A Tale of Two Systems

A small group of people have been working together for the past decade trying to expand, remodel and restore one of their town’s most beloved public buildings. Stuart Goodwin, a professional design/builder, has been donating his expertise and professional building experience to the effort. He keeps running into a brick wall with the architect.

Goodwin is frustrated over the project’s ongoing planning process, which appears to have no end in sight. Furthermore, for the past five years of planning, he and the committee have been trying to plan using the architect’s 2-D drawings that lack detail.

He decided to call his designer, Bill McIvor, to inquire if his 3-D team could help with the project. Goodwin has partnered with McIvor’s 3-D team for the past 10 years. They always count on exceeding clients’ expectations simply because they are committed to designing together and presenting images to their clients in a manner they can understand.

McIvor agreed to help Goodwin. Within a couple of weeks, McIvor’s 3-D team had accurately measured the facility and developed a 3-D model based on the architect’s drawings.

After logging onto an online meeting, McIvor’s 3-D planning team presented to the planning board and the architect. For the first time in years, the board was informed visually about what was being proposed to be built.

As time progressed, the board received various approvals from planning and historical boards, and ultimately received funding at the state level. The planning board was thrilled and a bit shocked when they learned their project was selected to be funded in a depressed economy.

They quickly notified the architect to proceed with the working drawings, but they had a small request: The architect was to use McIvor’s 3-D team to draft the working drawings. He was reluctant to bring on a new team member and interface with his engineering team, but he grudgingly agreed to the board’s request.

Goodwin presented the project to the public trustees. With the architect present at the meeting, Goodwin announced there would be no change orders on the $2.5 million project.

Goodwin could hear people making comments about how there are always change orders and he was crazy to utter such nonsense. He told McIvor about what happened at the meeting which came as no surprise to him.

McIvor explained that the architect had no interest in detailing out the building and was planning on delegating this task to his 2-D drafting team. They were to develop all the building sections and details, and specify the materials and equipment. The architect would only make comments on what was drawn.

Now Goodwin understood the laughter his “no change order” comment had drawn from the audience. The architect knew there were going to be change orders because he made a choice not to manage the detailing of the building. This was a recipe for disaster! How could there not be any change orders?

Goodwin called the board to an emergency meeting to discuss what he learned. As you might have guessed, the other board members were not happy with the news.

He made a public statement about no change orders on his projects because his team of designers and builders work together to minimize mistakes during the planning stages of their projects. Any change orders are added-value changes requested by the customer, not because something was missed on the drawings.

This is a real story that is happening as you read this. My intention is not to throw the architect under the bus, but to illustrate how change orders start in the early days of planning, grow during the construction documentation phase and are a foregone conclusion by the time construction starts.

Editor’s note: The names and identities of people referenced in this column were changed.

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