Posts in "Value" category

Quality Assurance in the Delivery of Architectural Services

Achieving quality in the delivery of architectural services comprises two very different parallel processes. The design process is non-linear as it strives to respond to factors and challenges that are unique to every project. Quality management, on the other hand, is a very linear process that strives to apply standardized methods which are intended to consistently assure predictable outcomes. Given that the non-linear design process is so central to the delivery of projects, it is commonly believed that linear quality management approaches are a hinderance and are incompatible with project flow.

This however is a misconception. The design process can be successfully managed with the ultimate aim of achieving quality. In order to do so the project team need to understand what is required and be familiar with approaches that lead them to these goals. This is about communicating expectations transparently and clearly. As such, quality expectations need to be defined.

Planning for Quality Assurance

Ultimately client expectations establish quality goals on a project. These include the owner’s requirements and needs, as well as those of the authorities having jurisdiction over the project where code, bylaw and technical standards carry a prescriptive weight over the project. The design team must be completely versed in all of these factors before they begin the design process. Quality plans are often used to communicate the following factors:

  • Project details such as the address, contact information for all team members, etc
  • The client’s stated project requirements and program
  • The scope of services as defined in the contract
  • Applicable requirements of the authorities having jurisdiction over the project
  • Applicable best practices
  • Methods of measuring project success through thorough checking and verification procedures

Quality Assurance Checking

The checking and verification must occur before project documents are issued in order to verify that all factors which were identified in the quality plan have been addressed. This must be done every time a document is issued externally in order to assure a consistently accurate flow of information to all members of the project team. Usually this involves checking drawings and documents for completeness and coordination. In situations where documents are found to contain errors or omissions the project team works to make necessary corrections prior to the issue date.

Ultimately the delivery of architectural services is firmly rooted in quality. It is far easier to approach the question of how a project team achieves quality when all requirements are fully understood and verified. The process of Planning-Doing-Checking is known as quality management and in the broadest sense is the central core of what architects do.

 

Proposals for BCSPCA Facilities, Vancouver, BC, I worked on this project with Atelier Pacific Architecture in 2008.

Proposals for BCSPCA Facilities, Vancouver, BC, I worked on this project with Atelier Pacific Architecture in 2008.

Would you like to avoid common BC building project problems?

Everyone knows that complex building projects are prone to delays, disputes and deficiencies, accepting that these are an unfortunate result of the complexity inherent in the design and construction process. However not many people know that there are several approaches available to the way in which projects are delivered and that certain approaches are more prone to process issues than others.

The traditional Design-Bid-Build approach has the owner procure the services of an architect and support engineers who produce the contract documents. Once these documents are completed they are circulated to contractors for competitive bidding and a contract is awarded to the best respondent.
This method has many advantages including the fact that construction (which is the most costly portion of the process) is bid competitively with fully developed documents and therefore allows for a very clear comparison between bids. Also this approach is easy to manage as it is universally understood.
The downside of this approach is that the design process forgoes the positive input contractors can have on the project. Also it is virtually impossible to cover off all eventualities in the bid documents which often leads to multiple change orders that add cost or delay the project.

There is another very different approach that avoids most problems inherent in the Design-Bid-Build process. It is known as Design-Build. Here the one company is hired to design and build the project. In fact they can be a single company with in-house design and construction capabilities, or multiple companies who work together under one contract to the owner under the leadership of the design builder. Either way what differentiates the Design-Build process is that the owner contracts with one entity who complete all aspects of the project for them.

Advantages of Design-Build

Design-Build offers numerous advantages over the traditional Design-Bid-Build project delivery model. The advantages include:

  • Shortened Project Duration due to the fact that construction work can begin before the design and documentation process commences. Since the total project price is fixed the base building systems such as the foundations and the superstructure can be constructed while the fine details are still being finalized.
  • Only none party is responsible for the project and answers to the owner. Is is in contrast to the usual issues associated with traditional projects where designers and contractors often point fingers at each other whenever issues are not fully resolved.
  • No grounds for extras due to the fact that the overall project cost is fixed from the outset. An exception to this is when owners opt to request project changes after the initial scope is defined and agreed upon.
  • Clear and established communication between the designers and the constructors are also an important feature of Design-Build.

Types of Design-Build Arrangements

There are three main types of Design-Build arrangements. These include:

  • Contractor led Design-Build, where the contractor enters into a contract with the owner and retains the services of the Architect and other design consultants.
  • Project manager led Design-Build, where a separate project management Design-Build entity is hired to complete the project. This entity will in turn retain the services of contractors, the Architect and the design consultants.
  • Architect or consultant led Design-Build where the architect is hired to complete the full project and is retains the services of contractors.

Should you hire a Design-Builder for your project?

There are potential pitfalls associated with the Design-Build approach. These include the loss of certain controls that are present in traditional delivery models. For example, where design consultants are retained separately, their focus remains on assuring that construction complies with the design. Also the owner may lose some influence over the design as the designers will tend to work toward the global budget agreed upon in the initial contract.

