Author Archives: Laticia King

The Challenges of Early Completion Schedules

By John S. Crane, PSP, CFCC

In today’s construction contracts, most stakeholders have come to adopt the concept that “float” is a shared commodity. Or, put another way, “float” is available on a first-come, first-served basis until it’s gone.

Although a step in the right direction, there are instances when float continues to be mismanaged and disputed. Schedules showing completion of the project before the contract completion date — early completion schedules — are often one of these instances.

In some circumstances, there may be no issue with a contractor providing a schedule indicating a finish date prior to the completion date designated in the contract. Certainly, there are circumstances where an Owner would have increased cost for occupying a facility, or paying utility and maintenance costs prior to when they had planned to do so; and there may also be timing issues with availability of funds to pay at a faster rate than anticipated. Owners must seriously consider all aspects of when they are to accept care, custody, and control of a facility in drafting their contract terms.

However, for many construction projects, there is no downside to a project completing early. Many construction contracts do not prohibit contractors from submitting early completion schedules. Still, with this added flexibility comes increased responsibility. Early-completion schedules can increase the risk of disputes regarding the interpretation of the scheduling specifications, definitions of terms, and the contract clauses that address time, money, and “float.”

Whether the Owner is writing the contract or a contractor is considering submitting an early completion schedule, the following should be considered:

  1. Whether the contractor can, by contract, submit a baseline schedule or subsequent schedule updates showing an early completion date.
  2. Whether the Owner is responsible for extensions of time and compensation as a result of excusable delays to a baseline schedule or subsequent schedule updates showing an early completion date where those delays may result in completion after the early completion date but still before the Owner’s originally required completion date.

With respect to these questions, many contracts are wide open to interpretation. To illustrate, assume the following project scenario:

  1.  It is a fixed-date contract that requires the contractor to use Primavera P6 and place a “Must Finish By” constraint on the overall project schedule equal to the contract completion date. Thus, in the event that the completion date of the schedule was either earlier or later than the contract completion date, the critical path activities would show positive or negative float.
  2. The contractor is not prohibited from submitting an early completion schedule.
  3. The contract states that “float” is a shared commodity.
  4. The contractor provides a baseline schedule finishing on the contract completion date, which results in the critical path activities having a total float of zero.
  5. Six months into a year-long project, the contractor provides a schedule update showing that it plans to finish 10 workday earlier than the contract completion date. Due to the “Must Finish By” constraint, the critical path activities show a total float of 10 workdays.
  6. Following its submittal of the schedule update, the contractor encounters an unforeseen condition that results in a 10-workday delay.
  7. The parties agree that the delay was excusable (“excusable” means that the contractor was not responsible for the delay and is entitled to a time extension).

Given this scenario, consider the following questions:

  • Is the contractor due a time extension for the delay due to the unforeseen condition?
  • Is the contractor due compensation for the 10-workday delay?
  • If the contractor is due compensation, what costs are applicable?
  • Would the contractor be responsible for liquidated damages if there is a further, non-excusable delay later in the project?

Recall that the contractor was not prohibited from submitting a baseline schedule or a schedule update that showed early completion. Also, the contract did not specifically state that the contractor would only be provided additional time and compensation if the fixed completion date was exceeded. Thus, the contract was silent as to whether the contractor should be provided additional time and money for a delay to its early completion schedule.

The contractor would most likely argue that it is due a time extension due to the unforeseen condition and cost for extended general conditions. So, not only would the contractor be compensated for the excusable delay, but in the event that there was a further non-excusable delay later in the project, the contractor would argue that they should not be responsible for liquidated damages. Essentially, the contractor’s position would most likely be that it incurred a loss of savings and may represent its loss as extended general conditions.

On the flip side, the Owner may argue that the schedule had float at the time of the initial, excusable delay that could be used on a first-come, first-served basis. Thus, the contractor would not be deserving of a time extension for this delay. With respect to compensation for the delay, the Owner may argue that the contractor was already being paid general conditions costs through the contract completion date, since the Baseline Schedule showed that the contractor planned to be on the project through the contract completion date. As a result, the Owner would most likely argue that the contractor would then be responsible for the time and cost associated with the second non-excusable delay.

Would these same questions and interpretations exist if the contract had not required a “Must Finish By” constraint? Without this constraint, the total float value for the critical path activities would be zero, despite the completion date of the schedule being earlier than the contract completion date. One must remember, total float is a calculation within the schedule that is determined by the difference between the earliest date an activity can start or finish and the latest date it can start and finish without delaying the completion date of the schedule. In other words, total float does not always automatically represent the difference between the scheduled completion date and contract completion date in the absence of clear contract terms to the contrary. Therefore, not constraining the schedule to match the contract completion date may have changed how the Owner and contractor viewed float, time extensions, and cost.

