Learn specifics on Project Management with Matt Dumich of Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill. He’ll walk you through how they handle team communication, cost estimates, and budget. Be taken inside how the firm tracks projects and keeps projects on schedule.

Practical Applications

Our firm designed and master planned 28 buildings that opened in June of 2017.

And the technical team, really is working on documenting the project, developing the details in Revit. But we're also studying things as the design develops through Rhino. And we're seamlessly kinda working between the platforms.

So, whereas some firms have studios where everybody works together on the same thing, we're kind of compiling the right team for the right project and so, we do high-rise projects, we do master planning, we do cultural projects and people work on all of those here. And depending on the stage of the project or the phase of the project, we're bringing in the right skill set. And usually, people stay with, the start of the project, they stay on through the full design process.

I really represent the team to the clients and on our international projects we are often having weekly calls and then having monthly travel to visit the project or the client to have design workshops as the project advances.

We build models, so you wanna make sure to understand all of the expenses that will be part of the project, not just the labor and build that up to go into your fee, and obviously there's overhead and profit considered in that as well.

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But typically you have your concept design, schematic design, design development and construction documents before construction starts. So we're trying to work backwards from the move in date and then understanding the construction duration to understand how much design time that we have. And there are always milestones within that, that you agree with the client.

And then once that work plan is established, you're constantly monitoring it to make sure that you're kind of staying within budget, that you're using the hours that you thought. Sometimes around a deadline, you may staff up and have a few extra people to support the effort. But, really you wanna make sure that you're sticking with your plan and your project budget.

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And then, of course we're always connected to our phones, so as the project manager I'm talking to the clients on the phone, or emailing back and forth daily if not more often, and so, that communication is critical and that's really kind of informal communication, kind of, ad-hoc, but we also have design workshops where the entire team gets together to meet the client and consultants, and during those times, we are recording those meetings with meeting minutes and tracking the actions and it's critical to understand the key actions that come out of the meeting, or directions that the client gave you. Very often we're referring back to the meeting minutes when, something may change or there's a conflicting request, you wanna show when a certain decision was made and documented, so the meeting minutes are critical. And, you know, communication, again, is graphic, and drawn, so we're making sure that all of our drawings and presentations are clear and speak for themselves.

So we have regular client meetings, but we also have weekly coordination meetings. And that's really bringing together consultant teams. So often we'll have dedicated structural coordination meetings where you're meeting in person to go through the drawings.

In addition to meeting minutes that kind of tracks formal and informal decisions in conversations that were happening in meetings, we have a decision log for each project that tracks both the decisions that've been made and closed and the open decisions that are critical to be resolved and we're sending this to the client on a weekly basis to say, here's the information we need to finish the design, please finish by a certain date. So decision log is gonna show the issue, the responsible party, or responsibility, and then the date due and then the status, is it open or closed basically. And so, like I said, we're tracking that regularly and that's a very effective tool to proactively look at what's needed to get the design done and also hold the client and yourselves accountable to be tracking that progress.

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So you can understand if the masonry was over budget, or if the windows are over budget, or that you know which part of the project and you can target where to attack.

So, it's kind of hard actually, going through these terms of the agreement, thinking about what you could do to each other to get in trouble and then to start off the project really, and start working collaboratively, but it's absolutely critical to have a contract in place before starting work, which is really important.

So, we have a redacted copy, usually you just pull that part of the contract or you black it out that you send to the consultants because the consultant agreements are going to have to follow the same terms that you just agreed to, so you share those with your consultants as well as the architecture team. Very important that everyone understands what we just agreed to, not just the scope of work but also the terms of a contract as well.

So it's critical to have a construction budget from the client before you start and that's often an education actually with the client to understand what their goals are and what they can afford and so, at the very start we're looking at benchmark projects, similar size and complexity and scope and what what did those cost to really kinda target in on what the budget is that is, if a client doesn't bring a budget to you. You're helping them to really define the budget. So once that budget is defined, there's a scope of work associated with that budget and that becomes, really baked into your contract.

It's often an additional service to our agreement because it's additional scope, but the budget may change for a lot of reasons. Maybe there's some schedule impact, that you need to do it faster, you need to deliver the project faster. And therefore, it would have a cost impact as well.

But then as you move on into design development, you can start to look at more systems, what systems cost maybe, as the design has more detail, the cost estimator can really drill into some harder bid numbers, and often times, a cost estimator will actually have major trades, like the structure and the mechanical systems actually bid out, or advised by a subcontractor. And then by the time you get into CD's and you're checking those prices, they're really much more reliable information, because all of the detail is in your documents. So you kind of build up as you go, and so when doing that, you want a little bit of a cost contingency, so maybe you'd have 10% contingency early on, that might go to 5%, just to cover you if you missed anything.

We're also tracking if there are changes to that scope, and those changes have to do with change in the scope of the building, a bigger or smaller building or some kind of design change, change to the cost or quality and a change to the schedule. And so it's important to track those carefully. You know, architects are notorious for doing a lot of extra work, but it's important to raise the issue when something is a deviation from your contract and get an assigned approval on that add service or change order from the client before you really get too far into implementing it.

Often times we'll do a responsibility matrix between what's the responsibility of the client, the contractor, or others, and us, the design team, and those responsibility matrix really help to clarify things that may not be covered specifically in the contract or in the scope of work. It always comes up on a project, things that you didn't anticipate and you really just need to add further detail to.

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So that's why it's so important to manage scope creep identify additional services and make sure they're agreed to and signed off on so that we're valued for the work that we're doing. So scope creep, it's always something to look out for it's really when you're doing something beyond the scope of work in your agreement or beyond what you agreed to do. And architects are kind of notoriously bad at identifying and raising issue with scope creep.

Now that conversation is also important as it relates to BIM models and we work in Levit and the clients have been asking us to do more and more level of detail in our BIM models and now there's lots of documentation through AIA and other sources to really identify specifically to what level of detail all the model elements will be in your model because now clients and contractors are starting to use those models. So it's not just the paper documents now, it's also the digital information or digital models as well.

We also, depending on the project schedule, need to package our documents in certain ways, so, on a fast track project you might issue an early foundation package separate from the rest of the CDs on a job. So understanding that early on, getting it into the schedule and clearly communicating that with the entire consultant team and the client is very important to set off on the right track.

We also will often do kind of a project brief or a basis of design document that really establishes some key decisions and the kind of key design criteria that you're really designing to and that becomes an effective document that we're refreshing or revisiting on at least a monthly basis and some of our projects were required to keep that document maintained and actually formally issued on a monthly basis. We're doing that with the construction budget or the cost estimate as well, as well as the design schedule. We're meeting as a team.

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We're looking at that firm-wide, and then on a project, you're looking at what needs to get done in a given week or in the coming weeks and tracking that, and we're looking at the staffing needs against the staffing budget to make sure that you're meeting your project plan and ultimately becoming profitable. That goes with the project as a whole, you want to track the invoices coming in, and one of my roles is to be issuing invoices and following up to do the project financials, not only for us sending invoices to the client, but also tracking consultant invoices to us, and on some of our larger projects we can have as many as 20 different consulting firms working on a project, so that's an effort in itself to just to the project accounting. Constantly staying on top of that is, obviously, critical to financial health of the project and of the firm as well.

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