Why Details Matter

Simply put, it’s been my experience that leaving a project’s scope open for interpretation could cost you in the long run.

Seeing the big picture is extremely important—selecting a qualified consultant can be instrumental in putting all the pieces together to create a successful project. Leaving consultant requirements open “juuuust enough” produces misunderstandings.

As a Project Owner, you want the requirements to provide an apples-to-apples view, particularly for a Request for Qualifications. However, greater detail is needed by the time you reach the Request for Proposal stage. Personally, I’m a fan of thinking things through as early in the process as is practical.

Consider Why the Project is Needed

Getting the design right involves more than simply identifying “what” needs to be built in the form of the plans and specifications. An important question is also “why.”

Make the most of your consultant’s creativity—don’t be afraid to expect innovation or ask “why.” Architects and engineers can identify multiple options and alternatives for most aspects of any given design.

Being able to answer “why” this is the right answer—whether for efficiency, operation and/or cost effectiveness—will help you make informed decisions. From this question, the Owner can start to understand whether the project is being designed for you, or if you are simply getting a cookbook answer using parts and pieces from other projects.

At IIW, we strive to answer “why” an option is the right solution for our client on every project we touch.

View the Project in its Entirety

As consultants, we do our best to inform our clients about what tasks are needed to successfully complete any given project. But, some clients may choose to either simply exclude services, or self-perform some of those same services.

Sometimes this strategy backfires. I have a few examples of this.

  • Project 1: The Owner opted to exclude the establishment of property lines near the location of a new water main. The result was that a portion of the water main was installed on private property, requiring the Owner to pay the Contractor to reinstall that same water main. This exclusion was costly to the Owner.
  • Project 2: The Owner opted to self-perform the observation of the Contractor’s work during the construction phase of the project. While the Owner’s representative was certainly qualified to perform this work, his typical daily duties prevented him from spending sufficient time at the project site. The ultimate result was a lawsuit involving the Owner and the Contractor.

Strategize to Make the Most of Your Funding Sources

Knowing the details, and making decisions early, can prevent funding sources from shrinking your project. Whether grants, loans, or tax monies are administered through other agencies, the funds you receive often have requirements that can make the project less efficient.

The Architects and Engineers at IIW are intimately familiar with the rules and requirements of various funding sources, and use design and phasing strategies to stretch those funds.

Consider these strategies:

  • Strategy 1: Breaking projects into multiple contracts, such as separating water and sanitary from storm and paving on a DOT contract can lessen the overall cost of the water main and sanitary sewer construction. This eliminates much of the overhead associated with Federally-funded DOT projects.
  • Strategy 2: Knowing the extent of a project prior to submitting the grant application may mean more grant money available. In one instance, a City submitted a grant application, but hadn’t yet identified the entirety of a wastewater project. They continued to add to the project after the grant was awarded. In hindsight, more grant monies would have been available if the full extent of the project were known prior to submitting the application. A simple walk-through of the project would likely have identified those additional items.

Whatever your next project, it deserves thorough understanding and consideration to ensure your needs are met for years to come. This may mean working with a consultant early in the process.

As they say, success is in the details.