimed at uncovering coordination challenges and validating the quality of the design documents prior to their completion.

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