Sunday, September 15, 2013

Working Together for Successful Projects

The September Willamette Valley Chapter CSI meeting featured the initial presentation in a planned series on the topic of what makes a successful project. Each meeting in the series will look at the subject from a different point of view. First up: The Owner’s Perspective
This first edition showcased a distinguished lineup of three panelists who provided a glimpse of how diverse the owner’s concerns can be with today’s projects. Regardless, all three pointed consistently to effective communication as a primary key to a project’s success. 
Cynthia Pappas
Formerly the assistant city manager for Springfield, Cynthia Pappas is now President and CEO for Planned Parenthood of Southwestern Oregon (PPSO). PPSO opened its new Regional Health and Education Center last year. Designed by Robertson/Sherwood/Architects (RSA) and built by Chambers Construction, the $8.5 million building was funded by a variety of sources, including donations from community members and foundations. PPSO chose the Construction Manager/General Contractor (CM/GC) mode of project delivery for its new center. 
Cynthia described how the CM/GC method helped PPSO achieve its goals. For one, being brought on board early, at the beginning of the design phase, meant Chambers Construction could participate as an adviser to PPSO and Robertson/Sherwood throughout the design process. Chambers furnished constructability reviews and value engineering to optimize the cost and performance of the project. For another, the CM/GC process balanced and mitigated the risk between PPSO, RSA, and Chambers by improving communication and helping to maintain realistic budget and schedule expectations. Most importantly, it fostered a team approach and a high level of mutual respect. 
PPSO also took advantage of the know-how offered by professional project management. For the Regional Health and Education Center, the organization looked to Carole Knapel of KPFF Consulting Engineers. Carole regularly provides project management services for various facility owners. Like Cynthia, Carole previously worked for the City of Springfield (managing the City’s efforts related to PeaceHealth’s Riverbend hospital, as well as Springfield’s new Justice Center). With Carole’s involvement, PPSO ensured itself a high level of expertise when it came to developing clear and obtainable project objectives, and managing the constraints of cost, time, and scope. 
Cynthia cited the value of pre-development conferences and meetings early with the various authorities having jurisdiction (AHJ). In the case of the PPSO project, these meetings revealed significant design constraints during the initial site planning. RSA was able to resolve these early, well before they might otherwise have resulted in costly design changes and schedule delays. 
Mark Miksis
Mark Miksis is a partner at deChase Development Services and also an architect with his own firm. As such, Mark brought a unique point of view to the panel, wearing as he does both the shoes of an owner/developer and leader of the design team. While he doesn’t always assume both roles on every project he becomes involved with, he always applies his diverse experience and body of knowledge toward ensuring its success. 
Mark stressed the importance of thoroughly performing due diligence with respect to environmental, technical, and legal considerations at the front end of a project. Project scoping is also critical: program, budget (including soft costs and contingencies), schedule, and site selection all ultimately are translatable as essential components of pro forma financial statements and directly factor into the calculation of a project’s financial prospects. 
Like Cynthia and for the same reasons, Mark is a fan of the CM/GC method of project delivery. He’s also an advocate for design-build, as well as Integrated Project Delivery (IPD). Whether it’s CM/GC, design-build, or IPD (or a combination thereof), the bottom line for Mark is minimizing what is unknown and effectively managing risk. Also, like Cynthia, Mark strongly advocated engaging the AHJ as part of the project team. He believes team building and partnering (whether formalized or not) help to avoid unproductive “positioning” by fostering a spirit of cooperation and trust. 
Currently, Mark is providing project management services to Northwest Community Credit Union for its new headquarters building now under construction next to the Federal Courthouse at 8th and Ferry Street in Eugene. As both a property owner/developer himself and an architect, Mark is applying his considerable skills toward the success of the NWCCU project.
Gary Wildish
Gary Wildish has had “a lot of fun” in the seven years since he retired from his role as a project manager for Chambers Construction. In Gary’s case, however, “retirement” takes on a meaning quite different than one most of the rest of us might imagine: he’s been as busy as ever, volunteering his lifetime of experience and expertise to numerous local non-profit agencies as an unpaid consultant. 
Echoing a theme shared by Cynthia and Mark, Gary firmly believes it is important the owner be represented by an individual or team of advisors who understand the owner’s culture and decision-making processes, as well as the technical and management challenges posed by complex building projects. 
Among the organizations Gary has recently assisted are the Relief Nursery, Looking Glass Youth & Family Services, Pearl Buck Center, Jasper Mountain, and the Boy Scouts. He was careful to point out that each one of the groups he has worked with is unique. In his role as an advisor to these non-profits (who often lack the necessary savvy and experience themselves), Gary helped identify options and endeavored to make sure the agencies achieved their goals, which were likewise unique. With his assistance, they proceeded into construction with a high level of confidence about what the projects would ultimately cost. Happily, Gary reported that every one of the projects for which he has served as an advisor was completed under budget. 
Gary referenced yet another recurring theme during the panel discussion, which is the importance of discussing design issues with the AHJ early on. He particularly lauded the City of Springfield, which commits itself to standing by any decisions made during its pre-development meetings with project teams. 
*    *    *    *    *   
Cynthia, Mark, and Gary opened the floor to the audience following their presentations. In response to a question asking whether owners should give design teams more time (and fees) up front so that construction-period issues might be reduced, Gary offered up the old maxim of “pay me now or pay me later.” He believes owners need to be willing to invest as necessary to allow design decision-making to occur within reasonable timeframes. A failure to do so might lead to consequences down the road, which inevitably are more costly than a critical amount of additional design time would have been. 
All three panelists asserted having the right people at the table at the right time is always beneficial. This means owners committing to the success of their projects by ensuring they have experienced, empowered representatives sitting there. I couldn’t agree more. 
*    *    *    *    *   
The October and November Willamette Valley Chapter CSI meetings will extend the Working Together for Successful Projects series by addressing the topic from the Contractor’s and Architect’s points of view, respectively. Don’t miss what are certain to be informative and thought-provoking discussions!

No comments: