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Q&A Session with Robin Leising

Robin Leising

In an industry where only one in ten workers is a woman, Robin Leising, Construction Administrator for Schmidt Associates, shines. Whether it is her quick wit, her strong confidence, or her amicable personality, Robin fits right in on the job site and is well respected.

 

 

 

Tell me about your background.
Growing up in Elkhart, I remember my dad bringing home a set of blueprints one night. That started me down my path, and I have never looked back. I attended Ball State University for architecture, but realized that I enjoy helping a building come up from the ground, not just drawing it. Unfortunately, there was not construction management degree back then, so I finished my degree in environmental sciences and moved to Vegas to work in drafting for a developer.

What brought you back to Indiana?
As I sat in Vegas, I remembered a former roommate asking me if I really wanted to be in Vegas on my own or back in Indiana with my boyfriend, Joe. Turns out, I wanted Joe. I moved home and started work for a mechanical contractor. Joe and I eventually got married and have two kids, Olin (18) and Sydney (16).

Robin Leising Family

How did you land at Schmidt Associates?
Well, I was delivering a bid on a project for the mechanical contractor I was working for at the time. When the elevator opened, I came upon a friend I had known from the College of Architecture and Planning (CAP) from Ball State—Anna Marie Burrell (K-12 Studio Leader at Schmidt Associates). She invited me to play sand volleyball with her, and we became good friends. Eventually, I ended up working with her at another firm. We both left and joined Schmidt Associates around the same time.

What’s it like, doing a “man’s job”?
I like my job and I like being out in the field. But I find people in the construction industry try to put me on a different level because I am a woman—they treat me differently somehow. But the truth is, I will tell you if I don’t like something. I am no different than any of the men out there.

What’s one thing not everyone knows about you?
While I was at Ball State, my dorm sponsored a date auction. One of my male friends was one of the prizes, and I thought he was kind of cute. So, I bought him and we went to Fazoli’s and a Wynonna Judd concert. We are still married over 20 years later.

And you have another story to tell …
Yes, I am a walking survivor story for Breast Cancer and an advocate for annual screenings. I was diagnosed with Stage 1 in September, 2014 at the age of 44. They did a lumpectomy and 30 days of radiation. Thankfully, I am cancer free now, though I still go yearly to ensure no new spots appear. My mother is also a survivor, but I have two grandmothers and an aunt who passed away from it.

What do you do in your free time?
My kids are very busy, so I am typically at a soccer game with Olin or ballet practice with Sydney. But when I am not doing that, I enjoy watching all sports (even golf!), as well as going to the movies. I also volunteer at my church.

 

Also learn about Sarah HempsteadTricia SmithCharlie WilsonTom NeffJoe RedarDave JonesPatricia BrantPhil MedleyLiam KeeslingSayo AdesiyakanBen BainAsia CoffeeEric BroemelMatt DurbinKevin ShelleyEddie LaytonAnna Marie Burrell, Kyle MillerSteve SchaecherMyrisha Colston Drew Morgan, Steve Spangler, Bill Gruen, and Cindy McLoed

What are the Roles of a Design/Build Team?

Typically there are three primary team members on a design/build project. They include the Owner, the criteria developer, and the design/build (D/B) contractor. Each one is explained in more detail below:

1. Owner

•  Work with criteria developer to capture needs and desires in criteria documents/contract documents
•  Implement a process to select D/B contractor
•  Work with D/B contractor to finalize design and construction (sometimes through criteria developer/project manager)
•  Communicate changing needs to D/B contractor
•  Participate in punch list process
•  Move in and enjoy the new facility

2. Criteria Developer

•  Work with Owner personnel and stakeholders to draft criteria documents/contract documents
•  Sometimes hired to represent the Owner throughout construction and review design/construction/completion activities
•  May review pay applications and change orders and assist Owner in the punch list process
•  Advise Owner on contractual matters and D/B contractor compliance with contract
•  Assist Owner to maintain budget integrity

3. Design/Build Contractor 

•  Provide qualifications proposal and initial renderings to demonstrate their vision of compliance with the criteria documents
•  Confirm pricing with subcontractors that meets design criteria
•  Provide scope compliance information and agree on cost with Owner
•  Design the project using qualified design professionals and obtain Owner approval of code- compliant design that meets the criteria documents
•  Design team maintains engagement in project throughout construction
•  Construct the project, draft changes, punch out and complete the facility
•  Maintain budget and schedule throughout the duration of the project
•  Provide clear and regular communication with Owner on project status and any changes
•  Obtain good reference from satisfied Owner

So, why should an Owner select design/build?