Attempts have been made to resolve disputes that coincide with early completion schedules by automatically adjusting the contract completion date to match the early finish date shown in the schedule. However, this may only promote gamesmanship or padding of the schedule so that any perceived “float” does not exist. Then, the Owner may have a difficult time discerning how the contractor has manipulated the schedule to sidestep this clause, not to mention that the schedule no longer shows the contractor’s actual plan.

It is extremely important for Owners to draft contract clauses and specifications to match their intentions when determining time extensions and compensation for delays to early-completion schedules. Provided it is difficult to write contracts that will provide crystal clear determinations for every scenario that may be encountered on a project, one should be reminded that good legalese is not a substitute for good project management. Schedule evaluation and management can be among the most complex of project management efforts and many Owner organizations lack the in-house capability to perform this effectively; therefore, it is important for schedule development and update reports to be as transparent as possible for the team to understand “the plan” and current progress of that “plan” in order to be successful. Lastly, it is important for contractors and Owners to understand and communicate, at the onset of the project, what will happen in the event that there are delays to a contractor’s schedule, including delays to any “early completion schedule” in the event that such is allowed.

John S. Crane, Jr., PSP, CFCC, is an expert in critical path method scheduling, construction management, delay analysis, and claims analysis. He manages scheduling and claims prevention and resolution assignments for private, local, state, and federal construction projects and clients. He loves to field questions at

COAA Member Q&A: Keith Douglas

Executive Vice President,  the Whiting-Turner Contracting Company

The Editorial Committee selected Keith Douglas for this issue’s interview to acknowledge his long-term contribution to COAA, and for his ability see issues through the eyes of an Owner, which enables him to transcend the labels of membership.

Many of us know Keith as “the guy with a microphone in his hand”. He’s one of the most visible people at any COAA conference. Whether leading a session, facilitating audience participation, or engaging in the group conversation, Keith brings value to every COAA conference.

Keith has been one of the biggest champions of knowledge transfer within COAA. Through his vast network of Owner contacts, he has contributed multiple sessions to many of our conferences. For example, Keith first introduced the Walt Disney Company and some of their innovations, to our membership.

“He’s big hearted, always cheerful, always positive, and, frankly, a joy to work with,” explains Stan Scott, who has worked with Keith in COAA committees over many years.

Keith currently serves the COAA Board of Directors as Director-at-Large. We talked with him recently about COAA, his work at Whiting-Turner, and his industry experience.

On Keith

Tell us a little bit about your journey from graduation day at the University of Virginia to your role at Whiting-Turner today?

That journey was actually very short. I graduated on a Saturday around noon in Charlottesville, and reported to work at Whiting-Turner the following Monday at 8:00 AM in Richmond as a project engineer. 33 years later, I found myself in Atlanta as an executive vice president for the same company and responsible for ten offices throughout the southeast. There was a lot of luck involved over the last three decades, but as my original boss Dave Hummel always told me, “Luck follows hard work.”

What does a typical day for you look like?

There is a lot of traveling in my job, so unfortunately I spend a lot of wasted time getting from point A to point B for what are often very short, but very important meetings. Much of that travel is visiting various projects and customers. This is a people job, and while technology now affords us many options, I still value a face-to-face meeting and an old-fashioned handshake. When I am in the office, like most others, I am glued to the computer and the phone.

What’s something about you that COAA members may be surprised to learn?

COAA members might be surprised to learn I am an accomplished oil painter; much of the subject matter being inspired by my family and our time together along the coast of Maine (near Acadia National Park). For the last five years, I have attended an annual workshop hosted by Bo Bartlett, who trained under Andrew Wyeth, to learn advanced figurative painting techniques. That valuable experience has really helped me to advance my skills.

While painting keeps me grounded at work, I definitely bring my competitive work style into my painting wherein I really push myself far out of my comfort zone in an effort to get better.

What were your most challenging projects, and why?

The most challenging project was trying to build a 10,000 piece toy castle in my office on Christmas Eve in 2001. Kidding aside, all projects have their challenges, but that drive to overcome them is what gets you out of bed in the morning!

Most of us would agree that the most stressful projects are the ones in which you have to overcome dysfunctional and disruptive team dynamics. Similar to a mission of COAA, much of my time is committed to finding better ways to improve the project team dynamic. Nothing is more rewarding than assembling a high-performing team that then accomplishes something thought to be impossible.

