By Chris Dowell
Seattle Architect, Tiscareno Associates
From design architects and engineers, to subcontractors and real estate developers, it is imperative that the many stakeholders involved in the construction planning and execution of multifamily architecture, affordable housing architecture, or mixed use architecture design, effectively coordinate to maximize efficiency and ensure streamlined delivery within the real estate development process.
The worst time to learn of conflicts — for example, discovering that the planned route of the mechanical ventilation system is being blocked by a structural element— is during construction. Such conflicts can literally bring work to a halt, and lead multifamily architects, such as ourselves, back to the drawing board, causing disruptions to schedule and budget, critical path components within the real estate development process.
To avoid timely and costly setbacks, methodical document coordination is critical long before construction hardhats arrive on the scene. At our Seattle architecture firm, drawing coordination starts by using software such as Autodesk Revit or BIM 360. BIM, short for Building Information Modeling, is a 3D modeling tool that allows for collaboration across many disciplines. As urban design architects, our technical competency and proactive collaboration approach to design coordination opens clear lines of communication, and ensures consistency and accuracy across drawings, designs, and specifications. Led by one of our core values to align the interests of project stakeholders, we ensure that there are no conflicts between all consultant plans well before the beginning of construction.
When executed well, successful document coordination can reduce the number of requests for information (RFIs) and maximize efficiency in the field. At Tiscareno Associates, where we manage multiple urban design architecture projects, we strictly adhere to a rigorous process to make sure project documentation is well coordinated.
Here are 3 essential steps for maximizing efficiency in the real estate development process:
1. Develop a project team communication plan
First, create a roadmap with all project stakeholders that establishes the means, and frequency, of preferred communication. Secondly, use quality control and assurance checklists for each phase of documentation to ensure a meticulous review. In addition, be sure to start document coordination as each new team member/consultant joins the project. Once on track, continue communication with several cross-disciplinary reviews at pre-determined intervals for quality assurance. Moreover, specification writers, and those creating the designs, should regularly review each other’s documents to ensure coordination and accuracy. Finally, one point person should manage the overall architectural design coordination and should review all project documents with a holistic approach.
2. Make cross-referencing easy for the sake of consistency
Document coordination is all about making sure all disciplines’ documents are in sync. That requires consistency in the language used. Technomes, or technical abbreviations, are a language based tool that can help keep cross-referencing simple. Items across many documents are defined in one location, thereby reducing the possibility of conflicts. These technomes take the place of descriptive notes on individual project drawings and are cross-referenced in the specifications. This process ensures consistency from drawing to drawing, and facilitates coordination throughout development of the project, making in-progress updates easier to complete. The commercial architect need only revise the technome list in one location if products need to be swapped out in the future due to issues with availability or cost.
3. Ensure all project members utilize the same technology platform
Employing BIM (e.g. Revit software from Autodesk) or Bluebeam technology is helpful because it offers overlay features and the ability to run scenarios as changes are proposed. Ensuring all disciplines are contracted to use BIM at the project start can shave time off the coordination process and eliminate miscommunication errors down the road. With everyone working collaboratively within the same building model, maximizing efficiency is therefore easier for project managers as detail updates are made throughout. BIM 360 in the cloud is an even more powerful tool. With many people and disciplines working remotely across many locations, BIM 360 allows for all to have access in real-time to the same information, thereby allowing for real-time updating.
The use of Bluebeam, or similar programs with an overlay ability, offers a cost-effective way of foreseeing conflicts. This route does require more dedicated time for review upfront, and the timing of the review can cause work to have to be remedied out of sequence; however, from professional experience, it is better to detect conflicts at the computer desk first, than be surprised at the construction site later.
In summary, a fully integrated architectural design plan, with all project disciplines incorporated, maximizes efficiency behind the scenes, avoids errors in the field, and has the added benefit of saving the project owner time and money. Furthermore, clear and concise construction documents lead to more predictability, less product waste and improved quality. Overall, results can include lower contractor bid pricing, quicker product delivery, and higher odds of successfully delivering on schedule, ultimately maximizing efficiency in the real estate development process.
About the Author
Chris Dowell is an Associate Principal and Shareholder at Tiscareno Associates, one of the top Seattle architecture firms. As a project architect and project manager for more than two decades, Chris focuses on multifamily, mixed-use, and retail projects, bringing an expertise that leads naturally to smooth project delivery. He is regularly responsible for all aspects of a project, including creation of contracts for work with clients, overseeing the construction documentation process, consultant coordination, and construction administration services.
Chris is known for his technical prowess and collaborative work style. Clients regularly depend on his ability to deliver affordably constructed buildings that meet development and design objectives, resolve seemingly insurmountable site challenges, achieve city approvals and building permits on time, and meet community and local regulations. No matter how simple or complex, every project has benefited from Chris’s keen attention to detail, teamwork, and construction documentation.
Chris has recently served as the project architect on Waterfront Place, and Queen Anne Towne, and is currently working on the 164th Lynnwood, 11th Ave Capitol Hill, and Beacon Crossing Apartment projects. He holds a Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Texas and is a WA registered architect, member of the AIA, and a LEED Accredited Professional. He has been published in Multifamily Executive Magazine and the Daily Journal of Commerce.