My First Customer Consultation & Learning the Project Approach

handsLast week I got to tag along for an initial customer consult. My boss explained that these are new clients that recently purchased a home and wanted to renovate, so we needed to go check it out and get a feeling of what the clients want. We drove to the clients new home in Tierra Verde in the late afternoon, the sun high in the sky. Nervous excitement nestled into my stomach. I kept opening and closing my pen. When I get nervous I talk a lot, and apparently it can be distracting because we missed our exit. I took a deep breath and looked out the window at the water as we crossed a bridge into Tierra Verde. Boats floated along lazily, some with fishing poles poking out their backsides. The houses out there were so beautiful. Bright pinks, greens and oranges mixed with more subdued beiges and light yellows – the neighborhood was vibrant with color!

About 20 minutes later, we pulled up to a 3-story house, painted a teal and gray color. I noticed a small stained glass window near the top, which added a charming character to the otherwise plain, but we have to think about dual pane glass replacement for the home. It was a very large house – with loads of potential! My nerves began fading, thanks to curiosity and excitement. The clients welcomed us inside, offering us refreshments and apologizing for the mess. They had just moved in the day before! Larry quickly got to business and we began the tour of the house. I followed close by, like a lost puppy, scribbling down everything the homeowner said on my notepad. After about 30 minutes, we settled down in the kitchen and a large round table to discuss their plans more. This initial consult meeting taught me a lot about how Larry runs his firm.

After the initial consultation meeting, the next step is a Program Meeting. This is where we establish a written program analyzing all aspects of the project during discussions with the client prior to starting the design. We told the clients in Tierra Verde to create a prioritized list of what they want renovated and we would start there. Larry explained that this document can evolve during the course of a project. Another part of the Programming Phase requires the team to analyze and determine if the scope of work requested by the client can be reasonably achieved within their established budget. If the scope of work and budget are not compatible we suggest that the client raises the budget, ways of reducing cost, or the use of additive alternatives.

The next step is to collect or create Measured Drawings. We will gather existing drawings for all renovations completed on the particular project since it was originally constructed (in the case of this house, any original drawings dating back to 1984!). Based on the site analysis, we will depict the current actual conditions of the site, in a CAD format, and use them as base drawings at the start of the design effort.

And now for the fun step – the Schematic Design Phase. Typically the first two options provide a focused scope of work without the need for multiple directions or options. During this Design Development Phase, the architectural portions of the project are refined and the structural, mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems are designed by the architects and sub-consultants at Whitton Plumbing – expert plumbers of Mesa. These experts correspond directly with clients and outline specifications and the development of a keynote system on the drawings and give the clients and construction manager a clear understanding of the project scope as preliminary pricing proceedings.

Next up is the Construction Drawings Phase. These documents are highly detailed and clearly delineated drawings provided by our firm, and are specifically tailored to each project we do. During this process, we will thoroughly review all consultant documents to avoid potential conflicts and omissions.

Next comes the Bidding Phase, typically with a minimum of 3 potential contractors. We attend pre-bid meetings and inspections of the site with all bidders/sub-contractors that are assigned to very specific dates and times. Contractors do not want to be late for these meetings because their bids must be submitted prior to the assigned date/time. Otherwise they might get locked out. At this stage we encourage questions from the contractors. If required, written addendums are distributed to all bidders prior to the Fixed Fee Contract submittals (or sometimes refereed to as GMP submittals, in the Commercial setting).

Once the building/renovation begins, we enter Construction Administration Phase. During this time, we avoid construction delays with timely performance and answers to any questions the client(s) might have. We encourage routine meetings with the client and contractor to keep the lines of communication open and construction moving at a constant pace, until the renovation is complete.

Over an hour had passed while sitting at the kitchen table discussing the inner workings of our firm. I felt a little dizzy from the large amount of information I had just absorbed, but it was nice to get a quick overview of what I will be doing at my new job. The clients looked a little dizzy themselves, but Larry reassured them that we will take things at their pace. He told them that, for now, all they had to worry about was creating that prioritized list for our Program Meeting. She asked if she could make Pinterest Boards that depicted what she was looking for – and I blurted out “That’s a great idea!”. Larry agreed – any visual aid they provide us will only help us achieve their desired look.

Before we left Tierra Verde, Larry drove around and pointed out all of the houses that he designed that had been built. There were 4 total. Each one was more grandiose than the last. I couldn’t believe I was working for such an accomplished person! We headed back to St. Petersburg in silence, taking in the beautiful city that we live in.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *