Monday, May 31, 2010

Happy Memorial Day!

Happy Memorial Day to all my American readers (and happy whatever day to those of you in other countries, if you have this Monday off)! I hope all of you are enjoying some time off to hang out with family and/or friends, or maybe even catching up on some chores (like me) or rest (like my cat--oh wait, she rests every day).

I know I have a couple of questions in Lulu's Mailbag to answer, and I have a resume or two to redline and discuss. I'm in the throes of getting ready for a presentation out of town in a couple of weeks, so my energy is a bit diffused right now. I appreciate seeing all the new blog followers--it's rather humbling when I think that there are people actually wanting to know when I post something new here. Remember: this site works best when it's a two-way interaction, so if you have a question or a topic you 'd like to see discussed here, as always do please email me or ask it in a post comment.

Thanks again, and enjoy your day off!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Tooting your own (and your firm's) horn

I wanted to post something else towards the end of the week, but the time I would usually spend writing blog posts was spent this week writing press releases for an upcoming speaking engagement. I'm writing it on my own, and ultimately my firm's behalf, with a little input from a few internet sites and a friend who has done a few press releases in his time. It's important to remember that everyone at your firm is an architect first and a businessperson second, and marketing and PR tasks are way down on their list. It's not that we don't want to generate buzz about our firms and our accomplishments--it's just that the business of architecture gets in the way of tooting our own horns.

It's my hope (and hopefully one of your goals) that interns get to work on marketing and PR for your firms. It's enlightening to see your firm from the point of view of the firm partners as well as from the point of view of the general public. How can you and/or your firm contribute to a conversation about new zoning laws or perhaps ideas on home renovation? What service can you provide to building owners that no other firm can? What is it about your best projects that make them so special? And why should anybody care? Those are questions you can ask yourself when thinking about PR for your firm as well as your own accomplishments at or outside a firm.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

More on saying what you mean, coming up...

I just got back into town after one of two speaking engagements and checked my work email to find more examples of written imprecision and casualness. While I appreciated my colleagues making sure that our clients were taken care of and staying on top of our projects, it's a bit disconcerting to see casualness in emails coming out of your office to new consultants. Here's the email I got from a consultant:


[The owner's rep] asked if you could provide me with a PDF of the [project name] lobby.
Can you turn off the notes and reflective ceiling plan... we just need a simple plan (PDF) that can be opened in Illustrator and used for a temporary signage plan.

[Consultant's name]

I forwarded the email to a colleague and asked him to send this consultant the plan he needed. He did so the very next day, attached to an email that said:

Morning, please find attached a pdf that should work for ya

It's the "ya" that is a little too informal for writing to someone with whom we have not worked before and have not met face to face. The brevity of the email is fine, although I would also include a "please let me know if you need anything else. Thanks, Lulu."

A couple of weeks ago, I emailed another colleague regarding whether she would be making a visit to the project where we were renovating a pharmacy, receiving area, and laboratory. I also complimented her on her Revit skills (she was finally learning the software after a long time working in CAD), and I offered to help her with it when she needed it. Her reply was this:

You are a rock star
I need to get meds figured out.

Here's the thing: She had had a medical scare that landed her in the hospital a couple of months before, so I couldn't quite tell if she was saying "My medication from that health scare is still not settled, so please be patient with me while I readjust at work" or if she was saying "I need to do some more on-site research and measurements so I can show the correct equipment and shelving in the medication storage area of the pharmacy" or if she was saying "I need to do some more work on the project's drawings before I go back to the site." Turns out she meant the second of those three responses, but how was I to know from the two short lines above? A simple "yes, I'll be going to the site to take some measurements and photos tomorrow morning" would have told me everything I needed to know. Instead, I had to call her to clarify the yes-or-no I was seeking.

