Contract - Design Practice: In Defense of Marriage (Of Convenience)

design - practice



Design Practice: In Defense of Marriage (Of Convenience)

12 October, 2009

-By Eric Meub, AIA, LEED AP


I have a co-worker—let's call her Sally. We sit right next to each other, having worked on the same healthcare design project for the past year. She is my go-to person, and I trust her completely. However, there is more to the story: Sally is more than a co-worker to me. She's the enemy.

You see, Sally and I work for different architectural firms. Under normal conditions, we would be competitors, trying to annihilate each other in proposals and interviews to acquire a key commission. So what allows us to work together so amicably now?

Sally and I are participants in a decades-long trend of architectural teaming for healthcare design. A variety of attractions can overcome a natural distrust of another (potentially competing) firm: a new client or geographic area or an office that is local to the client. It also allows us to add staff with less vulnerability.

There are two types of team structures: a joint venture partnership, balancing rewards and risks between the firms; or a prime consultant with an associated architect, giving one firm control. Work can be divided by discipline or phase, or the team can be blended. It is this latter model that put Sally next to me. The bottom line is that, at the time of pursuit, teaming seems like the best way to get the project, even if each firm gets less of it.

Of course, not everyone is a "Sally." It's quite possible to dislike your partner, and frictions can hurt the project. Additionally, team roles can become chaotically unclear. Further, a future competitor may learn too much or pigeonhole the other firm into a supporting role. For the client, the upside of tailored resources is often offset by a complex organizational chart that is inexperienced as a team. Teams work best when there is a shared culture, roles are clear, and both firms gain from the association.

While teaming is not new, the economic downturn may lead to more shotgun marriages as firms woo clients with a dazzling lineup of talent and experience, hoping to figure out logistics later. Thus, it will be vital to pay attention to some trends that introduce new variables into the mix.

First, the general adoption of Building Information Modeling (BIM) is blurring the distinction between design and production, a classic division of roles between paired firms. On the other hand, BIM remedies some of the coordination challenges of the classic local firm formula.

Second, apropos to local firms, pundits long predicted that technology would make us all virtually local. That promise is yet to arrive for clients who still want an actual significant person nearby. At the same time, healthcare clients increasingly depend for vision and value on the innovation of a national firm.

A third key trend is Integrated Project Delivery (IPD), which blends architects, engineers, contractors, and client representatives into a single-entity project team. IPD is expanding architects' conception of the project team, training them to play better with others, including erstwhile competitors.

So what is ahead for these "marriages of convenience"? If healthcare clients get used to cherry-picking consultant teams, that will make it more difficult for firms to go it alone. Like major motion pictures, now launched by several studios, so the sole firm authorship of significant healthcare projects may become the exception.

Current calls to reduce healthcare costs may result in the reexamination of prior models of care delivery: semi-private rooms, for instance. Thus, firms with a long history may have a better perspective for balancing historical models with recent innovations, offering a new incentive for firm association.

Finally, not all architectural firms may survive the current downturn. Especially vulnerable will be the recent colonization of national practices in lucrative regions—too recent perhaps to have taken root. As these colonies fold, many of the employees, and even partners, stranded in foreign territory by a difficult housing market will eventually find themselves welcomed into local firms. While design has always been a "small community," the upcoming shuffling of allegiances may well be unprecedented. It could result in a much greater willingness to partner.

As for Sally, I will keep rooting for her, even when she's back where she belongs.

Eric Meub, AIA, LEED AP, is vice president at SmithGroup and serves as the design principal of the San Francisco health studio.



Design Practice: In Defense of Marriage (Of Convenience)

12 October, 2009


I have a co-worker—let's call her Sally. We sit right next to each other, having worked on the same healthcare design project for the past year. She is my go-to person, and I trust her completely. However, there is more to the story: Sally is more than a co-worker to me. She's the enemy.

