Saturday, November 7, 2009

Understanding Facilities (continued)

In my last post I gave an overview of facility planning basics. Here are some further thoughts and links for implementing cost savings, risk reduction, and quality improvement.

Once you decide to do a project, there are a number of different delivery methods you may wish to consider, based on the nature and complexity of the project, and the pool of expertise available. For very simple and small projects you might want to use a design/build approach, which can simplify the logistics and lower costs. For anything more complex, however, you will give up too much—in terms of cost or quality of results or both—if you don’t separate design and construction.

Generally you will use an architect, with a battery of appropriate engineering and technical consultants, for design. There are easy ways to find an architect, and there are effective ones. The effective ones require knowledge, research, discussion, and time. For an overview of this issue, see the article “Selecting an Architect” on the Synthesis Partnership website.

For construction, you will have to choose between using a general contractor and a construction manager. In simplest terms a general contractor bids competitively a fixed amount for your project and then works with subcontractors as he or she chooses. A construction manager works with you on a fee basis to get the best prices from subcontractors. If the project or parts of it come in below budget, the construction manager gets part of the savings as an incentive. Many variables go into the decision of which approach to use. There is more about that in our webinar Building Understanding part 2, which will be offered on November 18. 2009, at 1:00pm Eastern time, and again in early 2010—get more detail and a free registration for the November 18 webinar here.

This webinar will also address the issue of a client-favorable contract. Careful crafting of a client-favorable contract has major cost and risk advantages over using the stock contracts offered by the professional association of architects. There is more about that on the Synthesis Partnership website: “Client-Favorable Contracts for Design and Construction".

It is essential to have an experienced project manager and an attentive oversight committee that keeps close enough watch to address potential problems quickly, before they get more costly to correct. Architects and contractors have their own priorities and value systems; it is inevitable that substantial budget and quality issues will arise that are beyond the mandate of the project manager to settle. It is important to be aware that an institution always needs to exercise oversight of a building project, and that the CEO and board will need to be involved. For more on the responsibility of a board, see "To Build or Not to Build," published in Trusteeship, the journal of the Association of Governing Boards, on the Synthesis Partnership website.

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