Building Project Planning Tip #1: Engage a Good Architect Before You Decide Your Building Requirements
Many clients feel that they should decide what they need BEFORE engaging the architect, but in my experience, that is the farthest from the best advice. For starters, good architects are capable to guide you through the decision process effectively and efficiently (great architects may even add some joy to the process!). Secondly, most clients are inherently embedded deep within the multitude of choices and requirements that an awesome architect would greatly assist in providing guidance to the clients decision making process. Do not wait to get a good architect involved. A good architect should help you define your building project needs.
Building Planning Project Tip #2: Understand the “Problems” Before Creating the “Solutions”
Many clients seem to think it’s their responsibility to determine the outcome, not simply describing the specific challenge. For instance, during planning a department leader may indicate that her department will need:
(5) offices, (12) workstations, and (1) conference room that serves (12) people.
The background behind that “solution” was that five salespeople and twelve technicians worked in that department and the salespeople frequently meet with half of the technicians at a time.
The “problem” could be described as:
Building space needed to provide private spaces for (5) full-time salespeople and (12) field technicians that work in two shifts and require access to a workstation at the end of each shift. The technicians meet daily with the salespeople prior to their field work.
Once the multitude of “problems” (or building requirements) are described, digested and prioritized, the process of “solving” should begin. For example, the following “solution” would save the client a considerable amount of expense and space:
(5) offices, (6) larger workstations, with locking compartments, arranged around common collaboration table. Eliminating (6) workstations, the conference room hard construction, and (12) chairs.
Many times the best overall “solutions” are found after the various “problems” are understood. Understand your building needs before deciding the building design.
Planning Building Design Tip #3: Prioritize Your Goals
Clients may feel that preparing the list of building requirements is a daunting task. From the physical space requirements to the aesthetic vision, there are many things to be considered. One of the simplest step (but not necessarily the easiest) is to prioritize all items on your list of requirements.
One of the best methods includes listing all requirements (“Problems”) first and then go back and number each with a priority. A recent client simply marked each one as either a “need” or a “want” to start the prioritization process.
Building Project Planning Tip #4: Open Your Mind to New Ideas
This tip is much more difficult than most people realize. It seems that most people are most comfortable envisioning the building solution so early in the process that it sometimes makes it more difficult to accept different, possibly more appropriate design solutions. Many times, clients have “sold themselves” a design solution based on their specific past experiences. A different facility may have brought them satisfaction, but it may not be the best solution for this upcoming facility.
One of the best tricks to keep an open mind is to consciously decide that EVERY IDEA IS ONLY AN OPTION when it is first conceived. Then open up a dialogue to review multiple options.
Planning Your Building Project Tip #5: Decide from Big to Small
This tip is about applying your priorities, not about the size of the building. The requirements with the top priorities should be addressed first. It may seem obvious but sometimes the design team and/or client may leap into fixing decisions of the second priority before the first.
One example that comes to mind is restaurant design. Recently, we were asked to design a restaurant facility and the client was excited about the food and experience concept. He explained the style of food he envisioned and then immediately hoped we would set the physical design solutions for the dining areas. As much as I love to design great spaces that feel good, I had to resist that temptation until the workings of the kitchen operations were solved first.
For his business model, the kitchen was crucial. The dining room was also high on the priority list, but in this case, the kitchen was higher. As it turned out the kitchen/prep operation utilized more space then he envisioned, leaving the dining area in a different configuration than he had originally assumed. Work from the top priority downward.
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