Originally posted Thursday, 30 August 2012

Written by Chris Towery

This May, Owners nationwide gathered at the Westin Galleria in Dallas, Texas, for COAA’s 2012 Spring Owners Leadership Conference. The three-day event’s theme was “Hitch Up Your Horses,” which seemed quite appropriate since the conference was held in the heart of cowboy country. And though the Owners all arrived at the event riding steel steeds instead of actual horses, this “back to basics” theme permeated the conference’s content and atmosphere.

While the conferences are aimed at keeping Owners up-to-date on the latest technology and progressive trends in the industry, this time around COAA also wanted to ensure that Owners never forget the importance of the business’ core fundamentals.

“Based on feedback from past conferences, we geared about half of the content toward project management fundamentals— sort of a ‘remember your roots’ thing—to go along with discussions of newer concepts, like BIM and IPD,” said Howie Ferguson, Senior Project Manager at the University of Florida and Chairman of COAA’s Conference Committee. “This was underscored by Wednesday’s ‘Carousel’ of construction-phase topics, which gave attendees a choice in the subjects they preferred as well as the tenor and content of the discussions.”

One fundamental aspect of any project is safety, and the session “Construction Safety Leadership—Evolving the Owner’s Approach” was one of the event’s most popular. The session, presented by Richard Petty, Construction Services Manager for the University of Texas System (UTS), explored how UTS is moving to a “Learning Organization” safety program based on a culture of safety that recognizes the environment for risk, promotes identification of inherent hazards, and aims to mitigate the root causes of those hazards. Another fairly fundamental—yet highly popular—topic addressed in the conference was construction bonds, covered in the session “Securing Performance and Payment— An Owner’s Guide to Bonds.” Presented by Steve Nelson, Executive Vice President and General Counsel for SureTec Insurance Company, this course educated Owners about the true value of bonds and other forms of project security, along with offering advice on available bond options.

First-time conference attendee Ronald P. Kirkpatrick, Director of Design and Construction at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, noted the presentation on bonds was quite useful, and the speakers did a good job of making a potentially dry topic interesting. “The session on bonds was really informative, because it’s a topic I’m not really versed in,” said Kirkpatrick. Image Caption: Conference attendees gather in the Dallas Cowboys Stadium during Friday’s tour. Remember Your Roots COAA’s 2012 Spring Owners Leadership Conference in Dallas “While the subject matter wasn’t exactly the most exciting topic to me, the presenters managed to make the content really engaging and clarify some very complicated issues.”

In addition to fundamental topics, this conference wasn’t short on sessions covering the industry’s most cutting-edge issues. The highly popular session “The New Parkland Hospital: Collaborative Delivery for the Future,” which was presented by Parkland’s Walter Jones, Senior Vice President of Facilities Planning and Development, detailed how the new 1.9-millionsquare- foot Parkland Hospital in Dallas is utilizing evidence-based design and augmented CM-at risk delivery with collaborative approaches like Design Assist to produce this high-tech medical facility. When completed in 2014, the $1.27 billion hospital will be nearly twice the square footage of New York’s Chrysler Building and feature 862 private beds, 96 neonatal ICU beds, 108 emergency rooms and 24 operating suites.

Another local marvel of construction, the Dallas Cowboys Stadium, was the destination for the conference’s Friday tour. This massive $1.2 billion sport’s facility is the world’s largest domed structure and boasts a retractable roof, a museum, classrooms, and a contemporary art collection. Additionally, the conference’s opening presentation “A New Era in Airports: DFW’s Terminal Development Program” covered the Dallas/ Fort Worth International Airport’s new $2.3 billion project to modernize its 35-year-old terminal system. The session, presented by Perfecto Solis, DFW’s Vice President of Development and Engineering, offered an insider’s view of the how the Owners are dealing with the challenge of coordinating with multiple airlines, project delivery strategies, and what lessons they’ve learned thus far.

Outside of the sessions, the networking opportunities also made the event well worth the trip. “Networking is one of the top values of the conference,” said Reid K. Mrsny, Vice President of Facilities Engineering at Texas Medical Center. “You can develop some valuable new contacts and relationships just by chatting with your fellow attendees. And these conferences are attended by such a variety of different people—Owners, contractors, architects, engineers—there is always a well-rounded group of people to meet and speak with.”

For COAA members who missed the spring conference, the presentations are available at the organization’s website, www. coaa.org. To access the files, log in, select “Members Only” then “Archives.” And while you’re there, be sure to book your reservations for the 2012 Fall Owners Leadership Conference, which will be held October 31st to November 2nd in Orlando, Florida.