The essence of any successful project handoff as it moves from the design department to the production department is about effective communication. This handoff is one of the most critical junctures in the timeline of all major remodeling projects. Small mistakes loom large later in the process.

A successful handoff happens when all members of your team, especially members of the production team, receive all the relevant information and drawings they’ll need to complete a project on time, on budget and with a high level of client satisfaction.

A good handoff process begins with a clear understanding of the deliverables required by the production team. This is true regardless of your remodeling company’s operational model. It is true for firms that operate with a design-bid-build model. It is also true in a design-build environment.

The list of required deliverables is the same. It includes complete—and I emphasize complete—working drawings. All schedules must be locked. In addition, all finish specifications and all permits must be good to go. Each item above should arrive with its own checklist to review before completion.

Preconditions for a Handoff Meeting

Before any handoff meeting can take place, the following needs to happen first. The designer or manager/designer needs to attest to completeness of the package. The construction team (in particular the project manager who will oversee project construction) needs to thoroughly review the complete design package.

That package needs to be made available in advance, so they can come to the handoff meeting with the kind of questions people ask when they are taking ownership of a job. This pre-meeting review takes place in tandem with a review of the project estimate. If there’s not enough information, the project manager should request, in writing, all the missing details. If the lack of information is significant, the meeting should be rescheduled.

Items to verify before the meeting include the completeness of all drawings and the completeness of all window and door schedules. These must be precise and easily quotable by your local suppliers. Are all finishes interior and exterior specified and complete? This includes grout color and doorknobs as well as any specialty items such as stairs, generators or special items like folding window walls, to name just a few.

If finishes are incomplete, a date for completion should be supplied. And it must be asked whether there are sufficient allowances in the estimate as placeholders. Other items that come to mind: Is the framing and structural design complete and easily quotable by the local lumberyard? Has the feedback provided by subcontractors at a previously held “trade day” been incorported into the final drawings?

The project manager should also come to the meeting with a list of work/costs that fall outside the scope of the drawings, such as the schedule for trade contractors to be on the jobsite. This includes the number of dumpsters required, the access plan for the jobsite, and scaffolding if it is required. These are items that the estimator may have overlooked or underestimated. The project manager should also verify that all the subcontractor scopes of work are accurately bought out by estimating and as described in the working drawings and specifications.

At Landis Architects & Builders, handoff meetings are run by the estimating department. This is because the meeting agenda is essentially a review of the estimate to make sure each scope of work is accurately included. The construction, production and estimating team must take responsibility for ensuring that every element of a given project is completely bought out or paid for in the estimate. If you self-perform a good portion of your work, you’ll need to be especially careful with your estimates because that is where you’ll make most of your mistakes.

The greatest enemy of handoff meetings is a lack of completeness related to working drawings and finish specifications. The second greatest enemy is a lack of a thorough review by the project manager and the construction team. Lastly, if permitting is not complete, there will likely be requirements and/or details and costs that will need to be accounted for—items added by the local reviewing jurisdiction. Other enemies include indecisive clients and a late round of “value engineering” that, once done, may necessitate a second handoff meeting.

Last year our handoff meeting list included the issues of inflation and supply chain delays. One way to handle both indecisive clients and inflation is to insert allowances into the contract as necessary and account for true costs at the end of the job. We also have language in our contract that stipulates the contract verbiage wins when settling discrepancies with drawings or specifications.

Once a handoff meeting has taken place, it’s a good practice to grade the completeness of all parties’ work with a 1-to-5 or 1-to-10 rating system. Once your firm is a certain size and you have numerous teams, it is important to rate their final deliverables. Personnel assessment data will then accrue for designers and project managers, as well as sales leaders as to the completeness of their projects.

Data is knowledge that can be used at reviews for performance improvement or kudos. Key performance indicators need to be set in terms of completeness scores for each member of the team. Then you will be able to compare project completeness scores and the correlation to profitable jobs, delivered on time with happy clients—the gold standard of any company. 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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