Saturday, February 21, 2015

Guest Viewpoint: Steven Leuck

My busy schedule continues to thwart my blogging efforts so I’m thankful I can call on others to provide content for SW Oregon Architect. The following is another reprint from The Documentor, the newsletter of the Willamette Valley Chapter of the Construction Specifications Institute. In this instance WVC/CSI president Steven Leuck wrote the piece in the February 2015 edition as his “From the President” message to the WVC/CSI membership. 
With Steven’s permission, I’m republishing his article here on SW Oregon Architect for the benefit of those who read my blog but do not receive The Documentor. Steven discusses his experience with the design/build project delivery method. 
By Steven Leuck, President WVC/CSI
Design-Build. What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear that term? About 20 years ago or so the term was a new one for me. I had been working for Philips Electric here in Eugene for about 5 years. Up until that time most of what we had been bidding and performing work on was competitively bid commercial, institutional and government projects. As it was explained to me at the time, design-build work would give us the opportunity to work as partners with the other MEP subs, architects, engineers and general contractors. This would put us into a better position to work out issues among ourselves as they arose rather than deal with them as adversaries. When I heard all this for the first time I was excited about the prospect of the design/build process. 
After completing a few design-build projects, I realized the method eased some of the anxiety inherent with the common design-bid-build process. It dawned on me that with the design/bid/build method, the moment you signed the contract, many people felt they were all in adversarial positions. The specifications were often used as guidelines to hammer on each other for either redress or absolution from responsibilities. None of this is enjoyable and it is certainly not a good way to spend a lifetime at this job. The contrast from that viewpoint alone was eye opening for me. 
But, is design-build right for every job and every contractor? Certainly not. Not all contractors, design professionals, and/or developers are well suited to this kind of partnership. Likewise, just as some projects by their very nature are better suited to this method, some projects are not good fits. Wisdom needs to be exercised in deciding which projects should utilize this method and who the team members should be. We could spend a lot of time talking about just these decisions alone. 
However, after all is said and done, the ability to work together with other trades, designers and owners to achieve an effective synergy is very rewarding indeed. Solutions to challenges are worked out with an eye towards cooperation rather than fault-finding. Cooperation is the key ingredient in this method to reach cost-effective solutions for all involved. 
All of this reminds me some of the primary objectives of CSI: “The mission of CSI is to advance building information management and education of project teams to improve facility performance.” How do we do that? Much like the design-build method, we rely on a number of factors such as team-building, cooperation, education, and constant development. 
Ancient biblical writ suggests that no part of the church is better than the other but rather we’re all important parts of the whole. Equally, I’d venture to say that no one part of the design-build team is more important than the others when considered in the aggregate. We are all equal in the task of bringing in a successful project. As we recognize that and work together to find the best solutions to the challenge that is construction, we will build on what we have done and create the synergy we need to become better and better at what we deliver. 
I am proud to be a part of CSI and proud of what CSI provides for its membership and others within the design professions and tradespeople. We make a difference in how things are done and the products we deliver.

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