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Cars and Relationships

My wife’s car was twelve years old and between the paint touch-ups from my guy Benny and the engine that rattles more than an angry snake, it was time to move on. I reached out to my brother and resident deal-hunter for advice. He told me not to be afraid of buying a car out of state if it was the right car. He expanded on the concept by indicating that when you buy a car from a far distance the built-in road trip back to home allows you to form a bond with the car and your travel mate making the new car an experience rather than a purchase. Although I love watching shows about junkyard cars coming back to life, I would not claim that I am a “car guy.”  That said, I do understand the attachment that comes along with major purchases like this, especially ones that offer a bit of a vacation.

So we did it. We bought the used car my wife had found in Salt Lake City and my thirteen-year-old son and I flew out in the morning. We completed the purchase and cruised the ten plus hour drive with impromptu stops to enjoy the sites along the way.  My techie, knowledge devouring son had read the entire manual by hour two and discovered things about the car we didn’t know we purchased, like remote-start. Around the bend arrives Grand Junction–time to hike through the canyon; at Rifle–grab an ice cream, and so on.

During the hours of windshield time I pondered what my brother had said and realized that starting a relationship with a new client and project team has this same opportunities as the car-purchase-inspired road trip. So [...]

Damn, I’m 45

“Turns out, 45 years old is just 45 years old. An age that means you are old enough not to feel young anymore, but not old enough to complain about it. It’s like the middle child of ages… no one is impressed or thinks your turning 45 is a big deal but you.”  Huffington Post

When Wember turned 10, I was 42 and I wrote this blog, http://www.wemberinc.com/wember-turns-10/; it’s fun to be 10 after all! Today, I turn 45 and reflect on advice that I have received over the years from those who matter most.

Don’t do dumb shit ~ Only a father could give you such words of wisdom
Be on path by age 30 ~ If you’re going to be taken seriously, by age thirty you have better know where you’re headed.
Life’s not fair and then you die ~ Growing up the youngest of six it felt that many things were not fair, you have to get over it. The irony of my mom’s advice is that she passed at 62 from Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, which is contracted by one in a million. Even when sick in bed she would state, “life’s not fair and then you die.”
Grit and perseverance outdoes raw talent. Raw talent fades, perseverance is a trait to be nurtured; if you have it you will accomplish what you set out to do.
Family, friends, beer and then hockey. Have your priorities straight and keep them that way.

My dad swears to me that 45-50 is the golden age of life; you are old enough to be respected, you have your full physical capabilities and, if you have planned properly, you have the financial advantage to [...]

Should you set GMP at Schematic Design?

Should you set your Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP) at schematic design?  No, you should not set it at schematic design.  Should you set your guaranteed maximum price (GMP) at construction documents?  Let’s discuss this further.

The GMP on a project is the point where you ask your contractor to lock in the costs for the project and, in theory, transfer the risk to them. And although we agree that locking in a price does shift some exposure to the contractor, a sophisticated contractor will manage that risk through allowances, contingencies and exclusions and clarifications/qualifications. Here are some pros and cons.

Construction Document GMP: At this point, the drawings are nearly complete and the contractor will have all the information to receive multiple bids and clearly understand the intent of the design. The costs will be detailed and based on actual take-offs and material pricing.

Pros

You are receiving pre-construction services, which includes estimates at key phases of the project (schematic design, design development).
You gain an early price and a comfort knowing that you are “close to target.”
You can begin fundraising to an established goal.
There are few allowances and contingencies that could prevent money being left on the table. But, note that the owner could control the use of the contingency.
Allowances and contingencies are reduced as contract documents are more detailed.
Changes during the construction phase are reduced due to the contractor being engaged on the project early in the design phase.
Exclusions and clarification items are significantly reduced. We recommend no more than a one-page document.
It decreases the contractor’s pressure on the team to make changes to the design. This may have occurred if the [...]

