Real Estate Articles

Dealing with Architects and Engineers

Written by Brent Pace for Gaebler Ventures

This article is to help entrepreneurs work seamlessly with architects and engineers on building projects. It is important to learn to speak their language as well as keep them under control and aligned to your vision for the building project.

Your building project is getting started, and you're excited about the prospect of building your new office or facility.

Dealing With Architects And Engineers

You've learned to communicate well with your contractor, and you're excited about the preliminary pricing you are seeing. But don't forget that in order to make sure your project is a success you will need to learn to communicate with architects and engineers (A&E) to keep them aligned to your vision. If done properly, these folks will help you control the contractor and get the job done right. If left to chance, it's quite possible you may get a building that is over-designed, over budget, and has no prayer of meeting its schedule.

Work With A&E Professionals In Advance

The best way to make a project go smoothly is to meet with architects and engineers months before a shovel ever hits the dirt. Visit with them weekly or bi-monthly as necessary to iron out details and make sure you are on the same page for the project at hand. This will give you plenty of time to negotiate solid A&E contracts before the project gets underway.

Don't Let Architects Over-Design

A common problem is that architects want to turn every project into their own person Taj Mahal. If you've ever been in an architect's office you notice that there are tons of pictures of elegant beautiful buildings that they have designed. But nowhere will you find a sign that says, "I helped the owners of these projects complete this work on budget and on time." It's because that's not what they sell. Set that expectation early, and make sure that you don't let an architect or engineer over-do your plan. Ask lots of questions and push them to simplify if possible. Get very early preliminary cost estimates from your A&E professionals and help them design to your budget.

Force Architects and Engineers To Speak Your Language

As your project progresses you will occasionally hear an architect or engineer go off in what seems to be a foreign language. How do you handle this situation? Bill Murray said it best in Ghostbusters when he said, "Ray, pretend for a moment that I don't know anything about metallurgy, engineering, or physics, and just tell me what the hell is going on."

His manner is rough, but his method is correct. If you don't understand some industry jargon, make your architects and engineers slow down and explain their designs in plain English. It's the only way you'll learn and the only way to keep in touch with your project.

Get Architects and Engineers To Monitor Construction

Finally, put the onus on your A&E professionals to review construction progress. They should be accepting the construction as what they designed. The architect especially should be signing off on each phase of construction, ensuring that you are getting what you pay for. Contractors will often look for shortcuts and loopholes in project designs. Use your A&E professionals to keep the contractor honest.

Brent Pace is currently an MBA candidate at University of California at Berkeley. Originally from Salt Lake City, Brent's experience is in commercial real estate development and management. Brent will have tips for small business owners as they negotiate their real estate needs.

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  • NeC posted on 2/9/2010
    The problem is 95% of the architect/engineer's clients do not want to spend the time and money up front on proper planning. The first thing they ask to an architect is how much per square foot or lump sum cost without even telling us the site, the scope the schedule .

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