I cannot stress enough to you how important it is to write clearly, and writing clearly is a product of thinking clearly. Have a clear purpose to your correspondence--do you need a drawing by a certain time, or specific information on a product?--and then read and reread your email to make sure the question is plain to understand.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Say what you mean and mean what you say, Part 1b

I recently received another slappy, sloppy, informal email from a colleague, and I realize that I'm going to have to post some of these on the blog just so you can point and laugh--um, I mean learn from them. But reading his email did more than mildly annoy me: it also sent a small shiver of memory down my spine.

Back when I first started as an intern at my firm, nearly ten years ago, I worked on a hospital and clinic project for a project manager who is no longer with my firm. A couple of years ago, this facility sued us and the contractor for a variety of design and construction issues--some legitimate and some not, in my opinion. As the only person from that project team left, it was up to me to sort through all the files and drawings--and yes, emails--from the project records to see if we'd done our job as architects. Talk about a walk down memory lane...well, it was more like being dragged down memory lane by one foot.

Two things struck me as I went through the records. One, my boss at the time kept horrible records. Supposedly, we had made decisions with the owners that absolved us of any wrongdoing in the project, but we had no records of those decisions--no meeting notes, no emails recapping important phone calls, nothing. And two, I wrote some pretty ridiculously informal and unclear messages to my engineers and contractors. Who would have ever thought that one day I'd have to send a $200-per-hour lawyer a copy of an RFI I had written as if I were Mr. T? Had I but known then, I would have thought twice about being cute in my correspondence. I pity the fool indeed.

As part of writing good emails, RFIs, and memos/letters, ask yourself two things: one, would it bother me if this was on a billboard? and two, would it bother me if this was submitted for evidence in court? Anything you work on for a project is submittable evidence, so keep good, clear records of all decisions and discussions, and make sure they're all G-rated and professional.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Say what you mean and mean what you say, Part 1

I don't know if it's the spring air or the ground warming up or what, but it seems like I've been noticing some really poorly written emails floating around my office and my projects lately. It blows my mind that architects undergo 4-6 years of training and still can't write clearly. Presumably, we can all draw clearly, so why is it having a hard time making it from our brains to our pens or keyboards?

When we produce a set of construction documents, we include lots of details and information about each facet of the project because we're conscious of our audience: the contractor. We explain the project with a fair amount of detail because we know that the contractor cannot read our minds, and and it would be cumbersome and time-consuming for him/her to ask us all the questions necessary to build a good project. The same principle is true of writing (and also speaking) in architecture; we have to provide all the information necessary to the parties being addressed so that the intention or question is clear. The first essential step to writing a good email is to assume that folks are generally familiar with your project but they cannot read minds. Do not assume that they understand slang (yours or anyone's), and do not assume that they have room numbers memorized, or even have the plan memorized. Provide all the information required so that whoever is reading the email can make an informed decision regarding what you're stating or asking.

Let's say you want to move some lights around in a particular room, and you need to ask the electrical engineer if you may do so. Recently, I've seen emails that look like this (and if I ever catch any of you writing like this, I will throw a copy of Graphic Standards at you).

"Hey yo peeps were gonna move the reception desk towards the north. can we do that? or, do we need more lights and whatnot over there."

For more clarity and professionalism, your email needs to read something like this:

"In Reception/Waiting A-334, we are moving the reception desk to the north side of the room and would like to move the pendant lights over the reception desk accordingly. However, we are concerned that the pendant lights will not provide enough light at the reception desk when it is moved away from the windows along the south wall. Can we make this change in the lighting layout, and if so will we need any extra lighting?"

You may also want/need to include a PDF of the room in question showing what you want to do sketched in red over the existing plan. This message will leave little or no room for confusion when you ask the engineer for his/her input, and now the engineer will not need to email you back and forth (or call you) to find out what you meant by "over there and whatnot" or try to divine your less-than-stellar punctuation, spelling, and grammar.

In the next post, we'll talk more about writing clear emails to get better results out of bosses and consultants In the meantime, if you have a question or would like to see a topic discussed here, please let me know in the comments or via email from the sidebar. Thanks!