You see, Sally and I work for different architectural firms. Under normal conditions, we would be competitors, trying to annihilate each other in proposals and interviews to acquire a key commission. So what allows us to work together so amicably now?

Sally and I are participants in a decades-long trend of architectural teaming for healthcare design. A variety of attractions can overcome a natural distrust of another (potentially competing) firm: a new client or geographic area or an office that is local to the client. It also allows us to add staff with less vulnerability.

There are two types of team structures: a joint venture partnership, balancing rewards and risks between the firms; or a prime consultant with an associated architect, giving one firm control. Work can be divided by discipline or phase, or the team can be blended. It is this latter model that put Sally next to me. The bottom line is that, at the time of pursuit, teaming seems like the best way to get the project, even if each firm gets less of it.

Of course, not everyone is a "Sally." It's quite possible to dislike your partner, and frictions can hurt the project. Additionally, team roles can become chaotically unclear. Further, a future competitor may learn too much or pigeonhole the other firm into a supporting role. For the client, the upside of tailored resources is often offset by a complex organizational chart that is inexperienced as a team. Teams work best when there is a shared culture, roles are clear, and both firms gain from the association.

While teaming is not new, the economic downturn may lead to more shotgun marriages as firms woo clients with a dazzling lineup of talent and experience, hoping to figure out logistics later. Thus, it will be vital to pay attention to some trends that introduce new variables into the mix.

First, the general adoption of Building Information Modeling (BIM) is blurring the distinction between design and production, a classic division of roles between paired firms. On the other hand, BIM remedies some of the coordination challenges of the classic local firm formula.

Second, apropos to local firms, pundits long predicted that technology would make us all virtually local. That promise is yet to arrive for clients who still want an actual significant person nearby. At the same time, healthcare clients increasingly depend for vision and value on the innovation of a national firm.

A third key trend is Integrated Project Delivery (IPD), which blends architects, engineers, contractors, and client representatives into a single-entity project team. IPD is expanding architects' conception of the project team, training them to play better with others, including erstwhile competitors.

So what is ahead for these "marriages of convenience"? If healthcare clients get used to cherry-picking consultant teams, that will make it more difficult for firms to go it alone. Like major motion pictures, now launched by several studios, so the sole firm authorship of significant healthcare projects may become the exception.

Current calls to reduce healthcare costs may result in the reexamination of prior models of care delivery: semi-private rooms, for instance. Thus, firms with a long history may have a better perspective for balancing historical models with recent innovations, offering a new incentive for firm association.

Finally, not all architectural firms may survive the current downturn. Especially vulnerable will be the recent colonization of national practices in lucrative regions—too recent perhaps to have taken root. As these colonies fold, many of the employees, and even partners, stranded in foreign territory by a difficult housing market will eventually find themselves welcomed into local firms. While design has always been a "small community," the upcoming shuffling of allegiances may well be unprecedented. It could result in a much greater willingness to partner.

As for Sally, I will keep rooting for her, even when she's back where she belongs.

Eric Meub, AIA, LEED AP, is vice president at SmithGroup and serves as the design principal of the San Francisco health studio.
 


Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
*Username: 
*Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 




follow us

advertisement


advertisement






advertisement


advertisement




Contract Magazine is devoted to highlighting creative interior design trends and ideas that are shaping the industry on a daily basis. Contract is proud to provide you with the most comprehensive coverage of commercial interior design products and resources that procure uniqueness when designing a space. Contract is the modern interior design magazine that recognizes fresh interior design ideas and projects powerful interior design resources.

 

Contract Magazine Home | Interior Design News | Interior Planning Products | Interior Design Research | Interior Design Competitions | Interior Design Resources | Interactive Interior Designing | Digital/Print Versions | Newsletter | About Us | Contact Us | Advertising Opportunities | Subscriber FAQs | RSS | Sitemap

© Emerald Expositions 2014. All rights reserved. Terms of Use | Privacy Policy