Week of January 21 - January 25, 2013.

This week and the preceding week primarily revolved around a reacquainting myself with project developments in my absence and preparing for a pre-construction meeting for the Day Care Facility Renovation project on January 23. In preparation for the pre-construction meeting, I called the General Contractor, the Fire Sprinkler System Contractor, and the owner to arrange a time which would work for all parties. The owner was only available on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and given my schedule with school it was deemed that Wednesday morning would be most appropriate. The day before the meeting, I prepared notes for myself regarding topics to cover with all parties present and created a sign-up document, as well as making sure I had all of the most recent plan pages together in one set. The morning of the meeting I arrived early and spoke with the owner, then greeted the representatives from the GC and the Sprinkler Contractor as they arrived at the building. We went into an unused room with a table and chairs, signed the sign-up sheet with name and contact information, then proceeded to discuss the topics which I had written down in preparation for the meeting. These topics and the appropriate response are as follows:

_- Self-explanitory

Delay explanation
_- This project took an inexplicably long time to clear the planning and inspections department in the city, so this note just covers a general apology and explanation of the delays involved in that process.

Electrical re-bid
_- Because the permits were not approved by the city until more than 60 days after the bid date, the subcontractors were no longer legally bound to their prices. The electrical subcontractor's price increased $6,000 (from an original bid number of $14,000). This was left unexplained and was too radical a change to be attributed to material price fluctuation, so the GC decided (and rightfully so) to speak with other electrical subcontractors about pricing this job. During the meeting we were told that they would have prices from two other electrical subcontractors by the end of the next day.

Coordination between GC and Sprinkler Contractor
_- Because the owner on this project was trying to accomplish a lot on a shoestring budget, we decided to bid the sprinkler system (> 50% of the total project cost) separately from the rest of the renovation project. We feel that saved the owner a fair amount of money in eliminating a markup from the GC, but this means that the GC and the Sprinkler Contractor will need to coordinate without the Sprinkler Contractor being under the GC's contract with the owner. Coordination had been touched on in phone calls before this meeting, but having all parties present (including the owner, who is operating a day care facility in part of the building) was an essential part of this meeting. The representatives from the GC and Sprinkler Contractor were able to hash out what their level of time involvement would be in each quadrant of the building and determine with the help of the owner what the best schedule would be moving forward.

Brief Project Description
This project is a renovation of a metal building erected in the early 1990s in Fayetteville, NC. This building is composed of four separate units, two each on two levels. The downstairs contains a child care facility and a newly vacant space which used to house offices for a home-care business. The upstairs contains a therapy center for developmentally handicapped children on one side and an apartment on the other. The premise of the project is combining the two sides of the building downstairs into one larger childcare facility. Because the building is 3/4 occupied, there will be some inherent "shuffling around" of the businesses in these spaces while the renovations occur. Because each unit is separated by a firewall and uses a separate HVAC system, this should not present too much of a problem. It was, however, very important to discuss "order-of-operations" with the owner, GC, and Sprinkler Contractor present so that all parties would be on the same page.

Decorum on site
_- The next thing we discussed was decorum - a point that always comes up in pre-construction meetings, but one that is particularly important in this case, as there will be young children present on site. Representatives from the GC and Sprinkler Contractor were told that their workers on site follow the rules below:
--- Wear plain clothing with no profanity, inappropriate images, etc.
--- Absolutely no fraternization with children or employees on site.
--- No alcohol, tobacco, or drugs whatsoever on the site.
--- Keep messes contained and clean up immediately when work in an area is finished for the day, particularly in the apartment.
--- There are to be no felons among the workers for GC or subcontractors whatsoever. Not worth the risk on this project.

_- Because the facility's existing single-access paved lot will need to be cut just about down the middle for the installation of the new pipe for the sprinkler system. This means that parking will be tight during construction. As such, we ruled that there are to be no construction-related vehicles parked in the facility's paved lot. Luckily, the existing building is located on a large site, so space will not be an issue. It was determined that building staff would circle around the back of the building (grass/dirt) and park on the grass facing the paved lot. Construction vehicles will park behind the building in an open dirt area. This will free up 100% of the facility's paved surface parking for patrons of its businesses and the upstairs apartment tenant. Even with the reduction in available parking because of the required underground work, this remaining surface parking should be sufficient.

Lay-down space
_- At the time of this pre-construction meeting, the required supplies for the sprinkler system were already purchased and stored in a metal shipping container on-site at the rear of the building in an open dirt area. Any additional required material storage should be in the immediate vicinity of this container. This open dirt area at the back of the site is the same area where construction vehicle parking is set to be. Space should not be an issue.

Environmental safety
_- Each of the four units in this building have a separate HVAC system, so environmental contamination should not be a difficult issue to solve. The contractors have been instructed to cover any openings between units with sheet plastic, and to turn the HVAC system in the unit they are working in off completely while cutting drywall or otherwise creating dust. They have also been instructed to place an additional filter over any return air duct for the duration of construction. Any mess from dust is to be cleaned up at the end of the work day.

General safety and insurance
All OSHA and State regulations are to be followed in the execution of the work. Before work is started, both the GC and the Sprinkler Contractor are to submit documentation of their Liability Insurance and Worker's Comp.

Interruption of work
It will be beneficial to all parties involved if work is scheduled in such a way that it is continuous from start to finish. That is, no delays for materials, subcontractors, waiting for another party to finish work etc. After discussing coordination, we do not expect this to be an issue.

This topic was the lengthiest discussion at the meeting, and perhaps the most important as well. The owner, the General Contractor, and the Sprinkler contractor participated in a discussion involving their needs in terms of time and space for the project. Based on this discussion, we are scheduling construction so that it has minimal impact on the building owner's operations. As a part of this, the contractors will be required to give at least 48hrs notice to the owner when they are close to completing one quadrant of the building and preparing to move on to the next.

Regular meetings and site visits
_- It was decided that the day of the month and time used for the pre-construction meeting would be acceptable to all parties for use in subsequent progress meetings. This means that progress meetings will be held on the third Wednesday of the month at 10:00am. Site visits will occur at random based on updates from the contractor about current operations. The MEP Engineer will also be making site visits to check on the installation of the sprinkler system.

Site walkaround
_- Only two small issues were raised during a walkaround of the site at the close of the meeting. First, we instructed the sprinkler contractor to tell his underground subcontractor that he should extend his cut through the parking lot asphalt one foot laterally beyond where it is marked to coincide with an existing asphalt change from where the parking lot was previously extended. This should help with a cleaner appearance. Secondly, we asked the general contractor to reattach a loose piece of metal siding at the side of the building at some point during construction work. The general contractor agreed to take care of this issue.

Overall I feel that the meeting went quite well and accomplished what it needed to in terms of getting the owner, architect, general contractor and sprinkler contractor on the same page in terms of scheduling and procedure.

Redefine Design

This post will mark the start of the use of this blog for the purpose of documenting my experiences as co-founder and designer at Redefine Design. In this post I will briefly run through the story behind starting this business and my experiences with it to date.

I grew up in Fayetteville North Carolina, the son of local architect Walter Vick of The LSV Partnership Architects/Planners, AIA. I developed an interest in architecture at a young age, and in high school began dating Jeanne Beasley, with the shared bond of aspiring to become architects one day in the future. Jeanne began her freshman year in the 'Bachelor of Environmental Design in Architecture' program at NC State while I was a senior in high school. I entered the BEDA program the following year. Fast-forwarding to the close of the Spring 2010 semester at NC State, Jeanne walked across the stage with a Bachelor of Architecture after her 5th Year program and I graduated with my BEDA, but felt a desire to gain some workplace experience in the architecture field before continuing my education. After graduation, Jeanne and I both moved home to Fayetteville without any promise of employment to begin considering what 'the next step' would be for each of us. Shortly after coming home, my dad requested to speak with us at his office, and thus began the idea that turned into Redefine Design.

My dad's point was simple; with the architecture and construction markets struggling after the downturn of 2008, jobs were scarce. He could not afford to hire us at the time, but presented us with an idea we had not considered - that being to start our own small business with his mentorship, effectively challenging us to learn business operations and begin to look for clients instead of jobs. Though wary of the notion at first given our inexperience, after a few days of deliberation we decided to dive in head-first. My dad offered us a small vacant building in downtown Fayetteville to use as an office, and two weeks later we had come up with a name for the business, obtained a business license, designed stationary and ordered business cards, created a website and email accounts, put a custom vinyl sign on in the storefront window, built our own long desk down the center of the space and purchased what little furniture we needed to complete the space otherwise.

To start, we took over a project that was effectively 'too small' for The LSV Partnership to handle cost-effectively. This project was essentially a permanent canopy for the rooftop terrace of a new downtown Fayetteville building's penthouse suite. The suite owner was both a local surgeon and co-developer of this new building, so the project presented us with a unique opportunity to showcase our abilities to an individual who could spread our names through the community.

After an impressive showing on this first project, we began working on a house addition for the client's friend and an office renovation project we were recommended for by a family friend. As more projects came, we began to pay closer attention to managing our time for both efficiency and billing purposes - we also increased our hourly rates in response to the demand. In addition, we started to develop marketing strategies in order to ensure another project would come along before we became unoccupied. We handed out business cards for card trays in local businesses, tacked cards to cork boards where it was appropriate, attended and contributed to local charity events, started a Google AdWords campaign for our website, and - perhaps most importantly for walk-in business - we became an 'official event stop' for downtown Fayetteville's Fourth Friday arts celebration, hosting a show of music, drinks, hors d'ourves and our own photography at our office on a semi-monthly basis. This last technique brought us our 'Downtown Fayetteville Hay Street Apartment Renovation' job and a couple of kitchen renovations, which we ended up doing a number of over the next two years.

Through this process, we maintained weekly meetings with my dad after-hours at his firm, for purposes of discussing everything from business and professional relationship advice to critiquing designs and red-lining construction documents. I must note that this mentorship was critical to our success.

After a little over a year, Jeanne and I began to discuss an exit strategy by way of which I would eventually be able to return to school to complete the 5th Year B.Arch program. It was decided that when the time came, The LSV Partnership would take over our larger project operations and we would see the smaller ones to a close. At this point, I updated my portfolio and sent in my application to NC State. Jeanne updated her own portfolio as well. When I heard of my acceptance into the B.Arch program, she began applying for jobs elsewhere, not wanting to continue to run the operation on her own. To our surprise or credit, she was offered three jobs within a month of the onset of her search - one each in Atlanta, Charleston, and Richmond. She accepted the offer in Richmond, starting work shortly after I moved back to Raleigh to start the Fall 2012 semester. By this time, 26 months after starting Redefine Design, we had worked on nearly 30 projects at various levels of size, scale, and involvement.

Business-wise, since this time I have maintained contact with a number of our previous clients, and The LSV Partnership has even picked up a few new jobs through the Redefine Design name. It is my intention through this independent study to become reacquainted with our business operations and projects once again, including seeing through to the close of construction a couple of the projects which I started before coming back to NC State. I will use this blog to document my activity and the things I am learning along the way, of which I am sure there will be plenty. As it is my notion not to restrict the viewing of this blog but rather to promote it among fellow students as a potential learning opportunity, I will remain available for contact at thomas [at] redefinedesignnc [dot] com.

Thanks to all involved in this project,

Thomas Vick