Monday, May 17, 2010

What helps a graduate get a job out of school?

I got the following comment on a really early post here on Intern 101, and Anonymous' question below is worth answering for both those still in school and those just getting out:

I'm a current M.Arch student who will be gradating in 2012. I realize that it is difficult to take on many commitments outside of school during the academic year, but if you could find the time to do something productive outside of class, what kinds of activities/work experiences would you recommend. In your opinion, what kind of background makes a recent graduate of an m.arch or b.arch program more marketable to architectural employers. I realize this depends on type of architectural office you want to work for, but if you have any general thoughts on the matter, I would love to hear them. Thanks.

True enough, architects have little free time outside of school. However, it is important to show firms that you have a life outside of studio. The fact is, any activities are helpful. If you can find a job at an architecture firm, that's fantastic. If you can get a job working with graphic design and software or rendering software, excellent. If you can volunteer for or work at a nonprofit, well done. If you find employment at a non-architectural company, just as well. The point is, firms like to know that you're used to dealing with managers and customers/clients, of taking and/or giving direction and taking action, of showing up on time and dressed appropriately, of solving problems with others and on your own, and of just plain old working for a living. If you have no work experience other than maybe some babysitting or housecleaning for a neighbor, then that's going to be a red flag to a potential employer. Even volunteer or nonprofit efforts are a good sign to a firm, as it shows that you not only are able to work and are motivated enough to be active, but it also shows that you want to contribute to society in some way. (Ultimately, all architecture is some sort of societal contribution, positively or negatively.)

I grew up in a rural area of Georgia; the nearest architecture firm that might remotely have been able to employ me was nearly an hour away. Working in my field during the summer was hence cost-ineffective--a big chunk of my paycheck would have gone to the costs of simply getting to and from work. Instead, I enrolled with a local temp firm just out of high school, and I ended up working in the medical records department of my local hospital. I also volunteered at my church's Vacation Bible School as well as the choir. The hospital job gave me the experience of dealing with managers and coworkers, and it also allowed me to use my budding spatial skills. At one point, the manager of my department asked me to help figure out how we were going to move the microfilm department from the basement up to the main floor with the rest of the medical records department, and I happily obliged. Towards the end of undergraduate, I managed to score a summer position in the design and construction department of a nearby resort and park. Despite the fact that I never worked at an actual architectural firm, I was still able to get a job at the firm I have been with for the past ten years, I believe in great part to the fact that I had some job experience in general, I had a great cover letter and resume, and I interviewed well.

If you can find any job in this economy, then go for it. While working at a firm is preferred, it's not a dealbreaker. And as for volunteer efforts, you don't have to do something at a construction-related nonprofit such as Habitat For Humanity. Just being active outside of studio (and school) is a sign that you are willing to work and contribute, and that's important to a firm.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Lulu's Mailbag: Should I relocate for a job?

Intern 101 reader Joe asks:

I’m a recent grad. From IIT in Chicago. I’m originally from Florida, I had wanted to stay in Chicago but couldn’t find a job and have made the move back home to my parents in Florida. At this point I have my degree but I’m working a job in a completely unrelated field and can’t say I enjoy it at all. I’ve come to the point of applying anywhere and everywhere. After graduating I had high hopes of staying close to design, working with an office that familiar with the IDP process, a place I can really grow with etc etc….

I’m wondering what the outlook is for reviewing a resume from someone that would have to relocate 2000+ miles, a completely different scene. Say something like Florida to Washington State.

I’ve had one interview while living in Chicago for a job in Miami, after a couple emails back and forth with the office we decided to set up an interview. It wasn’t until after I spent $319 on a flight down, a great interview, and patiently waiting for a 2nd interview that the office decided that knowing Spanish was important(this was a topic brought up in the previous email chatter, at the time it wasn’t important at all). It was at my own expense to fly down and take the chance that I wouldn’t get the job, but somehow I feel this office flaked on its responsibility.

Excellent question, Joe, and it's one I'm sure interns everywhere are facing. First off, as an intern fresh out of school, you're not likely to get any help with interviewing or relocation costs. When I interviewed for a job with a firm in Virginia and a firm in Denver back in the spring of 2000 (when the economy was awesome and full of win), I did so on my own dime. When I accepted the job in Denver (where I still am today), I was told that interns generally didn't get any help with relocation expenses, so I had to pay for my own moving costs from Florida to Colorado. (My wallet still hurts a little from that 3-day trip.) My husband (then unknown to me--I met him on my first day at my firm) was moving from St. Louis to Denver, and that same firm offered him $1,000 in relocation expenses. Why? Three reasons: one, he had 16 months of well-rounded experience, in design, drafting, and construction detailing/CA; two, he was coming from a healthcare firm and had healthcare architecture experience; and three, it was a busybusybusy economy, and the firm needed good people fast, so it was worth their while to give an intern a cool grand to move a twelve-hour drive to help them out.

If you have little to no experience, I can pretty much guarantee you that you won't be getting any relocation help. However, being willing to move may give you a better chance of getting hired. If you're a recent graduate, then now is the time to move--I'm betting you don't have a whole lot of furniture, kids, wife, a minivan with a bad alternator, a mortgage...all those things that keep older, more settled folks from doing what you can do in your mid-20s. If you make it clear to a firm that you're willing to move and not ask them for help, you might have a deal.

However, I would do at least one phone interview (not via email) so you can ask questions and hear tone and inflection and get to know these people a little better. Job interviews are kinda like blind dates, and it's easy to sound good/appealing in email and then be horrible when you're on the phone with someone and realize that they're wooden, cranky, and can't think on their feet. If it were me, I'd also ask what kind of longevity do they see for the position for which I'm interviewing--if I'm moving from Tampa to Seattle, I'd like to know that I've got several months or even a good year that's practically guaranteed before I pack up the U-Haul. For example, if they're hiring someone to pick up slack on various projects around the office, that's a little less stable/guaranteed than if they need people to work on a major 2-year-long government building project or housing complex that they just got.

In the meantime, if you're living with your peeps and working in Florida, see how much you can save up each month. This will be handy for moving expenses, apartment down payments, etc., that is if you're not hammering down student loan debt. (You can always do a forbearance--no shame in it. I think just about everyone I know has done at least one forbearance on their student loans.)

If you have a question or a topic you'd like to see discussed here, feel free to leave it in the comments or email me at my address in the sidebar. Thanks!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Lulu's Mailbag: What should I expect for beginning intern pay?

I recently got this question from reader B:

I came across your blog while searching for "average pay for summer architecture intern" and I have to say it has a ton of fantastic information for architecture students. Thanks for taking the time for putting this information out there, as it is valuable experience that can't be found anywhere else on the web.

I'm finishing up my 3rd year of a 5-year professional degree at [school name]. My main question for you and one that I hope you can address on your blog is what to expect as far as pay for a summer architecture internship as a student still in school. It's a question that many employers will ask before they hire an intern and I can never gage an appropriate amount for my experience level. The internship after my first year of schooling paid me $10/hr, which was pretty generous and the internship after my second year was a monthly stipend of $300/month for a part-time position. Do you have any suggestions or advice?

A very good question indeed, B. Let's start way, way back in 2000. My starting wage back in that year, fresh out of graduate school, was $14.50 an hour, which amounted to a tad over $30,000/year before taxes. I recall sitting in on an intern's performance and pay review back in late 2007, and I recall that her raise bumped her up to $19.50 an hour. That intern was still in school, but she had a year or two's worth of experience.

