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Design and Construction

Consultants Needed During the Design and Construction Process
 
Architects
Engineers
Project Managers
Construction Managers/General Contractors

Architects

What do they do?
Architectural firms generally offer two major services related to interior projects: (1) space planning; and (2) architectural design services.

Why should a tenant hire them?
For space planning.

Prior to beginning a search for space, companies should evaluate their space needs.

The importance of space planning becomes more critical the larger and more complex a company's needs are. If in searching for new space, the initial estimate differs considerably from the company's actual requirement, significant time can be wasted touring spaces that are the wrong size. In the worst case, space would be leased before realizing that it is significantly more or less than the company's needs. Ideally, an architect or space planner should be retained at an early stage to perform this analysis for larger companies. For smaller firms, it may be more cost efficient, and as effective, to estimate the space requirement themselves and you can do that using the TenantWise space estimator. An architect could be brought in at a later stage to execute design of a new space, if needed. An advantage to using an architectural firm to do space planning is that it is possible to negotiate a better price if the firm is to be used for the design of the site ultimately chosen.

Also, a benefit of retaining an architect to perform planning services for a company is the experience gained. A company can evaluate the firm based on its performance of the space plan and build in an option to use the firm for architectural design, if desired. Another potential advantage is pricing. If a job is of sufficient size, the firm may offer a reduced price for the initial planning stage in order to gain the architectural design assignment.

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For design services.

Design services are specific to the space you choose. Accordingly, many companies do not interview architects until after they have chosen the space, or more often, once the lease has been executed. Architects would prefer to be included in the pre-execution process, but in practice, it does not happen often. If you are only making minor renovations to your space, an architectural firm may not be necessary. A draftsman with your contractor or subcontractor may be able to provide adequate drawings to complete such small projects. For projects involving reconfiguring offices, ceilings, finishes, etc., an architect's assistance is advisable to ensure all building code and other requirements are met in the completion of the work and that the improvements are aesthetically appropriate for a company's desired image.

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Engineers

Types of specialties.
Engineering specialties most commonly used by tenants in interior construction are HVAC (heating, air-conditioning and ventilation), acoustical, electrical, telecommunications, and in some cases structural. These engineers provide consulting services that can significantly impact the cost and usage of a particular system. For instance, telecommunications "farms" will have certain technical requirements such as proximity to a Con Edison electrical grid, certain electrical load requirements, etc. In such instances, it would be appropriate to retain an engineer at an early stage. Tenants tend to be confused about their electrical requirements, read our feature article on electrical requirements to learn more.

Inclusion in architectural contract.
Depending on the complexity of the engineering requirements, architectural firms will often include within their contract price bids of costs from appropriate engineering firms.

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Project Managers

What do they do?
The focus of a project manager is to act as an owner's representative in the coordination, decision making and execution processes of a construction project. A project manager can add the most value if it is the first consultant hired because project managers can advise on and/or negotiate the contracts of other consultants.

Another benefit to hiring project managers sooner in the process is that they can estimate construction costs prior to interviewing and/or hiring a construction manager or general contractor. Before retaining the company in charge of construction, the project manager can provide you with rough cost estimates of what will be required. Project managers can also be helpful during lease negotiations and can provide guidance on lease terms such as landlord workletter, electricity, HVAC requirements, etc.

Project management firms typically do not advise clients under 10,000 square feet. Construction coordination and supervision is most often handled by architects, in this instance.

Why hire a project manager? An experienced project manager can potentially provide better execution of a construction process and savings than if the process is coordinated solely by in-house personnel that are not experienced in the construction process. For companies facing a large construction/renovation project with strained personnel time and resources, a project manager can act as an extension of the company.

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Construction Managers/General Contractors

Oftentimes, we have seen clients confused by the choice of General Contractor ("GC") or Construction Manager ("CM"). This misunderstanding about their respective roles stems from the fact that most construction companies will work as both GC or CM depending on your choice.

The risks and responsibilities of a GC and CM are very different. In essence, a GC bids a lump sum and acts as a principal; a CM acts as agent. Your time and schedule will dictate which you will probably use. GC's need completed drawings on which to bid a lump sum. CM's just add their fees on top of the costs. In this market, most tenants need to move quickly and end up using CM's. Tenants under 10,000 square feet rely heavily on architects to coordinate the construction process. Architects tend to favor CM's as the fee structure allows the architect to cover any of its potential mistakes or incomplete work and not be penalized.

Below is a comparison of a GC to a CM

ISSUE
GENERAL CONTRACTOR
CONSTRUCTION MANAGER
Site Supervision
Full time on site
Potential full time
Cost  
 
 
  Competition
Two level (GC and sub-level)
One level (sub-level)
  Risk
100% on contractor
100% on client
  Fixed Price
1 contractor
15-25 separate contractors
  General Conditions
Fixed price lump sum
Open ended
  Contract Liability
Yes
By Client
Subcontractor Coordination  
Yes
Yes
FF&E Coordination  
No
No
Manage  
 
 
  Furniture
No
No
  Telecom
No
No
  Datacom
No
No
  Moving
No
No

Below is a comparison of the risk assessment to you.

ISSUE
GENERAL CONTRACTOR
CONSTRUCTION MANAGER
Site Supervision Same Same
Cost Most competitive/contract Least competitive
Subcontractor Coordination Lowest risk Highest risk
FF&E Coordination High risk High risk
Liability Single contract Multiple contracts
Overall Risk Assessment Least Highest

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