The Advantages of Integrated Projects

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After working on four different integrated projects in the Atlanta office of The Beck Group (www.beckgroup.com), I have switched gears to work full-time in a construction administration role at a job site in Durham, North Carolina, for the Michael W. Krzyzewski Center for Athletic Excellence (a new 42,000-square-foot practice facility for the varsity men's and women's basketball teams at Duke University).

The project will provide an underground link to the existing locker room facilities, with the area above ground providing an exterior plaza adjacent to Cameron Indoor Stadium to help support game-day crowds, concessions, and other Duke University events. The new building additions and renovations necessary for this project are intended to match the quality level, materials, and design detail of Duke's guidelines and existing facilities.

This has been an excellent opportunity for myself, as I have learned about both the efficiencies and the inefficiencies of our architectural drawings. It has also been effective for the team I am working with, the subcontractor, and the owner.



Here is an example: instead of taking weeks (or even months) to get an answer to a request for information or for submittals, we sit down and work out problems as a team on the spot. This allows for higher construction quality because some of the things an architect would miss they pick up on and vice versa, but instead of just finding a problem, we work out a solution right there, sharing ideas. This process also allows convenience for the owner, instead of a separate architect and contractor, as we are able to meet with him and work out solutions or changes at the same table at any time.

One of the biggest advantages has to do with the transition of the drawings from the architect to the contractor. An architect may spend months-or even years-working on a project and intimately know the building and the drawings. However, all of this knowledge of the building may not get translated to the contractor or subcontractors in the construction documents. By simply missing one note on the drawings or one detail, the construction documents may not tell the whole story.

The integrated project fills in this void in terms of a knowledge transfer in two ways: the architect stays on the project later, working with the subcontractors and construction team, and the construction team starts working on the project earlier, during design, so they understand the design's intent. With these advantages, this particular project is going very smoothly despite many changes since the beginning. The basketball facility at Duke is scheduled to be completed in January 2008.

In terms of advice for young architects, I would recommend trying to get on a job that allows you to stay on the job from beginning to end. Each level of design has its own challenges, and staying on a project through construction administration helps to develop a design completely. The exchange of knowledge from construction to architecture and architecture to construction is priceless when it comes to the development of professionals, young and old.

I would also recommend that young architects not get too frustrated with repetitious tasks such as "red lines." Instead of just focusing on finishing the red lines, focus on understanding what is being done and why. Drawings are about conveying a message. The clearer the message, the easier it ultimately is to build the building.

One last word of advice to young professionals (and it ties in with the first point): get as much experience as possible. In my mind, a "master builder" is not just someone who is good at renderings or details; he or she is someone who can take a schematic idea and turn it into reality.

About the Author

Shelby Morris is a project architect involved in the day-to-day design of buildings along with its coordination with clients, consultants, and project teams. He has had experience with a variety of project types as a designer, project leader, and member of the project team. He has also won design awards in three international design competitions.

About The Beck Group

The Beck Group offers complete real estate solutions in the areas of architecture, interior design and construction, real estate development, financial structuring and consulting, preconstruction, renovation, construction management, general contracting, and program management.
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