If you're still in school and just looking for summer work experience, I would say to look for at least $14/hour, but frankly in this economy, I would take what you can get. If you can find a position, go for it--it may not be wads of cash, but anything past your third year of school counts towards your IDP requirements, so keep good records of everything you do and make sure your supervisor knows that you're keeping these records and will confirm your experience on your behalf. (And if you haven't already open your record with IDP, now would be a good time. Just don't forget to record your experience every six months!)

I've also received a couple of resumes that I need to mark up and review and post--I'm working on it, believe me! In the meantime, if you have a question or a topic you'd like to see discussed here, let me know in the comments or via email in the sidebar. Thanks!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

What's the value of value engineering? Part 2 of 2

We've discussed the basics of value engineering, and it should be said that VE is neither good or bad in and of itself--it simply is. Projects will come in over budget and need to be brought under budget, and VE is the process through which that happens. However, it would seem that no one walks away from VE happy. Engineers complain that their systems--the ones that make the building work and make it comfortable and habitable--get cut unreasonably to the point that rooms are always freezing or roasting, or a breaker trips every time someone plugs in a fan or space heater. Architects complain that contractors always want to cut out all the pretty stuff, or that the contractor's substitution products are a crappy imitation of real quality products and they only offer those substitutions so they can make more profit. Contractors complain that architects and engineers are primadonna whiners that don't care about a client's budget because if they did, they wouldn't specify all this super-expensive stuff in the project in the first place. The design team then counters that complaint with the fact that they're trying to provide true quality in a project and trying to make sure that the client has good products in their building that will look good and provide trouble-free operations for the long haul, and contractors wouldn't know good design if it fell on their heads and if contractors had their way everything would look like a bowling shoe.

The VE process tends to get ugly.

Let's look at some good and bad examples of VE that I experienced on a hospital project a few years ago. Due to a bad initial estimate of the project combined with a volatile bidding environment and the fact that the project was located a few hours from any major market, the project came in way over budget. Here are a few of the VE decisions that we made and how they turned out.

Decision: Shelled out two of the four operating rooms, equipped a third with minimal equipment
The hospital had enough volume to warrant two operating rooms, and they wanted to be able to expand to four eventually. In the short term, they planned to use two of the four as minor procedure rooms. However, shelling out two of the four (with just drywall, a concrete floor, stubbed up plumbing for scrub sinks, and minimal airflow from the ducts) allowed the hospital to turn that area into a temporary maintenance equipment shed and repair/workroom. When the patient volume is heavy enough to warrant the two extra rooms, the maintenance crew can move out into a simple metal outbuilding, and the plumbing lines and duct mains are all ready to go--construction on building out the two rooms can take place without bothering the existing operating rooms. Also, by putting in just the supports for future medical equipment in one of the two ORs to be used, the room was still useable for a year by the staff, and when they had the funds to install the new equipment in the second OR, the equipment crew was able to install it over a three-day weekend, leaving the hospital with no downtime.
Grade: A

Decision: Changed parking lot reinforcement material and removed all raised curbs from parking lots and drive aisles
The original plan for the concrete parking lots included using a wire mesh that was located in the middle of the concrete slab, and the ends of each row of parking included raised curbs with islands for planting landscaping and small trees. A local concrete subcontractor suggested a fiber-reinforced mesh for the concrete that was closer to the surface because their experience was that concrete parking lots in that part of the country were going to crack and curl no matter what was done to it. Also, each length of curb cost a pretty penny (a special machine comes out the job site and extrudes concrete curbs), so it was best to eliminate them where possible. Also eliminating landscaping (see next item) was a major concern as well. Not having the planting islands allowed the snow removal crews to push snow much more efficiently and effectively, but the fiber reinforcing was peeling up out of the concrete within a few months of occupation, causing the concrete to crack and spall (spatter apart at the surface). The concrete had to be resurfaced within a year.
Grade: B-

