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The Use of Partnering in the Facilities Design Process: Summary of a Symposium (1994)

Chapter: PARTNERING IN DESIGN: VIEWS OF AN AE CONSULTANT

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Suggested Citation:"PARTNERING IN DESIGN: VIEWS OF AN AE CONSULTANT." National Research Council. 1994. The Use of Partnering in the Facilities Design Process: Summary of a Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9227.
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PARTNERING IN DESIGN: VIEWS OF AN AE CONSULTANT

Rex M. Ball

HTB, Inc.

From this architect's point of view, partnering, among other things, is a much-needed team-building process which opens communication between the owner, the user, and their Consultant. Other than human nature, there are no regulatory, professional, or legal reasons which prevent open communication between any group involved in a project. Actually, our work product—all contract documents—uses phrases that imply communication (such as substitutions, approvals, requests for information, interpret the intent, etc.). Then why is there a need to provide another forum for communication?

The need for Partnering has evolved over decades, even though sometimes it seems like a sneak attack. The theme song “I Did It My Way” belongs in entertainment, not in federal construction. Some of the changes in the American construction industry are:

THE OWNER/USER'S POINT OF VIEW:

  • More programmatic demands to be incorporated into their projects

  • Budgets increasingly more demanding

  • Once project financing is committed, the schedule tends to accelerate

  • Fear that an AE consultant error and/or contractor error will lead to a change order

THE AE CONSULTANT'S POINT OF VIEW:

  • Due to keener competition, the AE consultant must work harder and think smarter from the marketing stage forward

  • Work must be more thorough to avoid litigation

  • Tighter budgets requiring more efficiency

  • Project complexity is escalating with the advances in technology, thus requiring more specialized personnel

  • Potential claims for AE errors and omissions

Suggested Citation:"PARTNERING IN DESIGN: VIEWS OF AN AE CONSULTANT." National Research Council. 1994. The Use of Partnering in the Facilities Design Process: Summary of a Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9227.
×

Past litigation creates a preconceived idea of how participants will respond in similar situations. Quality communication can avoid this potential disaster and Partnering provides that process.

What's more, owners/users and AE consultants alike often seem to feel that they have lost the personal side—the fun side—of the construction business. In reviewing past successes, the good projects seem to have come about when each participant lost the fear of other team members and communicated openly and honestly.

THE ROLE OF PARTNERING IN DESIGN

The relationship between owner/user and the AE consultant has probably not deteriorated as much as that of the Owner/AE consultant to the contractor. Thus, partnering at the design stage might seem less of a critical issue. To me, this is an illusion, for my experience indicates that even with the best intentions from all parties, a misunderstanding of The Program (Scope of Work) is where the most serious problems begin.

This is the 50th year of business for my firm, HTB, Inc. The firm was created to design and manage (AEM) the construction of an Air Force base for the Corps of Engineers. It only followed that, over the years, one of our company's specialties would be Federal facilities. However, each Federal agency seems to call its Scope of Work by a different name or number, which creates confusion. Since most American architectural schools use the French system established at the Ecole de Beaux Arts, American Architects call this Scope of Work a “Parte ” (in English, “The Program”), the statement of what you are going to do. In design partnering, a facilitator's first assignment is to make sure we are all talking about the same thing.

The Federal process, from this architect consultant's view point, becomes even more confusing since what we call The Program probably began a half dozen years or so ago in a Federal staff's submittal to Congress for authorization and funding. By the time it reaches the AE through the Commerce Business Daily (CBD), it may be hardly recognizable by the end user. Partnering at the design stage is the best solution I know of to be sure all parties are talking about the same thing. (I would hope that someday the Federal Construction Council can standardize “The Program” nomenclature throughout the Federal Government.)

All that can be done to build relationships between the owner/user and the design architect/engineer should be done, in my opinion. So, partnering at the design stage is needed and is appropriate. In addition, the process of designing a federal facility is an extremely complex one, requiring the close coordination of both the tenant Agency/User and the Procuring Agent . . . each of which should be represented at the design partnering session. Partnering can bridge that potential gap as well as bring the AE “into the fold” at the earliest point possible.

For some time, AE's in general, as well as HTB, have been doing something similar to design partnering. Building on this example will help in structuring the Design Partnering process. This similar process is called a “design charette” or the

Suggested Citation:"PARTNERING IN DESIGN: VIEWS OF AN AE CONSULTANT." National Research Council. 1994. The Use of Partnering in the Facilities Design Process: Summary of a Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9227.
×

“squatters” technique for problem solving. Typically, the Owner has the following personnel present:

  • Agent responsible for construction

  • Agent responsible for adherence to budgets

  • Department heads from each major user of the project

  • Agent responsible for facility management of the project

The AE consultant is generally represented by his counterparts to the representatives of the Owner's staff.

This group works together informally while being sequestered—ideally at the project location. A word of warning: as in Construction Partnering, Owner and Consultant must resist the temptation to have senior personnel assigned to the “charette” who will not be involved on a daily basis as this will limit quality communication to those who need to communicate.

A facilitator probably is beneficial. Everyone quickly begins to work closely during these sessions and the result is a clear definition of the owner/user needs and the ability of the AE consultant to deliver the design while meeting budgets and schedules. After the “charette, ” both groups have essentially agreed to the basic concept of the project and personal wishes are eliminated in favor of group desires.

Sound familiar? Yes, like Construction Partnering.

Incidentally, it's a lot more fun if the design partnering work product involves sketches, perspectives, etc., as well as a report. At this point The program must be “fixed” by all partners.

