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IF YOU’VE NEVER WORKED WITH ARCHITECTS OR CONTRACTORS BEFORE…you can take some comfort from the realization that you are not alone. Others have been in your situation with assignments to complete and projects to build, and have not only managed to understand the construction industry but have also learned to engage construction professionals and direct their work with significant success. The construction industry often seems confusing, intimidating, and impossible to fully understand. And it can be all of those things, and more. It is not only the design or construction process itself that is difficult but even those first beginning steps of deciding who to hire, when, and why. How do you begin to deal with an industry as complex as the construction industry with its myriad numbers of independent contractors and specialized trades? The following summary of some basic building strategies should be useful to anyone who finds himself asking that most basic of all questions: “Now what do I do…?
HAVING AN URGENT NEED FOR SOME KIND OF CONSTRUCTION AND A ROUGH IDEA OF A BUDGET… you start thinking about hiring a builder. But cautiously you take a step back and then realize that without some kind of design documentation you won’t be able to put into place the kinds of management controls over quality, quantity and cost that you really want. So you consider hiring an architect. Somebody suggests that you could just hire a “design-builder” and that he could “fast-track” the job for you for a fixed price. Somebody else then offers that if you really want to save some money you’d be better off hiring a “CM” and issuing the project out in “bid packages” utilizing a “GMP”. You write all this down and nod your head thoughtfully, as though you understand and will consider this sage and timely advice. Huh?
A PROCESS FOR ADDRESSING BOTH DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION MUST BE SELECTED… early in the project timeline. The process, called Project Delivery Strategy, will have consequences that affect both the project schedule and price and may also influence the choice of members of the project team, the type of project financing sought, and the eventual resulting project quality. Most often the process selection will be made by accident or default, often when an owner creates a team prior to considering alternative approaches. Sometimes the process will be determined by policy, either corporate or governmental. But whatever process is selected, there are two important things to keep in mind: first, every project delivery method has a flaw and second, all of them can be made to work. The best choice is the one that best answers the unique circumstances of your project.
THERE ARE FOUR GENERAL PHASES TO EVERY PROJECT… although not every Project Delivery Strategy will encompass all four phases. These phases are 1) project definition, 2) design, 3) construction, and 4) occupancy. These phases (along with numerous sub-phases) may be overlapped, subdivided, or re-grouped into various combinations. They may be contracted for in a multitude of different ways but none of them can be eliminated. If one phase is done poorly, subsequent phases will ultimately suffer in cost, quality, or schedule.
THE FIRST PHASE, PROJECT DEFINITION, IS THE PHASE MOST LIKELY TO BE OVERLOOKED… by first-time owners in the rush “to get something going”. This phase includes both discovery, the identification and analysis of project requirements and constraints, and integration, the formal description of the project and the plan (including a cost and delivery-time estimate). Sometimes this phase is referred to as “programming”. It may often be overlooked or minimized simply because it is not listed as a Basic Service by most architects/contractors standard contract documents. Generally it comes to be seen as contract “extra” and you may feel that you don’t have time or budget for “extras”. However, failure to give adequate attention to this phase of the project can have consequences impacting any and all of the three following phases. If you don’t know where it is you’re headed with this project, or if you don’t want to spend time or money to clarify it during the project definition phase, you can be assured of spending both time and money to define it later during design and construction, sometimes through an uncomfortable process called Change Orders.
THE NEXT PHASE, DESIGN, IS DIVIDED INTO THREE STAGES… of successive idea development. The first stage, called Schematic Design, is the stage that establishes the most direct response to the work done during Project Definition. It first develops the building plan and its physical, three-dimensional appearance. If the Project Definition phase was done poorly (or skipped) it sometimes becomes apparent during this stage and may be corrected. The next stage, referred to as Design Development, integrates building systems (such as HVAC, elevators, etc.) into the scheme, and develops further the functional and aesthetic elements of the project. Finally the third stage, called Construction Documents, is when the details of construction technology and assembly are clearly defined and specified. The Construction Documents then become the basis for establishing the scope of the construction contracts and subcontracts.
A LAYMEN'S GUIDE TO WORKING WITH THE CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY:
COMMON TERMS AND CONCEPTS YOU MIGHT ENCOUNTER