Decision: Removed all landscaping from initial buildout
While scope removal is an option in some projects, it's rarely an option in a healthcare facility. Healthcare projects are very program driven--after all, it's the program that provides the services that a community so desperately needs (operating rooms, X-ray, CT scanner, trauma bays in an emergency department). In order to keep all the program in the project, the hospital decided to leave the entire site as soil with a little bit of runoff protection in place so that they could make their occupancy deadline. A month or so before occupancy, several major spring rains washed away soil (and some of the runoff protection) in torrents, and water collecting in some areas of the site were breeding mosquitoes. A year later, the hospital found a local gardener to provide some nice landscaping up near the front door, but the edge of the property towards the main roads is still rather spotty and unkempt-looking, which doesn't add to the curb appeal of the facility.
Grade: C-

Decision: Changed all casework toekicks to rubber base and removed doors and sink panels in work areas
The original casework drawings showed plastic laminate on the toekicks of all lower cabinets, which would match the cabinet faces. The casework subcontractor suggested that we use a neutrally-colored rubber base as the finish for those areas instead--yes, it would look a little different, but it would wear much better than the plastic laminate, and besides, who would notice? Also, wherever it was possible in work areas that no patients would see, upper cabinets with plastic laminate doors were replaced with open shelving with melamine interiors and shelves, and the panels that cover the piping below sinks was removed. While the workrooms themselves look a little cheap, the nurses didn't seem to mind the changes and were happier in some instances to be able to reach needed items without swinging open doors.
Grade: A-

Decision: Changed structure and exterior from steel and brick to precast concrete
This was a huge change for the project, and frankly there was a bit of luck involved. The contractor has having a heck of a time getting a good price on steel because so much of it was being used in China at the time. The contractor was also concerned about getting high-quality masons to this remote town--no one wants brick that lets water in the wall, right? Fortunately, there was a precast concrete company that was willing to cut the project team a deal on a nice-looking precast exterior and a good strong structural and roof system. This change made a difference in many ways: first of all, it allowed the design team to locate columns every 60-90 feet instead of every 20-30 feet, like with steel. Also, the concrete tees used for the roof carried an automatic 2-hour fire rating, which is required by code for hospitals over a certain size. The precast structure and exterior had an added benefit of being very durable and strong, which was important to the hospital, since it was located in a tornado-prone area. Finally, the precast could be made in a controlled environment (to assure quality) and then erected in record time on site, which allowed the building to be dried in quickly and ended up shaving two months off of the construction schedule. Brilliant.
Grade: A+

Decision: Simplified sheet flooring patterns and brands
The flooring patterns also showed a variety of fun, exuberant bubbles and circles that matched some of the architectural elements in the floor plan and in some of the drywall soffits above. The flooring subcontractor explained to the design team that sheet vinyl generally came in rolls about 6 feet wide, and in order to cut some of the floor patterns that they'd drawn, he would have to provide two to three times as much flooring material just to get the pattern to work. By simplifying the patterns, he was able to buy less materials in the first place and then make better use of the material he had to buy.
The original finish schedule showed five kinds of sheet flooring from two different manufacturers. The
contractor then found some savings in going down to two kinds of sheet flooring from one manufacturer. Overall, there wasn't much of a difference except in the room with the MRI. Equipment manufacturers require certain environmental standards for their equipment to operate, such as temperature or humidity. One of those standards for MRIs is antistatic flooring...and the newly specified sheet flooring didn't have those properties. So far, there have been no reports of the MRI malfunctioning due to a static electricity buildup, but if there is ever a problem, it could fall back on the owner to pay for a repair...which could fall back to the architect.
Grade: B

As you can see, some decisions are good ones and some are not so good. Some VE decisions are shortsighted and some truly introduce value into the project. The best overall way to approach VE is knowing what the project truly requires and then defending those basic points. For example, I had a hospital project in which the mechanical & plumbing sub wanted to reduce plumbing fixtures. However, a hospital is required by healthcare codes and guidelines to have certain fixtures for cleaning and handwashing, so in that case it's against code for me to remove fixtures In other cases, it would hamper the facility's operations--removing the toilet room from the ultrasound suite would be downright uncomfortable, as having a full bladder during an ultrasound helps the procedure be accurate (and right afterwards, the patient reeeeeeeally has to use the bathroom!). Knowing (and being really honest with yourself as a designer) about what's truly important in a project can allow VE to go more smoothly and to actually introduce value into a project.

