Tag Archives: construction administration

Choosing A General Contractor

Most medium and large construction jobs are handled by a general contractor or G.C. The general contractor may be called a builder, building contractor, remodeling contractor, etc. What makes him a “general” contractor is that he enters into a contract with the owner to complete a project and takes full responsibility to get the job done for the bid price. In general, he purchases the materials, hires the tradespeople, and brings in subcontractors to get the work done. The subcontractors are responsible to the general contractor, not to you, the owner. Continue reading

Controlling Construction Costs

2ed46d11b1825af9953391fb774106eaControlling construction costs is among the most important things an owner can do in order to realize a successful project. The best resource available to the owner in managing the cost of construction is the general contractor. Construction cost projections presented by the contractor generally include: Continue reading

Effective Use of Email for Construction Project Communications and Documentation

Article reprinted by permission of Construction Connection who grants permission to use this copyrighted material solely for non-commercial, instructional, personal, or scholarly purposes. Redistribution or re-use of this copyrighted material without permission of the copyright owner/s is prohibited.

email-construction-project-communication-resized-600From the fountain pen, to fax machines, to email, profound advances in technology have brought us to an era where instant messaging is the norm.  Technology has dramatically changed the way and speed in which we communicate.  Not surprisingly, modern construction contracts frequently acknowledge that the parties will communicate electronically, Continue reading

Integrated Project Delivery (IPD)

project-delivery-methods7-1Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) is designed for collaboration from conception of a project. The uniting of owner, architect, and contractor on a level playing field can be mutually conducive toward quality delivery. This triad branches out even further when subcontractors and consultants are brought into the equation. Continue reading

The Cost Estimator’s Role in Architectural Design

It has been said that the only real building material is money.images

For an architect, the three key components informing the design process from day one forward are: what is the client’s program, what is the schedule, and what is the budget.

Establishing and then tracking the project budget is often the most underrated of these three considerations, and yet it is equally if not more important than any of the others. For it is the most assured of follies to proceed down the design path without knowing how much money is available to the project, design the project, and only then come to terms with the actualities of construction cost. For this reason, including a construction estimator on the design team is essential to the success of the project.

This is not a hard and fast rule, of course. Surely for the average residential bathroom or kitchen remodel ball-parking the construction cost may not be so difficult. But it is the rare case where the residential client has the wherewithal or the luxury to dispense entirely with obtaining periodic and reasonably accurate estimations of the projected cost of construction along the way. The old saw, “a fool and his money are soon parted” pertains especially to construction, and it’s the height of foolishness to ignore the realities attending to any construction budget.

Our firm’s small business, corporate, and institutional clients know this, and so it is routine for our firm to refer our private and public sector clients to 2-3 professional estimators, knowing that they will select among them to find the one most qualified to manage their construction costs on their proposed project from the moment of inception of our design. In that manner, working with the estimator to run budget figures at each phase of the design process we can be relatively assured that when the design is completed and is let to bid – having done our homework along the way – there are unlikely to be any surprises on the day of bid opening.

The homeowner is in a more challenging position in this regard. Often, the margins of their budget are thin and so, to shave costs, they refrain from retaining an estimator, avoiding what they might perceive to be an unnecessary expense. Inevitably in these cases they ask the architect to ballpark the costs for them. Being eager to please, all too often the architect is all too willing to accommodate this request. But architects are eternal optimists, and this well-meaning optimism can undermine the objectivity necessary to the task. More importantly, we architects are not as acquainted with the vagaries of the marketplace nor do most have the resources necessary to produce an accurate estimation of cost.

What is the necessary resource? For most builders, this resource is their network of local subcontractors. These are the “antenna” of the contractor, the eyes and ears on the ground. By relying on his/her subcontractors the estimating contractor is in a position to obtain up-to-date information and then furnish an approximation of the construction cost likely to accrue to the latest iteration of the design.

By analogy, the estimator can be thought of as the navigator charting the fog-shrouded waters of the construction budget. And that being the case, who would ever leave the anchorage of a safe port towards the farther shore without having a navigator on board?

