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

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

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

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

009 How Many People Does it Take to Change a Light Bulb?

Q: How many people does it take to change a lightbulb? A: More than one when you have to erect scaffolding to do it.

“He may have won the battle, but I won the war,” she said with the click of her ink pen.

I laughed. “What happened?”

As a construction manager, she had just met with a subcontractor to install a small access panel in the soffit of a campus building. She attempted to have it installed while the building was under construction, but the architect had determined that it wasn’t suitable for aesthetic reasons. The architect provided an access panel, but it was too large and unwieldy. Knowing that a maintenance worker would frequently access a piece of equipment behind the panel, she thought it made more sense to provide a smaller access door within the larger panel.

She is aware of what designers often forget, the day-to-day operation and maintenance of campus facilities. Architects and engineers romance our buildings for a little while, but facilities and operations are married to them for life (and have to wine and dine them and keep them looking nice on a limited budget). In this blog post, I will discuss a few operating and maintenance items that designers should consider when designing campus buildings. Continue reading

008 Interview with Corporate CIP Project Manager

Untitled-1Kent Mitchell is a registered architect and project management professional with over 28 years of experience in the design and construction industry. He has worked in both the public and private sectors and is currently a business lead and senior project manager of capital projects for Syngenta.

[Q] On your latest project, how many stakeholders do you have?

[A] I have a lab project in design phase that I have +/-50 stakeholders.

[Q] What is Syngenta’s process for hiring consultants?

[A] Our procurement business partners issue Requests For Proposal to pre-qualified AE teams.  We would generally short-list the firms and invite 2 or 3 firms to interview.  The Syngenta selection committee might consist of 6 or more cross-functional decision makers who vote on the firms.  The selection is based on multiple criteria, not just low bid.  Continue reading

006 One Easy Way to Show Appreciation via Email Response

email-inboxI closed my email on the Mac that I shared with my fellow architectural students at Arizona State University. My dad hadn’t written me back again. I started to get up from the desk, but then I sat back down. I had written him four emails and no reply. I was pissed. Granted it was 1994, so email was a new phenomenon, but I was 2,000 miles from home for the first time in my life, and I was a tiny bit (OK a lot) homesick. I sent him the following email. “Dear Dad, if you do not respond to this email, I will never write you again. Love Amy.” Of course he answered and has never missed answering an email since then. Over the next few years, I relaxed a bit and didn’t expect an email reply unless I needed a question answered.

Fast forward to 2007. I worked at an A/E firm and noticed that my client, an architectural Continue reading