Landis: 8 Meetings for Success in Design-Build

by Kyle Clapham

Ever hope for less work? I didn’t think so. Even in the ever-expanding current building climate of 2022, most design and building firms still hope to grow year over year. To do that successfully, companies need to position themselves to grow seamlessly.

Most firms start small and grow organically as work comes in, and the level of work outstrips the owner’s and original team members’ ability to do everything. As your firm grows and adds employees, there will be a need to develop more processes. When a small company goes from a few people wearing many hats to many people, all employees will wear fewer hats.

As a project is passed from sales to schematic design (SD), design development (DD), estimating to permitting and onwards to construction documentation (CD), it’s important to create a workflow process that allows for information transfer. Clear roles and responsibilities will be defined at every stage of the process. Process allows every employee to know what is expected and what is being measured.

A written process plan allows you to add employees who will also need guidance and training. Your process can become part of your unique selling proposition and a tool to manage your client’s expectations. One of the processes we have developed is the Eight Meetings for Success.

No. 1: Trade Day

The first meeting happens at the client jobsite and is scheduled once SD is completed and approved. All the key crew members and subbed-out trade partners are invited. The goal is to capture information and pricing that will inform the estimating and construction documents’ (CD) stages of development.

Some of the relevant information includes structure, systems and access. All parties later must review and revise their pricing once the CDs are finalized. Depending on the size and complexity of the job, this meeting can take place after SD, DD or CD. The goal is to create accurate scopes of work and pricing.

No. 2: Contract Budget Review

It could be said that this is the most important meeting. The purpose is to finalize the design’s pricing and drawings. It should be a working session with the estimator leading and all parties reviewing in person or virtually. Everything is discussed from scheduling to means and methods, to strategies for cost savings and other options.

If more information is needed from design or trade partners, that must happen before the construction contract can be sold. The team leader then is empowered to sell the construction contract. No rogue salesmen or owners can later lower the margins after the team has all agreed to costs at this meeting.

No. 3: In-House Transfer

The formal transfer of responsibility from design to production happens once the construction contract is signed by the client.

No. 4: Client Hand-Off

The assigned project manager (PM) meets with the client to go over the checklist of issues still to review from the change order process to the firm’s hours of operation…and everything in between. The PM also reviews the construction schedule from the start date through to the end. All client documents including schedule and weekly photos of the jobs progress are available to the client via cloud-based software.

No. 5: The 5-Percent Meeting

Demo has been done and any missed field conditions should be known by this time, and change orders will be drafted. Schedule and supply-chain issues are reviewed. If slippage is quantified, some grippage can be achieved with subsequent change orders.

No. 6 and No. 7: The 50- and 80-Percent Meetings

A review of numbers, change orders, profitability, schedule, client mood and satisfaction.

No. 8: Post-Production Close-Out

Profitability and client satisfaction are the focus as well as lessons learned. All are recorded on a close-out form. With the metrics of the job recorded, job-based bonuses can be apportioned, and documentation for individual annual reviews is complied. The performance of trade partners and suppliers can be tracked, and potential issues corrected for future jobs.

The gold standard which we all go for is always a job delivered on time and meeting net-profit goals with happy clients ready to refer you to their friends. The cherry on top is a project to photograph for your portfolio and website that will win awards! QR

Christopher K. Landis, AIA, owns Landis Construction in Washington, D.C. He brings 30 years of remodeling design, construction and management experience to this series of columns for the magazine. You can reach him at chris@landisconstruction.com.

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