The relationship of the Owner/User to AE consultant is less formal since it is generally understood that the AE is a continuation of his own in-house staff. Project limitations and objectives can be discussed and agreed to in such “charettes.” The procedures and agenda used in Partnering in the design phase are similar, in my opinion, to those used in the construction phase. More details follow:

  • The number of representatives from the design team depends on the size and complexity of the project: certainly, the Principal in Charge, the Project Manager, Design Architect and Project Architect and/or Engineer, plus the lead mechanical, electrical and structural engineers, and probably the cost estimator. If the design solution revolves around a special product (such as a roof system) then that supplier should be included.

  • A total of at least 10 people and no more than 25 . . . Attendance limited to actual personnel working on the project and not supervisory personnel with little actual project involvement.

  • A Facilitator is a necessity on large complex projects. Since I am recommending that the AE fee be negotiated at the end of the process rather than prior, a Facilitator probably is needed to keep the AE from getting “fired before-hired,” since an open and truly candid exchange must take place in the

Suggested Citation:"PARTNERING IN DESIGN: VIEWS OF AN AE CONSULTANT." National Research Council. 1994. The Use of Partnering in the Facilities Design Process: Summary of a Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9227.
×

Design Partnering Sessions. Of course, a Facilitator helps to avoid litigation, and schedule and monetary problems.

  • Similar to Construction Partnering, the agenda for the sessions include:

  • Team building exercises

  • Development of performance objectives in terms of cost, quality, schedule and others

  • Identify roadblocks to success

  • Agreement to The Program

  • Development of a problem resolution process

  • Creation of a team charter, signed by all participants

  • Hold the opening session at the project location or nearby, thus allowing everyone to get a feel for the project. The group would preferably be sequestered and mandated to attend the entire session, normally, at least two days in length and not more than five days.

  • The Owner/User group meets a week prior to the Design Partnering session to discuss individual goals for the project. This prepares them for discussing group goals which are consistent with all their own personnel.

  • The AE Consultant does the same, for the same reasons. This allows all to understand The Program (The Scope of Work). This should help to see that the goals are not outside the scope and budget of the project.

  • Like Construction Partnering at the opening session, each attendee introduces himself or herself and describes the background he or she brings to the group. Attendees adjourn to the project site, which is walked as a group with Owner/User guiding the tour and describing their vision.

  • Reconvene at the session in a group and discuss The Program (project scope) and Owner goals. The AE vision should be fully explored; then broken into small groups to talk about specific scope or goals which can be expanded.

  • Next comes a break for the AE Consultants to work as a group preparing a rough report on their understanding of The Program and goals. The AE Consultant requires several hours to prepare this draft. While the Consultants are meeting, the Owner/User group should be meeting to review potential changes to The Program and their goals. As mentioned previously, sketches are encouraged.

  • The AE Consultant presents the draft to the Owner/User and discusses the final draft. This final draft is the basis for proceeding with the project. The Scope of Services outlined in The Revised Program then is used for negotiating the AE's fee.

As Frank Lloyd Wright once said about limitations, “They are your best friend. . . . If someone says go build the most beautiful building in the world, it is hard to get a handle on it. Is it going to be in the mountains? On the seashore? On a lake? In

Suggested Citation:"PARTNERING IN DESIGN: VIEWS OF AN AE CONSULTANT." National Research Council. 1994. The Use of Partnering in the Facilities Design Process: Summary of a Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9227.
×

a desert? Is it a church? A school? Limiting, Limiting, Limiting—that is part of the process.”

Open communication is the essence of Partnering and the vehicle through which we set limits on the project.

GOALS AND BENEFITS OF DESIGN PARTNERING:

  • A total understanding of the objectives of the project in terms of design, budget, schedule, quality and ambiance . . . “Fixing The Program.

  • Elimination of potential communication barriers between all entities within the design team; and an agreement to make decisions at the lowest confident level and involving only those people who need to make decisions. To many, this is “scary” as it takes much of the hierarchy out of the decision making process. Decisions will be made that are different from those made in the older process.

  • People get to know each other. On most projects, they will be working closely for quite sometime

  • Promotes an open exchange of ideas

  • Fosters innovation

  • Expedites decision making

  • Lowers risk of cost overruns and delays

  • Results in a higher quality product

Building “win-win” working relationships is a challenge for us all and worth the time and energy necessary at the outset of the design process. Of course, partnering at any stage is a process of continually redefining limits and not an end in and of itself; thus, regular meetings must be held throughout the project to keep this process moving.

Suggested Citation:"PARTNERING IN DESIGN: VIEWS OF AN AE CONSULTANT." National Research Council. 1994. The Use of Partnering in the Facilities Design Process: Summary of a Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9227.
×
Page 23
Suggested Citation:"PARTNERING IN DESIGN: VIEWS OF AN AE CONSULTANT." National Research Council. 1994. The Use of Partnering in the Facilities Design Process: Summary of a Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9227.
×
Page 24
Suggested Citation:"PARTNERING IN DESIGN: VIEWS OF AN AE CONSULTANT." National Research Council. 1994. The Use of Partnering in the Facilities Design Process: Summary of a Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9227.
×
Page 25
Suggested Citation:"PARTNERING IN DESIGN: VIEWS OF AN AE CONSULTANT." National Research Council. 1994. The Use of Partnering in the Facilities Design Process: Summary of a Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9227.
×
Page 26
Suggested Citation:"PARTNERING IN DESIGN: VIEWS OF AN AE CONSULTANT." National Research Council. 1994. The Use of Partnering in the Facilities Design Process: Summary of a Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9227.
×
Page 27
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