Is there a project you are most proud of?

That’s an easy one. At age 32, I moved from Richmond to Atlanta with the hopes of opening an office here. I ended up winning the contract to build the Aquatic Center for the 1996 Olympic Games. Never again have I had the same sense of pride with respect to pouring my heart and soul into a project and having the whole world see it. It was also a project that, no matter what roadblock was placed in front of us (or who placed it there), had us committed to all working together to remove it and finish on time with pride.

What advice would you give your 30-year-old self?

That’s a really good question and one that I often ask myself while mentoring our younger folks. I think that I would tell myself that, “You are going to be far more successful than you think. Aim even higher and invest heavily in your own future. Hire more people than you think you need, because you will need them and more, and train these young people to replace you, because you, because you are going to be needed elsewhere.


How long have you been a member of COAA? What prompted you to get involved?

In 2006, I ended my term as the president of the South Atlantic Chapter of CMAA (Construction Management Association of America) and was looking for something new to get involved in. It was that fall that I attended my first COAA conference in San Diego at the urging of a few Owner friends. I attended the following spring in New Orleans and got stuck in the airport (probably a little too long) with Lisa DeGolyer at the Delta Crown Room, where she sold me on getting further involved with COAA. Shortly thereafter, I was deeply embedded in the Conference Committee.

What really attracted me to COAA was that the conferences were smaller and you could really develop good relationships with like-minded folks who wanted to drive improvements in the industry.

How has your involvement with COAA impacted you professionally and personally?

I have been involved in a number of different organizations over the years, but COAA has had a profound impact on me. A number of COAA members are like family to me. It’s really nice to have such good friends whereby you can mentor and be mentored, both personally and professionally.

What would you say is the biggest benefit of belonging to COAA?

Simply joining COAA is not enough. You have to get engaged in it to reap the full benefits. Speaking as a contractor, the biggest benefit that I get is that I glean tremendous insight into Owners’ needs, as well as the industry trends that emerge to fulfill those needs. This insight allows me to build an organization that is well positioned to help Owners.

What do you see as the role of COAA going forward?

How do you see it evolving? I would personally like to see COAA grow to become the clear association representing all Owners to compliment AIA (American Institute of Architects) for architects, and the AGC (Associated General Contractors) and CMAA for contractors.

On trends in construction

What’s been your experience with integrated project delivery (IPD)?

Do you see it making a lasting impact on our industry? I have had personal involvement on several highly successful multi-party IPD projects now. This delivery method is definitely here to stay and its popularity and use will certainly grow. That said, I would caution Owners that it is just “another tool in the shed”, and that they should always pick the right tool for the job. I don’t think that IPD is right for all projects and/or all parties. Design-Build and CM At-Risk will remain popular delivery vehicles for years to come.

How has your use of technology on projects changed over the years? Is there a technology you’ve used in the last 12-24 months that has really impressed you?

It was “only” 33 years ago that I began in this business, and I clearly remember being on site using pre-printed forms and carbon paper. We didn’t yet have copiers, fax machines, personal computers, email, or smartphones. If we really got mad at someone, we had to send a telegram. Today, it would be hard to imagine doing business without email, the internet, and BIM, etc. The point is that technology seems to be advancing at an ever-increasing rate. The “kids” coming into our industry today will need to be prepared to embrace this new technology and use its power to continuously innovate.

About the Interviewer Matt Handal is a member of COAA’s editorial committee, works with a team of delay/claims specialists known as Trauner Consulting Services, and loves to receive your thoughts and article ideas at matt.

What Can Owners Do?

The COAA Workforce Development Committee recognizes the need to develop various education programs and recruitment efforts that target the current and future construction industry workforce. One place Owners can start is raising awareness.

“If you polled a group of parents of middle or high schoolers, you would find very few, if any, who wanted — or would even allow — their children to consider pursuing the construction trades as a profession. We have to show them, along with the rest of this great nation, that the construction industry is solid and can provide both men and women with respected and rewarding careers.” Kevin Lewis, PE, COAA Past President, Loudoun County Public Schools.

“School is Not My Thing” – Part 3 from LCPS-TV on Vimeo.



An Owner’s Dilemma: What Delivery Contract Method is Right for Us?

By Jay Snyder

I have participated in the construction industry as an Owner (corporate director for a hospital system), an executive with a contractor, and as a professional consultant. Overseeing the real estate planning, design, and construction program for a hospital system was quite rewarding. It was also a role where I experienced steady scrutiny, auditing, and ongoing education to my stakeholders of processes, techniques, and tactics of construction.

