Organizations who hire an architecture/engineering consulting firm always want to maximize the value of their engagement, but often do not know how to.  Based on C2AE's 50 years of consulting on architecture and engineering projects, we offer these observations during the planning and execution of the project.

When selecting which design firm to use before the start of your project, consider employing a qualification-based selection process.  Look for a design professional firm that can clearly demonstrate why it is especially qualified to design your particular project through similar project challenges and that fully understands the particular scope of work that you are requesting. They must also operate using a culture of productivity, adding value through solid design-decisions, the smart deployment of technology, and thought leadership as well as best practices. A successful firm also utilizes fair agreements that provide industry-appropriate protection for the interests of all parties.  Just as a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, a project is only successful if all parties have a fair chance at success.

During the project engagement communication is of the utmost importance. The passing of information between you and every part of the project team is essential. Expect your design professional to utilize the industry's best practices to keep you informed; especially project management plans, progress reports, and internal integrated project deign sessions. You must embrace communication as a 2-way street, recognizing that no design professional can close the communication loop without your active involvement. Designating and empowering an individual to represent your collective decisions is what makes the process work. Committees are great for discussion and debate, but a successful project needs a person who will take the responsibility to obtain and communicate actual decisions. As the client, you must make decisions in a timely fashion to keep the design process moving along—tight schedules keep all parties focused and on-track, thereby increasing the likelihood of a successful project. 

Throughout the engagement the project team must take the long view. The true value an owner receives from an engagement lasts as long as the facility itself, usually many decades of functionality. The true meaning engineers and architects provide an owner is in helping them define and realize their vision. The engineers and architects of C2AE work tirelessly in the productivity culture we have set up to bring your project to life and to make sure that it continues to be a value to you and the community. Consider that the Empire State Building was built in 1931, with a design period of two weeks and build time of just 15 months, and has provided 85 years’ worth of un-told value since then!

Whether you participate in projects frequently or once in a career, these suggestions ought to help you to engage the right firm, one with a productivity culture like C2AE’s where your project always has the best minds and best practices working on getting the maximum long-term value.

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Paul Rozeboom, PE, LEED AP, is a principal owner and business group leader at C2AE.