  1. Single source of accountability – this goes for design and construction
  2. Budget management – discussing budget throughout the duration of design
  3. Enhanced communication – early and ongoing communications between Owner, design contractor, and subcontractor(s)
  4. Faster project completion – can shorten overall schedule since construction starts while design is being completed

If you have more questions or want to get started on your next project with us, reach out!

 

Q&A Session with Steve Spangler

Steve Spangler - Construction Administration

Steve Spangler, Construction Administrator, is a big eater with an even bigger heart. He can often be seen walking around the office with a carton of ice cream in hand and a big smile on his face.

 

 

 

 

 

Tell me about yourself.
Growing up in Greenfield, I had an uncle and a grandpa who built homes, so I began working with them framing houses in middle school. Though I worked as a fry cook at an MCL while I was in high school, I went back to framing shortly thereafter. I joined the Carpenters Union in 1978, and my first job was building the second bank of Coke Ovens for Citizens Gas in the late 70s. Its all come full circle now, as I am on the team constructing the new Community Justice Center on that same site. I also worked on the concrete crew of the original Hoosier Dome and was part of the team that attached the fabric roof. I worked as a contractor and clerk-of-the-works for years, and then I joined Schmidt Associates full-time in 2000.

What do you do in your free time?
I grew up around farms, and my aunt and uncle had horses. As a young adult, I lived away from the farm life in Castleton. When I married my wife, Debbie, in 1983, I moved back to the country and started raising kids. When my daughter turned 10 in the early 90s, she wanted a horse. We bought a couple Arabian Horses to show in 4-H, and we’ve had horses ever since. I now have six horses keeping me busy—Reagan, Molly, Ghost, Victoria, Butter Bee, and Wendy. When I am not at work, I spend my time with family, working with the horses, putting up hay, or working on farm equipment.

My wife, Debbie, and I live in a log home we designed and built in 2002. Life on our farm keeps us very busy.

Tell me about your family.
My wife and I have three daughters, one son, two granddaughters, and two grandsons. One of our daughters and four-year-old grandson live with us, and my four-year-old granddaughter comes to stay with us four days a week. They keep us busy all the time!

Along with the horses, we have two dogs—Murphy (a rescued mutt) and Tinkerbell (a Cairn terrier).

Steve Spangler horses

Do you have a favorite book?
Right now, I am learning about horse hooves. I am going to two clinics to learn about hoof management, so I really need to get the books for the clinics before I go.

What’s one thing not everyone knows about you?
In my 20s, I modeled clothes at fashion shows in a night club near Keystone at the Crossing.

It sounds like you are always on the go?
I had always planned that after the kids moved out, I would have tons of time to fix my equipment and ride horses every day. But the truth is, we are busier now than we have ever been it seems like. The days, weeks, and months just fly by. I plan to retire at 65, but I don’t think I will ever slow down.

If you ever have questions about the construction process or horses, give Steve a ring!

 

Also learn about Sarah HempsteadTricia SmithCharlie WilsonTom NeffJoe RedarDave JonesPatricia BrantPhil MedleyLiam KeeslingSayo AdesiyakanBen BainAsia CoffeeEric BroemelMatt DurbinKevin ShelleyEddie LaytonAnna Marie Burrell, Kyle Miller, Steve SchaecherMyrisha Colston, and Drew Morgan

A Word from Our Owners – Cornerstone Lutheran Church

Jane Callahan

Jane Callahan is the Director of Organizational and New Site Development at Cornerstone Lutheran Church – Fishers. As director, she oversees the development of new sites for the church including policy and planning, building projects, and organizational changes and structure.  Jane has been with Cornerstone Lutheran Church for 5 years after a 35-year career in healthcare administration.

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We know you chose to use Schmidt Associates Extended Services. Can you tell us why you did this over other methodologies?

We have a long history with Schmidt Associates. The idea that the architect oversaw the people carrying out the plans was huge. We didn’t want to get finger pointing. And we didn’t, so that was good. Our previous experience with Schmidt Associates had been very positive doing renovation work at our Carmel site, so there was a sense of trust.