One of the more common topics of discussion was the debate over which project delivery method and contract method was most appropriate to the organization and to the project. Even today, as I speak to industry associations, consult our Owner clients, or present at other conferences, it is always on the minds of Owner program managers or directors.

Owners, boards of directors, architects, engineers, contractors, lawyers, and others spend a lot of time discussing the best project delivery and contract methods for their program. There has been considerable debate within the industry, and it is a topic that has been covered ad nauseam. Even so, the answer is unclear because … it depends. It depends on a number of characteristics that would describe the project, market, and the Owner. Project objectives and project complexity weigh heavily on the appropriate project delivery and contract method to implement. Many variables are also in play within an Owner organization that will determine the success or failure of Owner building programs.

These same drivers present constraints or advantages to various project delivery and contract methods. Determining which methods are appropriate for your organization requires more due diligence than reading a few case studies or listening to the success of others. To improve project outcomes and reduce risk, you have to understand those drivers, over which a program manager/director may or may not have control. Industry opinion and project case studies are an excellent tool for comparing your methods to others, but it does not mean that you will have the same success unless your project, market, and Owner organization are identical to those examples.

As you consider the various methods as an Owner, here are some of the variables that drive successful project delivery and contract methods:

Corporate governance, policy, and procedure. Similar to risk tolerance, your organization has a series of policies and procedures intended to safeguard employees/occupants, manage financial risk, ensure certainty of business operations, and delegate specific authorities to various stakeholders. These constrain your options of project delivery and contract methods unless your organization considers modifying governance, policy, and procedure.

Project complexity. Does the project require early involvement from the contractor to ensure constructability of design or budget feasibility? Is the project within an active campus or on an unusual site that requires front-end site planning and logistics coordination?

Organization’s project priority (Cost vs. Schedule vs. Scope/ Quality). Above all else, what is most important to the organization? There is often a leading driver that decides the others, and there may be a project delivery or contract method that is better suited for success.

Risk tolerance of the organization. Where does the organization want to place the financial risk and it is comfortable with the associated shift in control?

Program Volume. Considering the current capital spend plan and the facility year master plan, which project delivery method(s) aligns best with the organization’s programmatic and strategic business goals?

Level of sophistication. What sort of processes and controls exist to manage stakeholders and the project team? Are technology solutions in place that can be leveraged and encourage one project delivery or contract method over another? Consider things such as 3D modeling capability and the opportunity for Design Assist, the ability to precisely track budgets and perform audits of GMP contracts, and having a strategic sourcing and procurement program that supports competitive bidding.

Project management experience. The experience and skill sets of Owner project managers vary considerably. Many organizations require their PMs to be expert contract administrators while others expect design and/or construction expertise to perform professional design reviews and inspections. Organizations may seek PMs with exceptional estimating, scheduling, and procurement/contracting skills. Others may outsource project management to a third-party Owner representative.

Program staffing and organizational structure. One way in which project delivery and contract methods vary is in the amount of oversight needed or level of administrative burden placed on the Owner. Department staffing and organizational structure have a considerable impact on the success of a project and how that project is executed.

Capabilities of contractors in your market. I have a close client that has a main campus in a rural part of its state. It is often difficult for the client to secure project interest from qualified general contractors and even more difficult – sometimes impossible – to source “local” subcontractors. Certain project delivery methods require a level of experience and acumen that may further limit your pool of qualified contractors.

Funding Source. Often times the funding source may have requirements and regulations associated with them that dictate the project delivery and contract method. A lender may require the certainty of a lump sum contract. A bond issuance or P3 funding arrangement could require traditional design-bid-build with maximum bidder participation. Although uncommon, a private donor on a private project may require the use of a particular contractor which could mandate a negotiated project delivery method. Often times, multiple funding sources are secured for large capital projects which means compliance with terms and conditions and the appropriate project delivery and contract methods may be onerous and restrictive.

It is important to note that none of these variables should be addressed in isolation. Owners should consider these variables collectively and assess their program in its entirety to determine the best fit. Certainly, if an Owner is seeking the benefit of a specific project delivery method or contract method, all of these drivers may be addressed for proper alignment. However, many of these drivers may be difficult to modify. Aligning the organization with a particular project delivery and contract method is a greater task than aligning the project delivery and contract method with the organization.

