When it comes to choosing an architecture company, you want the best of the best. Renovation and expansion projects take time, money and various other resources, therefore it is essential to take your time and do your due diligence when choosing the right firm. To help, we have compiled information that might help the next time you need to select an architecture firm for an upcoming project.
To start, with the help of Brain Beckler, a senior principle at Ohlson Lavoie Collaborative, we have outlined the step-by-step process of undergoing a renovation.
“There is usually a building and steering committee at the university that is a central group overseeing the process and representing the university for the entire project,” said Beckler. “We would organize a kick off meeting where we try to dive into some of the big picture questions. Why are we here? Why do you want this new facility? What are the goals that we want to accomplish?
Ultimately, we want to create a strong foundation for moving forward. The kick off meeting is that critical step where we understand the mission and define the project goals.
From that meeting we will understand the budget and how it is going to be funded, what is included in the project, the aesthetics, the character, understanding the site and of course all of the different user groups. Who is going to be participating in the process? Who is going to be accountable for helping us develop the program and shape it so that it best serves the university?”
“We start developing the program, which is everything that is going to be in the building,” explained Beckler. “All of the spaces, amenities, and important elements like how many gyms, how many courts, what type of flooring and more. We really try to understand how those spaces are going to be used. The relationships of those spaces, how do they interact with the spaces around it? How is it going to be operated? Those are the important questions we have to answer very quickly.
Everything at this point is on paper; nothing has been designed. We try to make sure we have the different programs, quantity, sizes, shapes and locations defined. We develop the document working with all the user groups, whether that is in administration, steering committee or student groups.
Once we have reviewed all of these items and develop a program, we create the preliminary cost opinion so we have a sense of the cost. We try to account for everything. That includes all of those soft costs like permits, architecture and engineering fees, testing fees, soils reports, surveys and all of the items that are not brick and mortar. Then there are the brick and mortar costs, the actual construction of the facility and the site. Then there are all the items that can have a big impact of the budget, which is FFE (furnishings, fixtures and equipment). The owner historically covers all of these costs, but they are real costs to the overall project and it is something that you have to plan for and include in the budget.”
“Once we have a program that all the stakeholders feel comfortable about, we then will take that program and begin the design process, translating all of that information about the spaces. That is when we take the project to the next level. Taking it from paper and developing a design concept. Understanding the site plans, the floor plans and creating an exterior envelope that embodies all of the ideas that we defined in the earlier steps.
From that design, we review our goals and priorities. We compare it back to costs and evaluate if we are on the right track. Are there any changes that we need to make? Do we need to reduce some elements? Take out some pieces? Do we need to refine? Then we update the cost to make sure we are balanced. When the university is happy and excited to move forward, then we do.”
“The next level is really developing the design. Creating construction documents that can be bid to general contractors and the end game would be to begin construction. For an average facility, construction time ranges depending on size, complexity and various components, but I would say on average 12 to 15 months is very common.”
Stay Tuned: Next week, we will have tips for choosing an architecture company.