Ultimately the decision to pursue the Design-Build approach usually rests on the advantages. Most large scale commercial, institutional and government projects are either Design-Build or some sort of hybrid derivative. The biggest benefit is the collaborative input of all project team members during the design process. Also including contractors in early phases where key decisions are made gains their buy-in and reduces the potential for problems during construction.

The Contract

The Canadian Construction Document Committee has developed a set of standard industry contracts which enable the Design-Build approach in Canada. They have produced contract documents specifically suited to Design-Build projects in Canada. The following information is taken directly from the CCDC website:

CCDC 14 – 2013 Design-Build Stipulated Price Contract Standard prime contract between Owner and Design-Builder where the Design-Builder performs Design Services and Construction under one agreement, for a single, pre-determined stipulated or fixed price.

CCDC 15 – 2013 Design Services Contract between Design-Builder and Consultant Standard contract between Design-Builder and Consultant to perform the design services required under a design-build contract between Owner and Design-Builder.

 

References:

The Canadian Construction Document Committee

 

Schulich School of Business, York University, Toronto, ON, I worked on this project with Hariri Pontarini Architects and it was completed in 2003.

Schulich School of Business, York University, Toronto, ON, I worked on this project with Hariri Pontarini Architects and it was completed in 2003.

How to Hire an Architect in British Columbia – Part Two: How to Find and Interview Potential Architects

Finding an Architect

Choosing the right Architect is likely the most critical project decision you will make. Once everything is completed and your building is fully occupied you will measure its success against the criteria that you define with your Architect early on in the process.

Your Architect will guide you through the design and construction phases of the project. They will focus their efforts on realizing your stated objectives while helping you steer through regulatory approvals and the intricacies of your construction contract. They will serve as your advisor, coordinator, technical resource and artist. In order to fully meet all of these obligations you will need to make sure that your chosen Architect has the necessary education, experience, talent and capacity to help you achieve a high quality project within your budget and on schedule.

So how does one find the right Architect?

First of all, in British Columbia an Architect must be registered with the Architectural Institute of British Columbia. In order to practice they must also hold a current Certificate of Practice. The AIBC keeps a current list of all Architects registered to practice in British Columbia. It is a good idea to check whether your prospects are included in this list.

The process of finding an Architect will take some time… perhaps a couple of weeks to a month. During this time you will need to focus your efforts on researching possible leads. Approach your friends and colleagues to see if they know anyone who recently had a positive experience with an Architect. You may also approach home or building owners of comparable recently completed projects. Contractors are a very great resource as they will know many Architects. The internet is a very useful tool. You will likely be able to connect with a few Architects through your extended networks on sites such as Linkedin or by contacting them through their websites. Above all else, search for Architects with portfolios that align with your project goals. Pay particular attention to the complexity, attention to detail, and style of their past projects.

Once you have narrowed down your list of contenders to three or four individuals (or firms) you will need to interview all of them. Keep in mind that they will also be interviewing you so go prepared with as much information as possible.

The Interview Process

The interviews will include discussion, raising awareness, review of information, acquiring preliminary understanding and articulating characteristics of the project. The purpose being a full understanding and agreement on a responsible scope of services, under mutually acknowledged terms of reference, for appropriate professional remuneration.

Your discussions will cover issues such as:

  • Whether other Architects are or were previously involved with your project. This issue is important because Architects are not allowed to supplant another Architect on the same project.
  • The broad understanding of the type, size scope and complexity of the project. Owners will often retain an Architect to perform Pre-design Services which help them define the project requirements. This is normally considered a separate service because the outcome forms the basis of understanding of the overall project’s scope of work. Often owners will hire an Architect to complete the pre-design work and then ask them to compete against other Architects for the remainder of the project.
  • The Architect’s applicable experience and review of past projects.
  • Whether the Architect has the ability to provide professional services for the project including: their professional competence; availability; and access to appropriate resources.
  • Whether they carry the required level of professional liability insurance (if applicable).
  • Required Zoning and Development approval requirements. Other potential requirements of authorities having jurisdiction over the project.
  • Project budget, financing and funding issues.
  • Project economics and feasibility.
  • Social and community issues.
  • The environmental impact.
  • Possible heritage designations.
  • Required appropriate professional (architectural and other) services, including sub consultants such as structural, mechanical and electrical engineers. Who will retain them and how the team will be structured.
  • The anticipated method of construction delivery and in turn the appropriate type of professional services agreement.
  • How professional fees will be calculated. How fees and expenses will be handled. The mechanisms for invoicing and payments.
  • Copyright issues, ownership and use of the design and project documents.

Assuming all required information is available at the conclusion of the interview, the Architect will be able to prepare the professional services agreement for your review and approval. It is important to note that the process of retaining an Architect is complex and your ultimate decision will be influenced by many factors. You will need to assess all of your options and select your Architect based on whether they fit your needs and are able to provide the best overall value.

Past Tips:

Part One: What do you need to build?

Coming up:

Part Three: Make sure you get what you pay for!

References:

AIBC Bulletin 90: Minimum Scope of Architectural Services

AIBC Tariff of Fees for Architectural Services

Orientation Centre at the Martyrs’ Shrine, Midland, Ontario. I was involved in the design of this project with Joseph Bogdan Associates Architects in 2004.