While each project strives to achieve excellence in project cost, schedule, and scope or quality, most projects and organizations have a top priority that must prevail above all others. For the retail market, it is often speed to market (schedule); in health care it is often quality (infrastructure reliability, air quality, etc.); and in manufacturing it may be project schedule, as the manufacturer plans to startup a new production line. Knowing the top priority may highlight the appropriate project delivery method for the organization.

It is important to determine the which project delivery method(s) is the right fit and which contract method(s) is best aligned with your organization. But be sure to identify all of the drivers that will impact the success of your program. An analysis of completed projects will provide insight into how the program has performed in the past and may identify which methods are most successful in your organization.

As you look forward, remember that there is rarely a one-size-fits-all solution. The characteristics, priorities, and drivers of your organization and your project will bear greatly on the success of the project delivery method and contract method imposed.

Jay Snyder is Senior Consultant with FMI Corporation and has been a professional in the real estate development and construction industry throughout his career. He is also a tenured board member of a city Planning & Zoning Committee and a city Board of Adjustments.

COAA’s 2016 Spring Owners Leadership Conference

The tenets of team-building, communication, and project collaboration took center ring this May during COAA’s 2016 Spring Owners Leadership Conference in Dallas, Texas.

The aptly named “Big Idea Roundup” set up camp at the Westin Galleria Dallas and gathered Owners, industry partners, and stakeholders from across North America to tackle important issues and discuss the nuts and bolts of team management.

conference2“We’ve focused on collaboration for the last few conferences, but wanted to hone in on team-building for this conference since it’s hard to collaborate without first assembling – and then nurturing and maintaining – a good team,“ says Howie Ferguson, COAA Conference Committee Chair from the University of Florida’s Facilities Planning & Construction Department. “I believe team building is especially important for many industries today, but maybe even more so for ours given the increasing complexity of the work, more specialization, a shrinking workforce, and technology that allows for great opportunities, but also seems to add to everyone’s stress level.”

The event opened with Information Exchange / Transition to Operations, a moderated forum led by Olympic Associates Company’s Eric Smith on improving the transition from construction to operations. It also featured case studies and lessons learned from COAA’s own Information Handoff Initiative.

Following a Chapter Best Practices Forum, the event leaped out of the gate with an introduction from COAA President Dean McCormick, who also emphasized the importance of job site collaboration.

conference4“Let’s face it, few if any of us are picking up the tools and doing any physical work. Putting together an effective team and providing the leadership necessary to make the team high- performing is the most important contribution an Owner can make in many cases,” he added after his presentation.

These ideas were explored further throughout the three-day event, from Brent Darnell’s Attracting and Retaining the Best Employees (read Darnell’s Simple Secrets to Building a Solid Team for more) to Jay Snyder’s What’s Important to the Millennial Generation, which shared insights from FMI’s Millennial survey.

“What I like to convey to audiences is that, while we have all had to deal with the stereotypical millennial, the data tells us that the stereotype is inaccurate,” says Snyder, who was joined on stage by Rachel Sommer (DPR Construction), Dustin Sommer (National Heritage Academies), and Matt Waguespack (Stantec Architecture). “The idea that, as a population, Millennials are willing to work harder for the company than other generations and that they want to take on tough challenges, is inspiring; and that specific insight from our study is surprising to most senior leaders. This study provides Owners with the wants and needs of Millennials as they seek employers and look to advance their career.”

conference3Adding his own expert perspective to the conference was Rex Miller with Go mindSHIFT LLC, who dissected the finer points of talent management in Team-Building as a Science. Speaking after the show, he emphasized, “When projects began to add up to 250 trades and 250 manufacturers, the lever to create effectiveness shifted from process to people. Remember that complexity requires people to align early and solve problems together, and one disengaged player can impede the entire project. We’ve all been there.”

Surely, from Team First, Then Project, presented by Brad Pollitt (University of Florida Health), Ben Bowman (Velocity Advisory Group), and Matt Webster (Charles Perry Partners Inc.); to Creating a High-performing Team: Techniques, Tools, and Processes to Enhance Project Outcomes led by Pam Neckar (Bostwick Design Partnership), there were no shortage of sessions for attendees to dig in to.

Case Studies These interactive discussions notwithstanding, conference attendees also had the opportunity to gain behind-the-scenes perspectives from a handful of recent projects.