 

Who was part of the decision?

The building committee: the Pastors, a few congregation members, our facility manager, and a few others. In the initial bidding process, we interviewed three design/build contractors. This then led to a conversation about the extended services Schmidt Associates could provide.

We weren’t certain of what construction methodology we wanted. We just knew we needed someone who could do the project well. Schmidt Associates provided us options and we interviewed 3 other firms before deciding to use the Schmidt Associates Extended Services.

 

Would you do it again? Why?

We definitely would. We had someone from Schmidt Associates on-site every day. He was awesome and kept all the sub-contractors in sync and on schedule. Schmidt Associates also had someone come out once a week, Jeff Burnett. We had weekly meetings with Schmidt Associates, the contractors, myself and Gayle, our facilities manager. When there were issues that came up, Schmidt Associates discussed what happened. Our on-site construction administrator from Schmidt Associates was masterful at playing both sides to keep the construction personnel happy, while still holding them accountable. Jeff laid the hammer down. It was a good process.

If you have a design/build company that’s all one firm. They don’t have the critical third eye looking at the project. They are trying to cover their own tracks. Having the independent oversight was good.

One of the best things we did was having a firm out of Fort Wayne come in and evaluate everything that was done. This helped with the building envelope. It wasn’t cheap to do that, but it was well worth the money.

 

What was your experience like?

Overall it was very good with Schmidt Associates.  Our project bid and was built during a very competitive bid time. We had limited options because construction workforces were spread thin. This made it even more critical to have the Schmidt Associates Extended Services there to keep an eye on things.

Construction Workforce Trends

Schmidt Associates regularly tracks and discusses impacts to the Architectural, Engineering, and Construction industry so we can be prepared to respond. We have seen a tightening in the labor market, which results in higher construction costs for our clients. As clients ask what is causing this, we found a report by McGraw Hill Construction* that summarizes it well.

Due to a lack of people applying to jobs in the construction industry, many builders and contractors have seen an increase in the cost to build a project. As the industry changes and new trends emerge, there is a feeling of uncertainty about how well-prepared the workforce of the future will be. This tightening in the construction labor market is felt down the line for the architects and engineers as well.

Possible causes for a decrease in the workforce:

  1. The Housing Bust

Loss of jobs leading to workers being displaced. They relocated elsewhere, and had to give up the industry all together for something else

  1. The Great Recession

They lost their jobs or had to change jobs in order to increase their household income. If the construction industry appears to be an “unstable” field, then people were more likely to not go back to their previous jobs after the recession mended itself.

  1. Younger generations aren’t interested in venturing into the construction industry

Also, companies wanting to hire a more seasoned employee, not taking the risk of hiring on the 19-24somethings age group

  1. Baby Boomers are retiring

This includes less workers, along with a loss of leadership

  1. The industry is changing and requiring less traditional skills

These requirements (to keep up with the new, transformative industry trends) of certification, new knowledge, and more training could be deterring people from the construction industry.

The construction workforce shortage has impacted Schmidt Associates in some of the following ways:

  • Delays in projects due to less workers on the site
  • A concern about getting experienced, skilled workers with the current technology and collaboration knowledge
  • Carpentry/millwork, Electrical Contractors, and HVAC/boilermakers are near the top of the list of trades with the most shortages are expected

 

*Interested in reading the full report by McGraw Hill Construction, you can find it here.

Adding Value

Schmidt Associates was founded on the guiding principle of Servant Leadership. This value threads itself through every interaction we have both internally and externally, resulting in a constant search to add value in every project. Flip through the magazine below to see five examples of how we have added value to our recent projects by focusing on culture shifts, energy savings, telling the story through facility design and being a true one-stop-shop for our Owners.

 

 

Red Flags for your Construction Project: Part 2

Everyone involved with a construction project hopes to avoid challenges or hiccups along the way. What warnings or red flags should you look out for if “smooth sailing” doesn’t seem to be the direction your project is going? We came up with a list of 12. We’ve touched on the first half, lets look at the last six:

RED FLAG #7: Ignoring or dismissing General Requirements (Division 01)
General requirements order how a project is to proceed, including payments, changes, substitutions, meetings, coordination, mockups, and closeout. Part of the contract documents, these requirements often are dismissed by a contractor when challenges surface.