Orientation Centre at the Martyrs’ Shrine, Midland, Ontario. I was involved in the design of this project with Joseph Bogdan Associates Architects in 2004.

10 Tips to Reduce the Cost of Your British Columbia Building Project – Tip Two: Require Firm Fees and Pricing

The importance of matching your project team’s work with your requirements and goals cannot be overstated. Obtaining fixed fees and prices for services that are specifically catered to your needs will allow you to plan the project financial course while also giving you piece of mind that the process remains fully controlled.

In this article we look at value focused fixed fees and pricing that you should expect from your Architect, Sub-Consultants and General Contractor. We will also the negotiation process to help you achieve appropriate fees..

Architectural Fees

First of all, it must be noted that architectural practice in British Columbia is founded upon the requirement that an Architect must be retained and in receipt of the client’s instruction before providing service. This is a legal requirement which stipulates that a contract be in place before any work on the project begins.

So how do Architects calculate their fees?

In my years developing fee calculations on architectural projects ranging between $50,000 and $200M, I have come to understand that clients do not get the best value for their money when architectural fees are based on the amount of time their Architect spends working on the project. Unfortunately this is how most Architects calculate their fees. The reason for this is quite simple, hourly ‘bottom-up’ calculations relate directly to the way in which Architects cover their own expenses and therefore make a lot of sense from the Architect’s perspective. It is easy for Architect’s to define marked-up billable categories for all staff and then to project how much time each one of them will take to complete the work. As a final measure Architects will usually cross reference their resultant fee number against the AIBC Tariff of Fees for Architectural Services to make sure it is in line with industry norms. Once done they submit this to the owner and hope they are not underbid by another Architect.

The problem with this approach is that it does not relate the fee to your needs. It relates the fee to the Architect’s needs and is therefore quite arbitrary. When viewed from the perspective of service quality it is difficult to believe that an Architect charging $200 per hour will always provide twice the value of an Architect who charges $100 per hour. In reality it really depends on project specifics, the Architect’s experience, and what the desired outcome is.

Why should you care what the Architect’s overhead costs or profit goals are? You, as the owner, care about the value your Architect’s services provide and whether the final outcome is a profitable success.

In order to arrive at an appropriate fee you will need to work with your Architect to clearly articulate the exact nature of the problem you face and where you want to be once the project is complete. Your Architect needs to understand these constraints in order to come up with a plan that will get you to where you want to be. They also need this understanding to define an appropriate fee that leverages their experience to achieve what is needed.

Once the true fee number is known a fixed fee contract can be drawn up and signed.

Sub-Consultant Fees

Consultant fees are often built into the Architect’s fee. There are numerous reasons for this, one of the most important being the fact that the Architect is responsible for coordinating all Sub-Consultants work. Due to this, Architects will usually prefer to carry Sub-Consultant fees as it makes the coordination process much easier because it correlates with the business relationship.

Having said that, the Architect remains responsible for all coordination no matter what the business arrangement is. It is important for you to know that you can retain the services of all Sub-Consultants directly through a similar value focused approach as that which you use to retain the Architect. This approach allows you to assure best value is achieved for your investment.

There are a few issues you will need to keep in mind if you chose to proceed in this manner. Your Sub-Consultants will need to be engaged with input from your Architect as they will need to know the scope of the project that has been defined in your Client-Architect agreement. Once these issues are understood you will be able to define the fixed terms of your agreements with the Sub-Consultants.

General Contractor Fees and Prices

Most of the costs presented by General Contractors will be dictated by Sub Contractor trade bids. The General Contractor will also include a management fee as well as their own profit allowance.

You will need to work with potential General Contractors to arrive at an appropriate fee that fairly relates to the value of work provided. Your Architect and Sub-Consultants will usually assist you in this process.

 

Value based fees are a very equitable means of compensation that is increasingly popular amongst legal and financial consultants. It is a means of establishing a strong partnership with your consultants where their contribution is seen as an investment toward achieving your anticipated gains.

Under this approach, your Architect and Sub-Consultants stand to gain in proportion to the value the project achieves. As such they will need to work with you to establish the true viability of the venture before any work begins. With their input, you will gain a much clearer understanding of the potential project risks and rewards, as well as certainty that their fees remain directly related to their contribution. This, in turn, will allow you to start the project with great certainty in its success.

 

 

Past Tips:

Tip One: The Value of the Right Team

Coming up:

Tip Three: Get it In Writing;  Tip Four: Allow Time to Plan it Thoroughly;  Tip Five: Design Efficiently;  Tip Six: Regularly Review and Approve all Work;  Tip Seven: Be Covered;  Tip Eight: Understand Product Warranties;  Tip Nine: Enforce Your Rights During the Process;  Tip Ten: Take Advantage of Available Incentives

References:

The Architects Act

AIBC Tariff of Fees for Architectural Services

2003 BSS 01

The Bishop Strachan School, Toronto, Ontario. I was involved in the design, documentation and construction contract administration of this project with Joseph Bogdan Associates Architects. It was completed in 2004.