When Running a Project, Don’t Think Like an Architect! (guest post)(Tue Tip)
Today, we welcome back Christopher G. Hill as guest author. Chris is a LEED AP, Virginia Supreme Court certified mediator, lawyer and owner of the Richmond, VA firm, The Law Office of Christopher G. Hill, PC. Chris has been nominated and elected by his peers to Virginia’s Legal Elite in the Construction Law category on multiple occasions and is a member of the Virginia Super Lawyers “Rising Stars” for 2011 and 2012. He concentrates his practice on mechanic’s liens, contract review and consulting, occupational safety issues (VOSH and OSHA), and risk management for construction professionals.
Chris authors the Construction Law Musings blog where he discusses legal and policy issues relevant to construction professionals. Additionally, Chris is active in the Associated General Contractors of Virginia and the Board of Governors of Construction Law and Public Contracts Section of the Virginia State Bar. Most importantly, Chris’ blog was a personal inspiration to me as I set about my own blog back in 2009. Welcome Chris!
First and foremost, thanks to my pal Melissa for the opportunity to post here at her great blog.
Now that the formalities are out of the way, I will explain the title of this guest offering. When Melissa first contacted me for my thoughts on poor project management from the contractor’s perspective, my first thought on how to avoid causing friction was “Don’t think like an architect.”
Before you flip the switch and head off for another post, possibly even another blog, hear me out. Yes, I know that much of the audience for this piece is likely to be architects and other design professionals. Yes, I know that all of you try hard. But no, not all of you can run a job smoothly when acting as an Owner’s representative on a project (as opposed to designing a great building). I’m here to help with my “musings” (see how I did that?) gained from years of representing the folks that you all seem to think are trying to ruin a project: contractors and subcontractors.
The main thing that both “sides” of this equation need to remember is that you are all in this together. Without your approval, the GC (and by extension the subcontractors and suppliers) on the project won’t get paid. Without the GC and its cohorts, you, the architect, will have to listen to an Owner complain about the pace of the project and the fact that you aren’t running the project how that Owner wants it run. See? All of us are in the same boat.
Failing to row in the same direction (to continue to beat this metaphor over the head) as the GC and seeing the GC as one that seeks to undermine your beautiful and artistic design sensibilities can only undermine those sensibilities. GC’s and subcontractors, if asked nicely early on, can give you great insights into the scheduling, proper materials, and even the best and most efficient building design.
For example, an HVAC subcontractor can help you with the ductwork design in the beginning so that later on you aren’t barking at the GC because the subcontractor requested a change order (now waiting on your desk for approval) due to the fact that a load bearing wall would have to be moved in order for the ducts to go where you wanted them. This minor bit of early discussion avoids the issue and keeps the GC and its subs happy, keeps the project on track and avoids messy things like liens and bond claims.
Failure to consult early and often, in a cooperative manner, leads to grumpy GC’s, ticked off subs, and a project that slows to a glacial pace. This keeps everyone, including you, from being paid.
I could continue to rant, but you are smart folks. You can do all of that engineering type math and all of that geometry and work with CAD that I decided was too hard so I went to law school. You get the point: you and those that perform the construction at your project are not adversaries. Yes, you represent the owner and want to make sure that the building is built right. However, the best way to do this is to consult early and often. Free information flow is the best way to keep everyone happy and everyone paid.
Thanks again to Melissa for letting me rant.
Thanks, Chris. Ranting with a purpose is always welcome on my blog! Readers, it is your turn. Questions, comments, or rants for Chris or me? Comment below.