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Abstract: Design Management

Project design and development run from conceptual phase through construction documents. Professional services contracts, design guidance, cost estimation, project budget management, building committee involvement, and project design review and approval by the institution are all considered in this process.

Phases of a Project

The traditional project design and development process includes predesign, schematic design, design development, construction documents, bidding, construction, and occupancy. Institutions normally hire qualified architects or engineers to provide these services and administration of the construction contracts.

Predesign Services. Predesign services (not  part  of every project), include programming, site selection, prototype research, and evaluation and documentation of existing facilities.

Schematic Design. The schematic design phase includes estimated cost, recommended construction site, and drawings (e.g., schematic floor plan, site plan, exterior drawings) and is 15 percent of the fee.

Design Development. Design development specifies materials, floor plans, walls, HVAC, plumbing, and electrical. Probable cost is scrutinized; specifications are refined; and probable cost is determined. This phase accounts for 20 percent of the fee.

Construction Documents. Working drawings and technical specification (construction documents) represent 35 to 40 percent of the fee.

Bidding. The bidding phase includes issuing bid documents, receiving and reviewing bids, and normally recommending the lowest acceptable bidder. The bidding phase accounts for 5 percent of the fee.

Construction. Oversight during the construction phase ensures that construction quality complies with contract terms. This phase accounts for 20 to 25 percent of the fee.

Occupancy. Institutions often request an occupancy inspection before expiration of the 1-year construction warranty and at other post-occupancy milestones.

Construction Delivery Methods. Historically, the design-build-bid delivery method is favored. New methods (e.g., design-build, fast-track, guaranteed maximum bid) control quality, cost, and schedule.


Predesign services (e.g., site identification, program development, financing alternatives) are negotiated as additional expenses. Institutions use in-house design professionals if the scope of work supports the expense. Predesign enables stakeholders to participate in budget, schedule, and program design.

Budget and Schedule

Adhering to the budget and schedule are the most important components of project success.

Total Project Budget. The total project budget includes hard construction dollars, equipment charges, purchases, and other charges (e.g., testing, survey fees, architect and engineer fees, moving expenses, printing, advertising, property acquisition, telecommunications).

Project Schedule. The  project  schedule  includes deadlines related to funding, academic year scheduling, and board approval. Time must be allotted for selecting architects and engineers, negotiating contracts, securing project site use, and moving into the project space.

Schematic Design

Floor plan and exterior views, renderings, and three- dimensional images are produced in the schematic design process, which often precedes (and provides tools for) fund raising and project approval.

Schematic Design Products

Renderings and Models. Renderings are physical embodiments of the architect’s conception of the building. The accuracy of schematic models depends on the completeness of schematic design.

Plans and Elevations. Computer-generated and inherently scaled floor plans of the basic building layout include mechanical and vertical air circulation specifics and special building characteristics.

Narrative. Schematic design documents the design concept and major physical construction components (e.g., site work, utilities, structure, mechanical, electrical).

Outline Specifications. Outline specifications determine the expectations for interior and exterior finishes, mechanical and electrical systems, and general project process and capacities; subsequent changes in final project requirements could be very costly.

Cost Estimates. Schematic cost estimates use realistic assumptions for defined major components and systems.

Project Management Issues During Schematic Design

Cost and Budget.  Monitoring project financial status at   all times is a crucial part of the project manager job.

Cost overrun solutions include reducing project scope, increasing budget, changing materials and systems, and finding other ways to create the same results.

Program Creep. The project manager must balance unexpected additional requests from influential institutional stakeholders with the need to maintain the budget and manage the project timeline with the design team. Negotiating a trade-off in functionality is often a diplomatic solution.

Schedule Slippage. The project manager needs to proactively monitor architect progress and schedule institution reviews properly to keep the project on schedule.

Design Review and Approval. Design review presents the proposed design to the design review board (which maintains institution design integrity) and facilities managers (more function and cost driven).

Quality Assurance. Technical documents produced by the architects and engineers must be reviewed by the institution facilities staff, and relevant institutional guidelines must be considered.

Use of Design and Estimating Contingencies. Maintaining and estimating a design contingency budget beyond the schematic design phase protects against cost overruns or schedule slippage.

Design Development

Design development  defines  and  describes  all  aspects of the project via drawings that  specify  size, configuration, and materials; a narrative that outlines schematic design  or  program  changes;  specifications that detail materials and systems; and cost estimates for labor and materials.

Construction Documents

Construction documents include all drawings and detailed specifications used for bidding.

General Conditions. AIA has formulated 14 articles that outline general contract terms and the responsibilities of each individual party.

Bid Forms. Most public institutions use the competitive lump-sum fixed-price methods (e.g., versus unit price, cost plus fixed fee, percentage of cost, hourly reimbursable, and guaranteed maximum).

Supplementary Conditions. Project-specific supplementary conditions are included in the contract.

Construction Drawings.  Drawings show the full range  of site preparation, utilities, structural, architectural, mechanical, and electrical requirements, detailing project scope and defining the basis for a bid.

Specifications.  CSI 50-division specification format is the most widely used. It is recommended that at least three approved manufacturers be listed for materials and equipment.

Cost Estimates. The architect prepares a statement of probable cost based on final specifications. For large projects, an independent estimate is recommended before putting the project out to bid.

Project Management Issues During Construction Documents Phase

Code Compliance. The construction document requires architects and engineers to certify that their work complies with applicable codes before submittal to appropriate code authorities.

Scope Creep. Changes in project scope in this phase could increase project cost because of the need for new drawings and possible unanticipated budget requirements.

Schedule Slippage. The project manager needs to leave sufficient time for bidding, resolution of any issues, and project load-in requirements.

Design Review. A design review at this point only processes any major program or materials changes.

Technical Review. A technical review of construction specifications with the institution facilities staff sets up regular reviews and codifies design guidelines.

Quality Assurance. Architects  and  engineers  perform an independent quality assurance assessment, and a construction manager provides a constructability assessment.

Use of Design and Estimating Contingencies.  The design contingency is probably exhausted, but a construction contingency fund to cover unanticipated costs is key. Minimizing surprise costs is critical, so the fund should be 3 to 5 percent of a large project (10 to 20 percent of a small project).

Design Contract Interpretation and Enforcement. Project manager responsibilities include enforcing the design contract, balancing last-minute institution requests against cost and time considerations, and monitoring the architect and engineer for timeliness and product quality.

Building and Construction Strategy

Determining whether the bidding and construction process is single lump sum, multiple lump sum, or fast- track must be done early because bid documents are organized in accordance with bid type.

Cost Overruns or Underruns. Cost overruns require a budget increase or a project rebid (best avoided).

Including bid alternatives and project options in the bid (if budget allows) reduces risk. Options should be approximately 5 percent of construction cost.

Design-Bid-Build.   In this traditional method, the project   is designed;  construction  documents  are  created; project is released for bid; and the winning contractor performs building functions.

Design-Build. Requirements and early design specifications are used instead of construction documents. The project is bid, and the institution chooses a firm to complete the design and build the facility. Project liability risk is lower as architects contract directly with the main contractor.

Fast-Track. For highly time sensitive projects, contracts can be awarded for early phases, and construction can begin before design phase  completion.  Awarding  the bid on a guaranteed maximum price basis for major projects limits institution risk.

Other Design Process Management Issues Financial Reporting and Schedule Tracking. The most important project manager responsibilities are cost control and schedule maintenance.

Project Checklist. The AIA Handbook of Professional Practice includes checklists that help the project manager monitor the design process and ensure project timeliness.

Errors and Omissions. Errors and omissions in budgeting for traditionally managed projects is about 1 percent. For fast-track, multiple prime, and other hybrid projects, a larger cushion is needed in the original budget.

Financing the Management Process. Institutions must allocate staff for project management; if the budget allows, a professional facilities development staff is preferable. The institution  project  manager,  working with a qualified architect/engineer and a detailed plan, holds the key to project success.

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