It’s like a dinosaur. We’ve heard about them, seen them in the movies. But do they really exist? PERFECT PROJECTS. The retiring staff talks about them all the time. “Back in my day, we didn’t have change orders. We hand-drew everything and never received ONE RFI. And the owner gave everyone a million-dollar bonus for being done ahead of schedule!”

But, unlike dinosaurs, I don’t think the perfect project ever existed. Now, there are certainly projects that have gone well. I’ve even witnessed a few of those firsthand. As I reflect on those projects, I realize they all had a few things in common. That’s what I’m here to discuss today.

First, those projects had kickoff and subsequent coordination meetings as the entire design team and within the individual disciplines. The kickoff meeting went through the project details and was used to express any concerns about the design. Where do we need electrical rooms? Where do the mechanical units reside? Is there a grease interceptor? Don’t forget to include space for a generator. Coordination meetings were held before or after milestone issues to discuss changes or other items needed during design to complete the project on time and submit coordinated plans for permit.

Second, the projects had an organized and up-to-date coordination list. It was a running list of questions and answers as the project went through the design process. So you could always verify if a question had been answered or if we still needed more information. People would add items as they recognized a question or a need, and the list would be forwarded to the design team once a month or once a week, depending on the project size.

Third, the projects had a well-thought-out schedule with intermediate submissions and accountability for members of the team who weren’t meeting deadlines. The schedule included time for consultants to incorporate information from the architect and other consultants. Lighting designs were scheduled to be completed before being sent to the electrical team, which then had ample time to review and design their connections to the lights. Structural and mechanical plans were exchanged and coordinated. Architectural plans were distributed to the entire team with locked backgrounds weeks before a formal issuance.

One glance at those items, and you can see that it all boiled down to one thing: strong communication between the design team and the owner or contractor. The architect communicated realistic expectations to the ownership team. Consultants shared their needs with the architect. And the architect communicated deadlines and needs back to the consultants. Communication was the key to a coordinated design with limited RFIs, comments, and re-work, ultimately saving the owner time and money.

Now if we could just get back to those million-dollar bonuses!