Do you really want a shorter schedule?

By Sean Bujold

Get it done.  I need it yesterday.  Decision, decisions, decisions! 

We live in a world where everything is now.  Yesterday would be even better.  However, design and construction projects take a substantial amount of time. Almost every client wants to have a shorter schedule. As an architect, I am tasked with creating a schedule for design that meets the owner’s needs while also coordinating with the engineers, equipment suppliers, city and state reviewers, and a host of others. 

The most significant challenge for writing a schedule is providing enough time for decisions to be made.  The design team must develop the best solution: layout the rooms, define the exterior wall construction, meet the budget, provide appropriate mechanical and electrical systems, etcetera.  All these choices get filtered through the owner’s review and acceptance. Individual departments and users need to understand and agree upon the presentation.  Is this the correct solution for their needs? 

When writing a design schedule, I focus on what decisions need to be made and when.  Designing and building are challenging because of the myriad of decisions that need to be made.  Choices made now live on in the building for many years to come.  I sometimes describe my job as predicting the future. The design team and owner’s choices impact how the space is utilized throughout the life of that project.  More often than not the most significant time needed is for the users and the owner to become comfortable with the selections that have been made. Rushing through the design will leave tracks in the sand that cannot be wiped away without another construction project. 

First time owners building anything struggle with the schedule.  A client came to me years ago saying the bank was putting restrictions on when she had to have the construction started.  I told her we could meet the schedule, but the strain would be on her to understand, accept and be comfortable with the choices that had to be made in a very timely manner.  Happily, we made her schedule, the bank was satisfied, and she’s been working in the facility for many years.  My hat goes off to her for accepting the challenge of a very quick schedule.

Designing takes time.  Institutions that build regularly gain a better understanding of the decision-making process and the time needed for their projects to be successful.  Despite our desire for speedy solutions, the key element is to always allow enough time for the best decisions to be made.