Flow in the Workplace

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Definition of Flow

Flow is the mental state in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does.

Flow is completely focused motivation.

It is a single-minded immersion and represents perhaps the ultimate in harnessing the emotions in the service of performing and learning.

In every given moment a vast amount of information is presented to us. According to one study we can process about 126 bits of information per second. Having a conversation takes about 40 bits of information per second, or 1/3 of our capacity. That is why when having a conversation we cannot focus as much attention on other things.

Components of Flow

Six factors encompass the experience of Flow:

1.    an intense and focused concentration on the present moment

2.    merging of action and awareness

3.    a loss of reflective self-consciousness

4.    a sense of personal control or agency over the situation or activity

5.    distortion of temporal experience in which one’s subjective experience of time is altered

6.    an experience of the activity as intrinsically rewarding.

Mechanism of Flow

For the most part we are able to decide what we want to focus their attention on. However, in the flow state, we become completely engrossed with the one task at hand and, without making conscious decision to do so, we lose awareness of all other things: time, people, distractions, even such things as eating.

This occurs because all of the attention of the person in the flow state is pointed at the task at hand; there is no more attention available to be allocated.

Conditions for Flow

A flow state can be entered while performing any activity, although it is most likely to occur when one is wholeheartedly performing a task or activity for intrinsic purposes.

Passive activities like taking a bath or watching TV don’t elicit Flow experiences – you have to be actively doing something to enter into Flow.

Flow theory postulates three conditions be met to achieve a flow state:

1.    You must be involved in an activity with a clear set of goals and progress. This adds direction and structure to the task.

2.    The task at hand must have clear and immediate feedback. This helps you negotiate any changing demands and allows you to adjust your performance to maintain the flow state.

3.    You must obtain equilibrium between the perceived challenges of the task and your own perceived skillset, thus fostering confidence in your task and in return creating positive internal feedback.

Application: Music

Musicians, especially improvisational soloists experience this similar state of mind while playing their instrument. Research has shown that performers in a flow state have a heightened quality of performance as opposed to when they are not in a flow state.

Application: Sports

The concept of being “in the zone” during an athletic performance is well known and its relationship with athletic competitive advantage is critical in the field of sports psychology.

Application: Art

Michelangelo can be said to have painted the ceiling of the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel while in a flow state. It is reported that he painted for days at a time, and he was so absorbed in his work that he did not even stop for food or sleep until he reached the point of passing out. After this, he would wake up refreshed and, upon starting to paint again, re-enter a state of complete absorption.

Application: Dance

Every dance activity has aspects of flow. For example, the Argentine Tango focuses on connection with partner, symmetry, synchronicity, and complete focus on the interpretation of the music in partnership with the other to the exclusion of all else.

Professional and the Work Environment

Flow plays an extremely important role in the workplace. Because flow is associated with achievement, fostering Flow has concrete implications in terms increasing workplace satisfaction and accomplishment, both for you and for those you work with.

Achieving flow in the workplace requires three conditions:

1. your goals must be clear

2. your feedback must be immediate

3. you must strike a balance between opportunity and capacity

With increased Flow, people experience “growth towards complexity,” in which people flourish as their achievements grow with which comes development of increasing “emotional, cognitive, and social complexity”

Creating a workplace atmosphere that allows for flow and growth can increase the happiness and achievement for yourself and your employees.

Consequences of Flow

Enhancing the time spent in flow makes our lives more happy and successful. Flow experiences lead to positive affect as well as to better performance.

Flow is an innately positive experience; it is known to “produce intense feelings of enjoyment”.

An experience that is so enjoyable should lead to positive affect and happiness in the long run. Happiness is derived from personal development and growth – and flow situations permit the experience of personal development.

Flow experiences imply a growth principle. When one is in a flow state, one is working to master the activity at hand.

To maintain that flow state, one must seek increasingly greater challenges.

Attempting these new, more difficult challenges stretches one’s skills.

One emerges from any flow experience with some measure of personal growth and heightened feelings of competence and effectiveness, thus deriving happiness, and channeling our direction once again towards Flow.

