Jeff Carter, DDS, and Pat Carter, IIDA
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In simple terms, a design team provides two things for your dental project: drawings and service. In Part 1 (June 2011 Dental Economics®), we reviewed drawings and differentiated permit requirements and cost management as reasons to clarify the level of detail in drawings provided for your project. Services assure the site, budget, and drawings remain viable and effective.
Services are activities performed by your design team initially to define your project, verify/coordinate what is needed in your drawings, and ultimately, to manage your project per those drawings. Services are often minimized or absent from a project because many clients don’t understand their benefits, or they may not be offered by the design resource. Significantly, they are often the reason for a disparity in fees quoted. (We will discuss this in more detail in Part 3 next month.) This month, we will focus on initial services and construction services.
Initial services. Selecting an optimum site (lease space or property) and establishing a realistic project budget are key first steps for a successful project. Retaining “design counsel” can mean you avoid a project that is detrimentally compromised by either the site, the assumed budget, or both.
Initial services typically are provided during a due diligence period — a time period you request (30 to 90 days) when tendering an offer to lease or purchase a property — contingent on “buildability.” The amount of time is defined by what is required to effectively evaluate your site as appropriate, including generating schematic floor plans (to illustrate how well your space/site will accommodate your dental criteria) and realistic cost projections for qualification with a lender.
Such services are generated and completed before your final commitment to a lease or purchase. Having an experienced design team verify your site’s design “buildability,” especially cost implications with water, electrical, or HVAC service to your site, can inform the negotiation terms of your lease/purchase or your decision to commit.
Construction services. A typical argument against engaging a design team during construction is the premise that your “drawings” show the general contractor (GC) what to build. This is promoted to “save you money,” but in reality exposes your project to design changes and cost overruns. A skilled design team “serves” as your design and project cost advocate.
Construction administration. Administration refers to the paperwork exchanges between your design team and contractor/lender to approve, clarify, and advance your project. Key items are draw requests (GC requests for payment per month based on work completed), shop drawings (submissions by subcontractors confirming what will be built/supplied), and RFIs ( GC’s “requests for information” regarding design intent). Many dental projects are constructed with little or no administration, which means the GC will build what is in the drawings and then decide what to build for everything else. If this is the case, then you assume the drawings are being followed, and will “discover” the additional decisions that need to be made during construction. Design decisions made outside your drawings are typically cost adds to your project. Unfortunately, dental office projects prove this statistically by completing construction with 20% to 25% in added costs (via change orders), with minimal drawings and no design team involvement.
Construction observation. As defined by licensing standards, the architect or engineer who stamps your drawings must conduct two to three specific site visits to your project. These can be conducted without any interaction with you. Site visits beyond “compliance,” however, can assure your design intent is followed, with problems being corrected as the project progresses. In this way, your project has a better chance of a quality outcome completed on time vs. a completed project fraught with mistakes you feel obligated to accept because you are anxious to move in.
Notably, quoting fees for services during construction is difficult for a design team, because it is hard to predict how many questions or how much troubleshooting will be required for your project. This is a primary reason some design resources do not offer such services.
However, the benefit of completing your project with quality work — as designed — at the originally agreed price is our argument for resourcing your design team.
Next month: Design fees — how to pay your design team.
Jeff Carter, DDS, and Pat Carter, IIDA, are owners of PDG- Practice Design Group. Located in Buda, Texas, PDG offers a full range of design and consulting services to dentists nationwide. For information, call (800) 511-7110 or visit www.practicedesigngroup.com.