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A Seat at the Table

 

There are many cogs in the wheel of a successful project, but one can set the project up for success during early design stages by involving trade partners. Clients, partners, and vendors often tout the value of teamwork, but configuring the team during preconstruction, before ground is broken, elevates project success for each member before design is finalized. Getting engineers, the VDC team, and construction partners on the same page from project kickoff means more collaboration, efficiency, and risk reduction while creating the opportunity for accelerated schedules.

It’s more than speaking the same language — it’s being in the same room, in the same conversation so the engineering, design, and construction teams work in unison rather than in silos, which can often cause costly inefficiencies. “Many design engineers might be surprised to find out that the many hours they spent completing a fully coordinated BIM model sometimes go to waste during construction, as a mechanical contractor regularly rebuilds the model from scratch for fabrication and construction purposes,” said Andrew Thompson, preconstruction manager for MMC Contractors.
SES Project Manager Aaron Anderson has seen the benefit of getting a seat at the table early. “Working with a preconstruction partner during the design phase adds perspective. Contractor input, especially on phased renovation projects, is valuable to decision makers during design. Additionally, having a contractor on site before construction gives them more stake in the success of the project. Their assistance verifying the buildability of the design before construction means less surprises, less setbacks, and less change orders,” he said.

Sarah Kuchera, senior vice president at WSP USA, has found that collaborating with project partners early results in a smoother process and a more accurate design, as well. “The biggest advantage of getting everyone together from day one is the feedback we receive regarding big ticket items. We’re able to get input on the constructability of the design, so we can ensure we are looking at the right solutions when it comes to equipment and system selection,” she said. “Working with the installation team from the beginning also helps all parties understand why something is the way it is, resulting in better buy-in from everyone and a true team environment.”

Finding and agreeing upon solutions early leads to a one-pass model during preconstruction, eliminating the need for another iteration and providing all stakeholders with an accurate drawing from which to work. “Creating an accurate model through collaboration during preconstruction is always beneficial, and I’ve found that it is crucial when verifying existing conditions. Nobody knows better than the contractor the feasibility of how to maneuver around existing conditions, so producing an accurate, agreed-upon, model becomes easier when the contractor partners with engineers and designers,” said Anderson.

When all players have input and can agree upon the final design — before the VDC team completes its model — the result is a successful project for each partner. “I recently worked on a large healthcare project with MMC Contractors, and it was definitely the most integrated approach I had ever seen. In the beginning, there were so many participants that we were tripping over each other, but once we reached a consensus with that many people, we knew we had a good thing,” said Kuchera. “The project was a resounding success, and I’m convinced it’s because we were a true team from preconstruction through completion; we all had our voices heard and hashed out the best solutions for the project. Each party at the table, while focused on the financial outcome, had a unique perspective and vantage point, and all voices were not just heard, but they were respected and celebrated, ultimately benefiting everyone from the owner on down.”