“One of the many benefits of COAA and its conferences is the willingness of Owners and other stakeholders to share what they’ve done and learned – good and bad – and case studies are one of the most obvious ways of doing that,” says Ferguson, noting, “I’ve also noticed an increase in the number of presentations that have data or ‘analytics’ as either a means of supporting what’s being discussed or as a lesson learned; as in, ‘you can’t improve what you can’t measure’.”
Among the case studies that took COAA’s spotlight were those relating to the New Parkland Hotel, delivered by Joe Longo (Parkland Health and Hospital System) and Tina Larsen (Corgan); and the American Airlines Operations Center, shared by Palmina Whelan (American Airlines), Scott Breitkreutz (Holder Construction), and Mary Hart (Corgan).

“One thing that I particularly enjoyed in the sessions was the different perspectives from the panels,” offered Ahmed Zakria, 2016 Albert E. Phillips Scholars recipient and conference attendee. “For example, when the panel was presenting American Airlines, they brought the construction manager, the Owner, and the architect to discuss. They didn’t only have one voice; instead, all of the key folks on the job were presenting.”

Bryan Bagley (Affiliated Engineers) was also on-hand to discuss recovery efforts following the massive flooding at the University of Texas Medical Branch after Hurricane Ike; as were Chuck Hardy (General Services Administration) and Renee Cheng (University of Minnesota) to deliver their experiences in Building the Perfect Team: GSA’s Collaborative Practice Case Studies.
As well, representatives from Penn State University returned to COAA’s conference to talk about their 2015 Gold COAA Project Leadership Award-winning project, the Health and Human Development Building. For more information, read the Gold Award profile in the Spring 2016 Owners Perspective issue.

A Balanced Schedule As always, the event allowed attendees to get up close to the industry’s newest technologies and systems through both its exhibitor hall and tech-savvy sessions such as Game On! Smart Owners Invest in Virtual Environments, with Michal Wojtak (Travis Noble) and Brian Nahas (Mortenson Construction); and What Do You Do with 13,890,000,000 Building Data Points with Peter “Chip” Pierpont (General Services Administration) and Shaun Klann (Intelligent Buidings).

Combined with in-depth discussions on project risk management, worker safety, and best practices for project closeouts – COAA’s conference provided a well-rounded and holistic view of project management.

Not to be forgotten, however, was the final – and always-popular – Owners’ Roundtable (aka the “Big Idea Roundup”). Led by futurist, author, and industry expert Rex Miller, the forum generated lessons learned and concerns taken from both the conference and Owners’ day-to-day experiences. “COAA has a unique style for their roundups. It serves to both recap the takeaways and highlights from the event but also serves as an open forum to share challenges and get input from others,” says Miller, adding, “It has a strong community feel to it, and reminds me a little of growing up listening to radio when people call in looking for advice and someone calls in with the advice.”

Key insights from the roundup included everything from the qualities of leadership to team dynamics and feedback for the conference itself. Looking back, Ferguson notes, “I thought it went well. I heard and overheard good feedback regarding the content and speakers, and we’re looking forward to reading all of the written evaluations to see what we can do even better next time.”

Albert E. Phillips Scholarships

COAA’s Albert E. Phillips Scholarships are awarded annually during its Spring conference for up to two college students who are interested in pursuing a career in the design and construction industry. Recipients are invited to attend the conference at no charge and receive complimentary hotel accommodations and airfare.

This year’s recipients included Curtis Ray Lucas (University of Houston, Construction Management) and Ahmed Zakria (New York University, Civil Engineering); both of whom took up COAA’s offer to join the event.

“I was very honored to be named one of the two Albert E. Phillips Scholars in 2016; it’s a tremendous opportunity and I am incredibly grateful for the Construction Owners Association of America for believing in me and investing in my dreams,” said Zakria, reflecting, “The conference was a great experience: the sessions, the people, the networking, the accommodations, the hosting state, and obviously the wonderful hospitality by Lucie Castro [COAA Member Services Manager] and her team.”

Curtis also followed up with COAA after the conference, saying, “It was humbling to know that the construction industry has been so incredibly willing and generous to assist me with my educational endeavors and guiding me to succeed. I forever will be grateful for the COAA community that was in Dallas that week.”

Making Connections

COAA conferences are as much about learning as they are about bringing Owners and their industry partners together.

“At COAA, we are very committed to creating an atmosphere at our conferences that fosters open communication and sharing of ideas,” says Dean McCormick. “Our members value this and most are willing to share their best ideas.”

