THE DESIGN PROCESS
It’s an old truism that every project is measured by three objectives:
It is next to impossible to obtain all three and some consider it a success even if they get one. I strive for two out of three and depending on which two are the selected goals determines the approach the design process will take. It may seem simplistic but the scenarios are this:
- If Quality and Schedule are the goals, the budget will need to be more flexible. Since you are proceeding rapidly and still want quality, taking the time to check budgets will delay the completion.
- Similarly, if you select Quality and Budget, the design will need to be fully documented (complete construction drawings) in order to obtain a true price, a reliable price that won’t change, which takes time. I hate change orders during construction and I’ve yet to meet a client who likes them, too. Often, prior to the publication of construction documents, preliminary conceptual drawings will be made so a working budget can be established. No use detailing the gilded marble staircase if it’s known early on that it will blow the budget. Time to adjust the design direction! And this takes more time, too.
- For projects with Schedule and Budget as the goals, please call another designer. If quality isn’t part of the equation, I don’t want to participate!
With few exceptions, most everyone chooses Quality and Budget. I once asked a client if he liked the design I presented and he replied, “Tell me how much it costs and I’ll tell you how much I like it.” Fair enough. One exception was the work I did on 30 floors of the Transamerica Building over a period of nine years. The client was a rapidly expanding investment banking house. They reasoned by quickly making changes and expansions to their facilities their business plan could be more readily realized. The extra money spent on design and construction at a rapid pace was a drop in the bucket compared to the millions they made having the space and facilities they needed to transact business the way they envisioned.
Hopefully, our recent project on Nob Hill has caught your attention either on our website or having been published by California Homes magazine. This, too, was an exception to the usual approach, Quality and Schedule being the objectives. In this, and the assignments at the Pyramid, the process required an exceptional team of project management, general contractor and designer and, without saying, a very supportive client. As the designer, beginning construction without a fully detailed set of documents is like flying without a net. There is no assurance the project will be properly built, no way to assure the quality will be there. It’s like doing business without a legal document. Judge Judy would not approve! In the end, the clients look to me for quality design and a successful build-out and my name is on the project, so my reputation is at stake, too. You are totally reliant on the skill of the project manager and general contractor, not to mention my own seasoned abilities. And our willingness to be willing teammates. For the Nob Hill Project, Jim Price of Jim Price Construction acted as Project Manager and Co-designer for architectural detailing and Tomasz Podsiadly of Tomasz Podsiadly Construction was the General Contractor. Many other subcontractors and specialty designers for lighting and audio/visual systems joined the team, as well. The approach required us to determine details and integration of variant materials on the fly. As scary as the approach was for me, the moons aligned and the winds blew from the right direction (and the assembled professionals cooperated!) From this, a magical project was realized in record time.
Take a closer look at the Nob Hill Project. Note the perfection of the crown moldings and door casings, the patterns of wood on the floors, door hinges and knobs, cabinetry and casework…the scale and appropriateness of the final finishes and furnishings. None of this existed. The space was completely gutted prior to our work; nothing but concrete floors, ceilings and no walls. Every detail, however minute, was due to design. In future newsletters I will write about how this happens, but for now, realize that what one dreams up can come to fruition and not by accident.
The Design Process can take many shapes but I can tell you from experience that what I’ve explained here is true. Pick two: Quality, Schedule or Budget. After countless projects, I cannot identify a single one where all three goals had been met. As a client, it is immensely helpful and smart to choose carefully what you’re trying to accomplish from this viewpoint. It will set your project on an efficient path that stays in a straight line. Surprisingly perhaps, the beginning of the Design Process has nothing to do with picking colors, sofa selection, furniture layouts or images. It starts with the bigger picture. At Hendler Design, this is the first step necessary to embark on a new project because we’ve done it before…many, many times.
I look forward to the time when our team can work that same Nob Hill magic for future clients, whatever the goals. In the meantime, I wish to thank all those involved for their expertise and professionalism and applaud their skills.