Project Closeout: Planning Ahead is Key

1568864Whether you are a homeowner building your dream home, a business owner building a new headquarters, or a facilities manager charged with construction of a municipal facility, planning ahead is your key to success in terms of your orderly project closeout process.

What Is Project Closeout?

From the owner’s perspective, project closeout essentially means the closing out of the Owner-Contractor Agreement, effectively relieving the contractor of their responsibilities to the owner in terms of the physical realization of the project.

Thus, among other considerations, it entails transfer of responsibility and control of the jobsite from that held temporarily by the contractor during the course of construction back to the owner. It does not entail nor relieve the contractor of any post-construction obligations pertaining to the contract for construction, such as attending to any warranty considerations or any other obligations required of the contractor under the Owner-Contractor Agreement.

What Items are Tangential to Project Closeout?

Project Closeout signifies the end of a long-term transaction, a winding down as the owner prepares to assume occupancy.

During this interval a number of corollary transactions need to take place, including final payment to the contractor, issuance of the Certificate of Substantial Completion, obtaining the Occupancy Permit from the regulatory authorities, transfer of maintenance manuals from contractor to owner, the contractor’s attending to the punchlist, filing of Notice of Completion with County Recorder, obtaining Consent of Surety, avoidance &/or clearance of any mechanics liens, and releasing the contractor’s retainer.

Identifying these tangential items and approaching them in the right sequence and in an orderly and systematic manner can make the difference between success and failure in terms of project closeout.

The pitfalls accruing to ineffectual planning prior to this critical phase of the construction can be illustrated by the following three examples.

Memorializing the Final Completion Date

Identifying the specific date when the building is fit to be occupied for it’s intended use is an important milestone in the closeout process. The Certificate of Substantial Completion document (e.g. The American Institute of Architect’s Document G704) if used, memorializes the specific date and time of this occurrence.

If this date is not identified and signified by written instrument, the date on which all project warranties commence will not be identified, nor will those for owner’s obligations regarding operations, maintenance, security, insurance coverage, and utilities for the building.

Thus a gap can be created between the contractor’s and owner’s insurance coverage, leaving the parties vulnerable.

Consent of Surety

If the project is bonded, Consent of Surety Form will be required at the appropriate time in the closeout process. This form is normally submitted to the owner by the contractor along with the request for final payment. The contractor’s surety company executes this document, which is required to be notarized.

If the contractor omits to transfer this document, the owner’s failure to obtain this document could result in the surety company rejecting any claims the owner may have against the contractor’s bond.

Having a step-by-step procedure in place from the beginning will help avoid this worst-case scenario.

The Case of the “Never-Ending” Punchlist

Lack of communication between the performance and quality expectations of the owner and those the contractor can lead to vast misapprehension of Project requirements during execution of the punchlist during closeout.

If preparation of the Owner-Contractor Agreement is the beginning of the project and Project Close-out it’s ending, the time to identify expectations is at the beginning, before the contract is executed.

The notorious “never-ending” punchlist issue can easily be avoided during construction contract negotiation by making clear what quality standards will pertain to the Work, who is responsible for punchlist generation, when the punchlist is to be generated, and even details such as how many punchlist revisions may be required.

This forces both parties to be precise as to what is expected and protects the contractor from punchlist “creep” that expands its work.

Conclusion

The two most important considerations for owners of construction projects are 1). reliance upon the contractor’s project budget, and, 2). reliance upon the contractor’s schedule.

Considerable time and energy are invested by owners in coordinating the development of a new facility, and this investment involves much more than its physical construction – precious resources are brought to bear in developing the project concept, designing it, obtaining the requisite entitlements and approvals of the regulatory bodies, and bringing the facility to fruition.

Ineffectual prosecution of project closeout increases the owner’s costs. Closeout delays can cost administrative time for owners, dissatisfaction from building users, tension between project parties, and cash flow problems for smaller contractors and subcontractors.

Proper planning from the inception of the Owner-Contractor Agreement and adherence to a procedural format will help ensure that things do not go awry during the final, and perhaps most critical phase in the owner’s realization of their project.