025 The Designer Interview: Bond Project Post #4

post-25The night before the designer interviews I couldn’t sleep. I had put myself in the designer’s shoes and couldn’t shake them off. Years ago, when I was a structural engineer on the design team, I remember the desperate feeling of “we’ve got to win.” The reason was pretty simple; we needed the revenue.

At some point, I was able to take the designer’s shoes off and envision the next day. Tomorrow I would spend the day being part traffic cop, part mom, and part detective. Acting as a traffic cop, I would welcome teams to the interview room and then politely kick them out at the end of their allotted time. During the interview I would focus on the presenter, silently encouraging them to do their best, and listen for clues as to why their team is the right team for the job while writing down constructive criticism for their debrief.  At the same time, I’d glance at the key client stakeholders to see if they were connecting with the presenter. It made me tired thinking about it. I would have to be “on” all day; right now I needed to get some rest. Continue reading

024 The Designer Shortlist: Bond Project Post #3

post24Happy New Year everyone! I’m starting the year 2017 off describing the process that we used for shortlisting designers for the bond project. On all projects we typically receive 10 – 20 submittal packages from interested designers. Since we cannot interview all the teams that submit, we will shortlist up to six teams. Below I will describe the shortlisting process that we went through to determine which designers to interview on the bond project. Continue reading

020 Interview with NIH Branch Chief

SHThis week I’m pleased to share my interview with Stephanie Hixson, PE, LEED AP with you.  She is a Branch Chief for the Laboratory Branch in the Division of Design and Construction within the Office of Research Facilities at the National Institutes of Health [NIH] in Bethesda, MD. She supervises a group of project officers that focus on the design and construction of laboratories and research facilities.

[Q] What project management tools do you use to keep projects on schedule and on budget?

[A] We have internal systems for tracking project budgets and tracking our schedules primarily with Microsoft Project for the smaller projects and Primavera for the larger projects as well as for master scheduling (all active projects). Continue reading

017 Public-Private Partnerships: A Primer

WordpressIt took about one hundred conversations to negotiate the deal,” said Gordon Merklein, the executive director for real estate at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He compared negotiating this deal and other deals to dating. “If the ‘first date’ goes well then you progress to a ‘second date’ and if that goes well then there are many more, sometimes hundreds,” he said. During the “dates”, they worked through issues like who would pay for the “town square” in the middle of the development because by not building on this part of the site, the developer would lose leasable area, but Gordon’s team felt it was necessary for the quality of the development. Like dates, he explained, some meetings were jovial, some meetings were tense, some dramatic, and I sure quite a few were boring, but in the end they negotiated a deal that benefited both parties.

The deal described above is for the “pseudo” public-private partnership (PPP) Carolina Square development. I say “psuedo” because the “public” part of the partnership is the Chapel Hill Foundation Real Estate Holdings, Inc., a subsidiary of the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill Foundation Inc., which is funded by private funds, but is considered public since they represent the interests of UNC. Continue reading

015 Interview with Wake Technical Community College CIP Manager

TManningLast week I sat down with Todd Manning PE, CCM, PMP, PEM, LEED AP for lunch and to talk about project management. He supervises the facilities project managers in the design and construction department at Wake Tech Community College (WTCC). His group is currently managing over $200 million worth of projects on the multiple WTCC campuses. 

[Q] How does WTCC manage projects in each of the design and construction phases? Is there a project manager (PM) for the design phase that hands it over to a construction manager during the construction phase? Continue reading

014 Board of Governors October Project Approval List

IMG_2259The pre-meeting materials for the Board of Governors meeting last Friday are posted. Projects in the UNC system that are up for approval are listed. Look under Committee on Budget and Finance item 9.  Please note that all projects may not have been approved.

You might also be interested in the Item 3 – 2015 – 2016 Capital Improvements Allocations.

See blog post 005 Project Milestones & Marketing Strategies for how you might use this information.

Click here for Board of Governors website

013 Meeting Minutes for Ninjas

meeting-minutes“Okay to summarize, we haven’t made a decision yet and we expect to revisit this same conversation the next time we meet,” said Joan.

“That sounds about right. And the next time we meet, we’ll forget the progress that we made in this meeting and we’ll rehash and start from the beginning again,” Alex replied scribbling on the paper in front of him.

“And no action will be taken,” Tim sighed as he looked to see what Alex was writing.

“That doesn’t sound very efficient,” Alex said as he looked up from his doodle of a pyramid of spheres.

“Well it would help if we wrote down the meeting minutes,” Steph said pointedly. Continue reading

012 Mechanical Engineering Terms for Dummies

012-post-mechanical-termsDo you think we should change out the VAV boxes?” Ray asked Chad.

Well, since the AHU is on its last leg, maybe we should spend the money there instead.”

Don’t forget, we need to keep the ACH the same,” piped in the Environmental Health and Safety guy.

I watched as the subject matter experts (SME) served mechanical engineering acronyms back and forth like a tennis ball at the French Open.  At some point, they all looked at me and I smiled knowingly and nodded but I really had no idea what they were talking about.

Since last fall, when this conversation occured, I’ve learned the mechanical engineering (ME) language just enough to carry on short conversations, but I still can’t speak it fluently. In this blog post, I’ll share my ME terms cheat sheet with you. Please note, after the definition of each term I’ve included a link to Wikipedia for more in-depth reading. Continue reading

011 Three Reasons Why Owners Should Provide a Stakeholder Register at the Project Kickoff Meeting

stakeholderI learned two lessons this week that are unrelated. I learned that there truly are unforeseen conditions. As part of a bigger project, we were moving a HIV research team out of a building that we are renovating. We learned in the 10th hour that the space we were going to move them into was unacceptable because it contained remnant HIV DNA. The remnant DNA is harmless, but it will compromise their research. No one saw that one coming.

The second lesson is related to the topic that I’ll discuss this week, which is the benefit of using a stakeholder register. I learned that it is never too early to issue one to your team. We recently kicked off a  feasibility study for a renovation project. Without including me in the loop, a consultant emailed various campus personnel that aren’t related to our project for information about the project. The people he contacted couldn’t help him, but obviously he didn’t know that. If I had provided a stakeholder register to my team earlier, he would have known whom to contact and we could have saved time and aggravation. This blog post will discuss stakeholder registers and the benefits of using them. Continue reading

010 Board of Governors August Project Approval List

randomCheck out the pre-meeting materials for the Board of Governors meeting last Friday. Projects in the UNC system that are up for approval are listed. Look under Committee on Budget and Finance item 2.

See blog post 005 Project Milestones & Marketing Strategies for how you might use this information.

Click here for Board of Governors website