Monday, May 3, 2010

What's the value of value engineering? Part 1 of 2

In some recent posts on the basics of bidding and negotiation (here and here), I mentioned "value engineering", or VE as it's often called. The topic of value engineering requires a post of its own, due to its inflammatory but necessary nature. The point of VE is get a project within budget, but in recent years it has become a battleground between architects and contractors.

The very phrase "value engineering" conjures up ideas of looking for good ways to save money on any project in an almost scientific fashion. After all, if electrical engineers design good, efficient electrical systems and mechanical engineers design good, efficient airflow and piping systems, wouldn't, um, "value engineers" design systems that really deliver value? Hypothetically, that's the point of value engineering: what can we do (or what product can we use) that costs less but delivers the same effect as the original design? Good VE is not terribly painful to the architect and virtually unnoticeable to the client and the project team. Often, the architect will lean first on the MEP engineers for ways to reduce costs--can we take out a few VAV boxes (that control airflow and temperature to various zones or rooms) or even change manufacturers of the more utilitarian fixtures? Then the architect starts looking at the architectural scope, at which point finishes are usually the first thing to get cut--can we find a similar-looking flooring material, or plastic laminate and solid surface material on the casework, or a different decorative light fixture that costs less than the original? Sometimes, if the cuts need to be deeper, substitutions have to be made; for example, if all the countertops were to be solid surface, then maybe only the countertops with sinks in them get to be solid surface and the rest get to be plastic laminate. Perhaps the really nice porcelain floor tile that was to be in the entryway and the entire lobby gets reduced to just tile in the entryway and carpet in the lobby.

Sometimes, the contractor can help with VE by providing suggestions, either in terms of products or processes. The contractor might be able to find a product that the architect hasn't heard of before, but it will do exactly what the originally-specified product does but for less. Contractors can find cost savings with processes and timelines. If specifying a certain brand of insulated glass in the storefront windows will get the building dried in faster because it can be delivered sooner than any other, it shorten the length of construction and be a cost savings. (Remember, time is money on a job site!) During bidding, contractors (and/or subcontractors) may substitute other materials for those specified in an effort to help the job save money. When this happens, though, it may mean that the bids aren't equal, because one tile subcontractor is bidding the exotic limestone floor tile you originally specified, another one may be using the substitution of Dal-Tile or American Olean limestone-looking porcelain floor tile in their price. (Because of this, architects and/or GCs may make the rule during bidding that "No Substitutions Will Be Allowed in Initial Pricing.")

The hardest kind of VE to engage in is reduction of project or program scope. When a project is way over budget and no real cost reduction can be made through the aforementioned solutions, the project team (with and under direction from the owner) may reduce the size of the project itself or not build it in its entirety just yet. For example, the 30,000-square foot resort and spa may be reduced to 20,000sf so that the project can still happen and keep all of its high-end finishes, fixtures, and accoutrements. Alternatively, the resort and spa may go ahead and build all 30,000sf, but perhaps they will "shell" part of the building (just put in concrete floors, bare unfinished drywall, stub up utilities, and cap or only provide basic ductwork into the space) for future buildout. Perhaps the resort and spa is 30,000sf spread over three buildings, and they will instead only build two of the buildings for now and decide to build the third building in the future.

In the next post, we'll talk about when good VE goes bad, and we'll discuss the VE decisions from an actual recent project. In the meantime, if you have a topic you'd like to see discussed or a question you'd like to have answered, let me know in the comments or drop me a line via my email address in the sidebar. Thanks!