Feastability

Portmanteaus words are a way to add colorful meaning to a thing or occurrence; some terms have become so commonly used they are part of our vocabulary. From the Chunnel to tween and medivac, these words inform us in a twitter-style efficiency. Entrepreneur Magazine often showcases portmanteaus words and the digital age has created many new ones like:

Cellfish – an individual who continues talking on their phone when it is clearly being rude or inconsiderate of other people
Internest – the cocoon of blankets and pillows you gather around yourself whilst spending long periods of time on the internet
Youniverse – a person who has knowledge only of him or herself
Nonversation – a completely worthless conversation; small talk
Screenager –the typical adolescent who indulges excessively in screen entertainment
Masturdating – going out alone to dinner or a movie
Badvertising – poorly crafted marketing
Hangry – hungry and angry (an often used term at my house)
Snark – snide remark, often used to call someone snarky

Our AEC industry has their own:

Hazmat – hazardous materials
Transistor – combination of transfer and resistor
Cineplex – cinema combined with the complex that houses the theater
Cafetorium – the multi-use space of cafeteria and auditorium
Imagineering –  a mixture of imagination and engineering
Workaholic –  an architect who has a job
Pleather – the value engineering result when we can’t afford leather
Meld – when you want welding but you get melting
Bankster – who developers can obtain their gap financing from

And, the latest portmanteaus word for our industry is:

Feastability – a combination of fee, feast and stability

As the [...]

Who Should Own the Contingency?

A good contingency plan requires continuous thought and planning, whether you are going on vacation to Mexico, climbing Mt. Everest, or tackling a capital improvement project–things go wrong. As a father of three, and a business owner, I find myself commonly swerving through what could go wrong next and how to circumvent potential obstacles and recover from bumps in the road. I am not being pessimistic; I am being a survivalist.

When it comes to navigating a project budget, proper management of the contingency is an area that can influence a successful project outcome. Who manages it? Who carries it? And, how do you make sure it doesn’t get inflated to the point of stopping your project? While there are many discussions on the subject of contingency we could hash over, this blog addresses why an owner and general contractor would want to have a portion of the contingency in the GMP.

1)  Does it exist?
Having the contingency in the GMP as part of the budget gives the general contractor, and the other consultants, confidence. They are able to adjust their risk management by being informed and not operating with a blind spot. Owners can tell a project team the contingency exists, but many have been burned by having those funds removed when there is a change in leadership or poor budget management.

2) Can I access it?
Just because a contingency exists in the master budget, doesn’t mean that the owner will release it. Having the contingency in the GMP prompts the necessary conversation of how it can be used and when; this communication often leads to smoother approval processes.

3) Trust.
By setting up the contingency in a transparent manner, the hired team members appreciate [...]

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    Myth #1 Busted – We Have Long-standing Relationships With All Clients

Myth #1 Busted – We Have Long-standing Relationships With All Clients

Last year I was honored to be selected to serve on a panel of owner’s representatives at the 2016 AIA Symposium. While the discussions that ensued were informative and thought provoking, it was the dialogue that occurred off stage that stuck with me most. I was repeatedly approached by inquiring architects who wanted to know “Why don’t Owner’s Representatives issue better RFPs and guide their clients through a more refined selection process?” While I am not the owner’s representative industry spokesman, I defended myself (and our colleagues) by explaining that owner’s representatives are not always the culprit of these poorly crafted RFPs.

Upon returning from the conference, I was curious, what percentage of RFPs do we help owners generate? While it is true that owner’s representatives sometimes have a long-standing relationship with certain clients, we aren’t always involved in the procurement of architects, or even general contractors for the matter.  I inventoried the projects we managed in the last three years and determined that 55% have the architect in place before we were brought on board. Of the 45% that had not yet procured the architect, over half had already begun the process and our first tasks were to assist on the shortlisting and interview processes. The fact is that over the last three years we led the procurement process, and thus the writing of the RFP, for the design team at a rate of 18%.

While these statistics might come as a surprise to some, it sounded about right to me; there are certain causal scenarios that we see frequently playout. Master planning, for example, often leads to the procurement of the already contracted design firm for continued services. While the budget might be in [...]

A Look Back at 2016

John Glenn passed away, Donald Trump is President Elect, and developers are turning Nazi camps into luxury resorts; 2016 appears to be the year of “What just happened?”

More close to home, I have reviewed the AIA, AGC, and the Deltek reports, spoken with numerous industry professionals, and analyzed trends on the projects we are managing to conclude the following opinion: generally speaking, there continues to be skeptical optimism related to continued growth and architects feel less positive than general contractors; this makes sense since much of the design work associated with the uptick in 2016 is complete while contractors are still riding the delayed wave of new work. Companies hired more staff in 2016 than in previous years and we saw a trend of professionals changing companies at a higher rate than previous years.  Many seasoned professionals are retiring and the absorption of smaller firms by larger ones, although slower than the 2015 record of 234 sales of U.S.-based A/E firms a 5.4% increase over 20141 is still occurring.