This year’s event was no exception. It offered a number of networking breaks, receptions, and a tradeshow featuring the following exhibitors:

Bentley Systems
Bluebean Software
Broaddus & Associates
Faro Technologies
Fort Hill Associates
Lean Construction Institute
Massaro CM Services
PM Web
Procore Technologies, Inc.
RSMeans / The Gordian Group
Smith Seckman Reid
Structural Group
COAA Texas Chapter
Vaughn Construction

Simple Secrets to Building a Solid Team: Steps for attracting and retaining the very best

By Brent Darnell

Workforce development has reached a crisis level. The number of projects moving forward continues to increase and worker demand (labor and management) continues to rise. That, along with the dwindling workforce, is already negatively impacting the industry. If we don’t take concrete steps now, this workforce development crisis has the potential to cripple the industry.

With that in mind, there are some very concrete steps companies can take to attract and retain the very best people:

1. Let Them Control Their Own Destiny
If you want to attract and retain people, give them as much autonomy as possible. Give them the ability to set their own work schedules and work the way that they want to work. This may be difficult with some projects, but there is always room to experiment. Many companies are toying with flexible work hours and ROWE (results oriented work environments), an approach wherein employees only know what their result should be and it’s up to them as to how and when and where they do the work to get that result.

2. Provide a Clear Career Path and Training to Get There
All workers, especially young workers, want a clear career path and the resources to attain the skills to be able to make it happen. If your company doesn’t have clear career paths for all employees, and the skills training needed to travel along those paths, this is the time to implement a program.

3. Make Sure Employees Know Your Why
Employees, especially younger ones, want to have a sense of purpose in their life and work. What is your company’s purpose? What is the project’s purpose? Do you articulate that and communicate it clearly on a regular basis? Every company and every project has a purpose, so tap into that purpose with your employees.

4. Make Their Lives Better
This is a simple concept, but perhaps not that easy. If you make your employees’ lives better, they will be more loyal to your company. So how do you do that? There are two areas that we see that can make your employees’ lives better. First, improve their finances. Hire someone to come in and help people set up budgets and pay off debt. Second, improve their health and well-being. Start a wellness program (formal or informal) and help them to be healthier and happier.

5. Create a Fun Place to Work
To many people in the industry, work and fun just doesn’t go together. Therefore, what can you do as an individual and a company to infuse more fun in your work, on your projects, and in your offices? Put in games, have contests, have laugh time. Start every meeting out with something fun and promote and encourage fun ideas of team, collaboration, and play.

Some of these ideas are pretty far out for folks, but if we don’t start embracing these kinds of changes, this workforce development issue will only worsen. Company leaders tell me that they can’t try the flexible work initiative because some people will just sit at home and watch television. What they are doing, then, is punishing the 90 percent who will actually honor this open way of working. If you are a company, push the envelope and start trying these new ideas. If you are an individual, be strategically subversive. Try some things and see if you get a good result. When you do, share it with the company.

Whether it is for you, your company, or for the industry, how we attract and retain people is vital to our livelihoods and the very industry in which we work. It’s time to take some action.

Brent Darnell is Owner of Brent Darnell International. He has been teaching emotional intelligence and people skills to the AEC Industry for the past 16 years and has helped thousands improve their social competence.

Preparing for Post Occupancy: Three questions Owners should be asking about BIM

By Chuck Mies,

The success of Building Information Modeling (BIM) for building delivery is fueling the push towards the use of BIM for building management. Owners are now starting to reuse the models and information created during design and construction to streamline their own operations.

Often, however, the models resulting from BIM building design and construction processes simply do not contain the information necessary for building operations. This problem can be solved by recognizing the issue and asking the right questions that will help you better understand the challenges you face and, in turn,  define a solution that provides data integrity and confidence.
First,  however,  some background.

Building Operations vs. Delivery

Owners contemplating the use of BIM often incorrectly assume they can simply use the building models and data created during design and construction for their facility management. Unfortunately, they sometimes misjudge the usefulness of that information. Propagating this misconception, many architects and builders assume that Owners need as-built models.

Contractors’ as-built models are complex fabrication-ready models that can contain everything from duct hangers to structural rebar.

From a geometric point of view, building models used for design and construction are extremely detailed. This is necessary for drawing creation, clash detection, and other geometry-intensive activities. For facility management, though, the main purpose of the graphical components of building models are to help Owners visually navigate to building data, thereby providing a graphical means to access and organize information.

In addition, design and construction models often lack even the most basic information required for operations and are cluttered with data that the Owner does not need. In fact, what Owners usually need are models— and data—that have been right-sized for their operations. For example, if an Owner does not need to tag a piece of equipment, a representation of that equipment probably does not need to be included in their model.

Surely, it is the ‘I’ in BIM—information— that holds the key to BIM’s potential for building management, operations, and maintenance. The ability of Owners to realize that potential hinges on the use of standardized data streams throughout design, construction, and commissioning; as well as a thorough understanding of the end use, and users, of that building data.

