Architects & Construction Project Management

Author, software developer and architect, Brian Palmquist shares his insights on how architects can manage their construction work phases more efficiently using construction project management tools & best-practices.

What are 5 lessons from your book “An Architect’s Guide to Construction”?

  • Keep it digitally simple

A robust construction phase management program can be built around just 4 principles, using just 3 digital tool sets.

  • Simplify the context

In the digital age, all of the factors affecting any project can be assembled, tagged and reapplied to future projects with just 10 Contexts, or what I call the “10C’s”:

    1. Client
    2. Contract
    3. Contractors
    4. Consultants
    5. Cost (range)
    6. Calendar (schedule)
    7. Community
    8. Climate
    9. Construction (type)
    10. Complexity – warehouse versus airport
  • Capture your tales

Stories that have teaching moments are powerful training pieces.

  • Capture knowledge “on the fly”

Your digital tool sets should allow for knowledge capture and transfer without interrupting project work flow.

  • Get with quality

Digital systems eliminate the extra work in construction administration. They make the job easier and save time.

What are the 5 biggest mistakes you see consultants making when working on a construction site?

  • Not building a system before a building

Good contractors have systems for managing construction, yet most consultants don’t. Systems work.

  • Being unprepared for construction

Good contractors study construction documents from the moment they get them (estimating) until the project is complete. Again, most consultants don’t. Arrive on site at least as well prepared as the contractor.

  • Not reading the contracts

Owners and contractors regularly ask consultants to do work in excess of their contracted scope. Read all the agreements so you know when to ask for additional fees for extended services.

  • Being unclear

Consultants need to provide professional service. Contractors just want to know what’s right and what’s not. Be polite, but clear about the good and the bad. The contractor will appreciate it.

  • Starting & ending poorly

Have an agenda for the first site meeting and ensure it is all covered. Clearly establish roles and responsibilities, and help throughout, especially at the end because that’s what the client remembers.

How should consultants use technology or what type of technology should consultants invest in to work on a construction site effectively?

  • Tablets & smartphones

Significant time and cost savings are attached to proper use of good mobile hardware. Get the best you can afford. Currently, iOS (Apple) outperforms Windows and Android devices. Plus iOS devices works well with most Windows-based computer systems, so it’s not an “all or nothing” choice.

  • Mobile construction software

You’ve got the hardware, now get the software that will really save you time. Don’t try to adapt other bits like Word documents or Excel spreadsheets – they will involve lots of copying and pasting and life’s too short for that. When trialing software, count the clicks to get something done and see if your least tech-savvy colleague can make it work – you are a team.

  • Be connected

Cheap apps are seductive, but if they don’t help you create and manage a database that is independent of the device and the user, they are useless. Use apps that synchronize, that work offline (i.e., down in the parking garage) and that you can engage with continuously while you move through a construction site. Eliminate homework!

What advice can you give young consultants who are just starting out?

  • Respect yours and others’ time

Start tracking your time to the nearest 1/10 hour, like lawyers do. Over time you will learn how much time you need to do various tasks. From this you will learn how to price a professional services proposal. You will start to think about how to be more efficient, and therefore more profitable. Remember, you are selling your expert time and you only have a lifetime of it to offer.

  • Respect everyone on the construction site & you’ll learn from them

I learn just as much from individual workers as from their supervisors – the challenges of constructing my details, finding more efficient ways to manage the work, and finding solid alternative solutions. Everyone likes to teach; take advantage of it.

  • Remember you are a professional

The public holds you to a higher standard. Earn that respect every day by always acting in the public interest, even when it involves difficulties with clients, contractors or regulatory agencies.

Written by: Brian Palmquist, Director of Quality at Ledcor Construction Limited

Brian Palmquist, author of An Architect’s Guide to Construction, has been at the leading edge of computer, web-based, cloud-based, tablet and smartphone technology for architecture and construction for more than a decade. He uses a comprehensive construction project management software he developed that was “in the cloud” two years before The Economist magazine declared the cloud’s existence. An Honours graduate from the McGill University School of Architecture, he has taught architecture students at the University of British Columbia and intern architects in British Columbia and Ontario, Canada. He has given educational presentations to designers, builders and quality professionals at more than 50 conferences throughout North America.

Interest(s): Architecture, Construction Date: November 6, 2015