Tag Archives: construction administration

Understanding Construction Costs: Estimates vs. Bids

When planning a home remodeling or new construction project, one of the first things homeowners usually want to know is how much the work will cost. While costing is squarely in the domain of the contractor and decidedly not within the realm of the architect, explaning how contractors structure the means of costing is part of the job of the architect in educating the client as to the available approaches, and quite often advising which might be the most appropriate for their particular project. Continue reading

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.