Begin with the end in mind

Using BIM for facility management is not a one-size-fits-all situation. Different Owners need different types of data and use different systems for different operations. How BIM fits into this picture is unique for each Owner and each stakeholder within that Owner.

For example, facility managers usually need a floor plan with associated room numbers. But how about room names or floor finishes? Certainly, the latter can be important when planning moves, because move managers need to know if the space traversed by heavy moving equipment will require protection. But is this information important for a factory facility?

And how are square footages of a specific area calculated? Building Owners define and classify space differently, based on regulatory, industry, or internally developed standards. Educational facilities, for example, may rely on grants for partial funding of their operations and BIM helps them create space inventories to develop financial analysis for indirect cost recovery. Hospitals, on the other hand, may use BIM to streamline the reporting of space utilization for Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements. The standards used to calculate square footage by these two very different Owners should guide not only their BIM implementation but also their digital requirements for commissioning.

Overall, when you begin planning for BIM, you should accurately assess your information needs based on input from your own IT and facilities groups. Facility management usually requires the aggregation of data streams as well as integration with systems such as maintenance management or HR. Without a clear definition of the problem, these integration efforts often flounder. Therefore, you should ‘begin with the end in mind’ by documenting your organizational needs.

As well, answering these three questions will frame your facility management challenges and guide you to a solution.

Q1: Who will use the data?

The best way to define what data you need is by talking to the people who will actually be using BIM data for their day-to-day tasks. Find out their roles and responsibilities, why they need the data, how they will use the data, and what systems and tools they use to do their job. Keep in mind that many of these employees may have little or no exposure to BIM, so some initial level of BIM education may be required beforehand.

Some organizations tackle this question by developing “use cases” to represent different employee types that will use BIM in a similar way. For example, what systems do HVAC maintenance managers for your organization use and, from their experience, what are the good points and bad points of those systems? The development of this employee use case might uncover that your HVAC manager spends a lot of time trying to locate equipment because the existing HVAC building management and work order systems have limited information about equipment locations.

By taking the time to talk to the people who will ultimately consume the data from the building models, you can better understand the problem and take the first step towards defining the solution.

Q2 What data is needed and how will you collect it?
When data is easily accessible, people can do their jobs more efficiently – but only if they have the right data. Once you understand the roles and needs of the people who are going to use the data, you can work with them to uncover the right data that they need, from the make, model, and serial numbers of assets to square footages and finishes for space.

Asking what data is needed also helps you think about your facility (and building models) as “as-maintained” instead of “as-built”. Since the models and data needed to build a building are very complicated, the complexity of building models and data requirements significantly shrink when moving from construction to commissioning, handover, and O&M. For example, a project team may have captured 41 pieces of data for a specific piece of equipment during design and construction, but for O&M, you may only need eight (and two of them are not even in the contractor’s as-built!).

Now that you know what data you need, how are you going to capture that data? There are multiple stakeholders involved in the delivery of your facility that add or capture data when it is available. Therefore, you have to put in place a plan that can address when the data is available, who is the best stakeholder to capture the data, and how it is moved downstream. By doing so, you create work processes that can capture your data and transfer it into your facilities systems even before you take occupancy of the building.

Q3 How will the data be maintained?

The delivery of incorrect or out-of- date information will risk the perceived integrity of the entire system. So this last question might be the most important, as it can help ensure the integrity of your solution and instill confidence in the data.

The first step is to realize that you are maintaining two separate types of data: graphical data and attribute data. For example, at some point in the life of your building, an HVAC maintenance manager will replace a glycol pump, but unless there is some other significant change to the chilled water system, the old pump may simply be swapped out for a new one. Once that new pump is in place, do you need to update the model? In most cases, the answer is no. However, the attributes need to be changed because the pump has a new serial number, installation date, warranty, and so on. Most Owners have maintenance management systems in place to capture that update. Instead of duplicating that effort, an integration that automatically synchronizes your maintenance management system and your as-maintained building model might be a better approach.

When Owners implement BIM, many view it as a software/technology implementation. In fact, it is a process change. Talk to people in your organization to find out who is using the data, what they need, and how the data can be kept up-to-date. These three important questions will form the basis of your BIM project plan, your model development specification and handover requirements, your data collection and transfer formats, your system integration efforts, and your data maintenance plan.

As well, to optimize the value of BIM, Owners should begin with the end in mind—helping them better understand the business issues of the people who use the facility data, and address their data and workflow needs.