Size Matters
We experienced clients basing project decisions on the continued escalation of design and construction costs. We saw trends of projects increasing in both size (square feet) and programs of work (i.e. large school programs). Clients desire for risk mitigation increased and owners defaulted to the large-sized, resource rich companies. These larger firms didn’t just win the large jobs in 2016, they won jobs of all sizes; it seems significant portfolios, robust teams and the ability to quickly generate designs was the winning strategy in 2016.  As the big guys continue to absorb small firms, albeit at a slower rate than the 2015 record-year, you would think they would depart from the recession mentality of chasing [...]

By |December 23rd, 2016|Uncategorized|0 Comments|

2016 – A Look Back

John Glenn passed away, Donald Trump is President Elect, and developers are turning Nazi camps into luxury resorts; 2016 appears to be the year of “What just happened?”

More close to home, I have reviewed the AIA, AGC, and the Deltek reports, spoken with numerous industry professionals, and analyzed trends on the projects we are managing to conclude the following opinion: generally speaking, there continues to be skeptical optimism related to continued growth and architects feel less positive than general contractors; this makes sense since much of the design work associated with the uptick in 2016 is complete while contractors are still riding the delayed wave of new work. Companies hired more staff in 2016 than in previous years and we saw a trend of professionals changing companies at a higher rate than previous years.  Many seasoned professionals are retiring and the absorption of smaller firms by larger ones, although slower than the 2015 record of 234 sales of U.S.-based A/E firms a 5.4% increase over 20141 is still occurring.

Size Matters
We experienced clients basing project decisions on the continued escalation of design and construction costs. We also saw a  trend of projects increasing in both size (square feet) and programs of work (i.e. large school programs). Clients desire for risk mitigation increased and owners defaulted to the large-sized, resource rich companies. These larger firms didn’t just win the large jobs in 2016, they won jobs of all sizes; it seems significant portfolios, robust teams and the ability to quickly generate designs was the winning strategy in 2016.  As the big guys continue to absorb small firms, albeit at a slower rate than the 2015 record-year, you would think they would depart from the recession mentality [...]

Breaking Into a New Market

I was recently asked by a smaller-sized architecture firm how to win work for a project type with which they had no prior experience. Many of us have faced this quandary. It can be frustrating; but, with tenacity and smart business decisions it can be done. We went on to discuss some options.

1.  Hire for it. At one point, we had no school experience and wanted to break into the market. When we had an opportunity to add staff we didn’t hire our best friend, we looked for a resume that fit our strategic plan. The project manager brought along a deep rolodex (okay, CMS) and the market has been open ever since.

2.  Devise a creative teaming approach that provides a unique strategy or solution; it will almost always garner attention, if not win you a top contender spot.

3.  Start shaking hands.  Although it’s not typically an instant return-on-investment, a grassroots, relationship-based strategy can get you a foot in the door. Expect to start small and enjoy the inevitable growth.

4.  Remember the forgotten. When the urban markets heat up rural markets are often neglected. Go the distance.

5.  Take a risk. This is my favorite option as is can produce results quickly. Firms that are established in a particular market will play it safe submitting on RFPs often with pre-packaged proposals. Find a unique angle and go all in.

~ Paul Wember, Owner’s Representative

Building is Scary!

It all started with a spider—a giant 13-foot spider.  “Harold,” who lives in my crawl space all winter and summer, emerges every Halloween in our front yard. He holds a special place in my heart as my kids and I designed and built it together. Halloween, more than any other holiday, reminds me of how design and construction engages a community and impacts all involved.

Since the birth of Harold the neighborhood kids have requested to get involved; we decided to design/build a haunted house in my garage. Like all our projects we began by drafting a solid design. It has been an adventure being part of this Halloween construction evolution.

1. The first year was a simple room with games. It was ok.
2. The second year was a two-room-scene–one with an outdoor cemetery and on the inside a day-of-the-dead dining room.
3. The third year we created a crime scene complete with a digital ghost projection. Although it was cool it did not have proper flow and the result was less than scary.

Then the fourth year came along. The design team of three (my children) decided a maze was the ticket to scary; it solved the problem of year three’s single pathway flop and would allow each design team member an area that they (and their friends) could focus on. The designers brainstormed, researched and eventually decided on the design for each space as follows: click-here-to-view-wember-scareville-plan

1.  The first space was the infinity hallway
2.  The second space, a brilliant glow room
3.  Third space, “something funny”
4.  Fourth Space, creepy chamber
5.  Fifth space, science lab
6.  Sixth space, spider hallway
7.  Seventh space, psychedelic hallway

But, the real first scare? Building seven spaces with children [...]