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

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

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

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

001 Make a Decision Already!

IMG_0695I recently interviewed designers for a new project.  At the end of the interview, I told them that we’d announce the selected designer a month later.  If I could read their minds, I would imagine that they would be saying “Make up your mind already!  Can’t you state workers make a decision faster than that?”  (Or at least that is what I would have been thinking) I then went on to explain that the selection committee recommends the designers to the Board of Trustees (BOT) for approval. The BOT meets every other month, so unless our interview is near the time of the BOT meeting, the designers have to wait. Continue reading