 

RED FLAG #8: Unrealistic construction schedule
The construction schedule is a map the contractor makes to spell out how to get from here (incomplete project) to there (complete project). It provides direction on when tasks are to be completed. Unless the construction schedule has subcontractors’ agreement, it is unrealistic. The bigger problem may be that each subcontractor (or crew) determines what to install when it sees fit, at the expense of the project as a whole.

 

RED FLAG #9: Slippage from unrealistic construction schedule
If work durations expand or milestones are missed, the contractor must present a corrective action plan to get back on schedule, or the projected completion date will slip further behind.

 

RED FLAG #10: Ignoring or dismissing an updated construction schedule
If the contractor is reluctant to update and distribute the construction schedule when it needs to be changed (see red flag #9), all parties are forced to get from hereto there without a map. This is not a good idea and will likely result in rework.

 

RED FLAG #11: Blame-shifting
A contractor who resorts to blaming anyone (Owner, architect, subcontractors) or anything (weather, material availability, existing conditions) else for poor performance is usually grasping at straws. There are legitimate reasons why a contractor may have challenges, but resorting to blame-shifting for their contractual responsibility indicates you may be past the point of expecting a good outcome.

 

RED FLAG #12: Taking excessive risks relating to sequencing/weather
Installing products out of sequence (i.e. installing drywall before the roof), and failing to protect installed work (wet drywall) indicates the contractor is taking too great a risk by gambling on the weather.


Our list of 12 red flags is not exhaustive, but they are the ones we consider to be the most common when a construction project goes awry.

Have you observed these red flags (or any others) on your projects? Let us know. We’ll share your experiences on our blog so others can learn from them.

Read Part 1 here

 

 

 

Construction Manager as Constructor – How is the CMc Selected on Publicly Funded Projects

In our last blog on Construction Manager as Constructor (CMc), we discussed what differentiated this delivery method from others. We also talked about what made a CMc different from a more traditional CM or Construction Manager as Adviser (CMa). This blog will look at the process required by law to formally select a CMc on a project funded by tax dollars.

 

In the private sector, an owner can select or hire a CMc based upon any criteria they desire: relationship, experience, personnel, or any other metric. In the public sector, there are very specific requirements.

The owner is required to make a public notice regarding Request for Proposals (RFP) for their project. The RFP is required to include:

  1. Statement of the owners planned criteria, process, and procedures to be utilized during the RFP process. This must include:
    1. How the RFP response will be evaluated
    2. How the CMc will be selected
    3. How the CMc will be awarded
  2. How the Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP) will be established, if required by the Owner.
  3. A statement on the insurance requirements for the project.
  4. Description of the CMc’s history of contracting with or hiring MBE, WBE, and VBE.
  5. Documentation showing the CMc’s good faith efforts to fulfill the state’s goals for contracting with MBE, WBE, and VBE.

RFP Response evaluation

The owner must describe how the evaluation process will be handled. If a scoring method is utilized, then it must be enumerated. If a rating system will be implemented, ratings must be defined. Fees & qualifications are also required to be a part of the RFP response. Therefore, they must be a part of the criteria as well. Will the various requirements be weighted differently or equally? Will fee be a 20% weighted criteria and experience a 30% weighted criteria? All of these matter in how the RFP responses will be scored.

CMc Selection & Award Process

The owner now has to make a selection—the reason the previous discussion about criteria for evaluation is so important. The evaluation process will be questioned. Owners will get asked to provide the scoring used for each submitting firm and RFP. The owner should test their scoring with different potential scores in the categories determined. There should also be discussion about making some categories a pass/fail instead of a rated score or grade. If there are criteria that the owner determines is so important that a response should not be successful without it, then that category could be a pass/fail item. That might be project experience type or an experience level of key staff to be assigned to the project. Maybe it is a fee amount limit. The options are numerous. The requirement to describe the selection process to the CMc’s is important. The firms responding to the RFP need to know what is important to the owner to help determine if this project should be pursued. These companies will be making estimates on how they believe they compare to the competition in the marketplace.

A savvy owner will understand what they are asking for and the likely responses that the CMc firms in the community will provide. Planning the criteria and the selection process out thoroughly will help avoid surprises. In the end, this is a public process. The owner needs to be prepared for the transparency necessary in this process. In the next installment, we will discuss Guaranteed Maximum Price and how it can be implemented.

Red Flags for your Construction Project: Part 1

Everyone involved with a construction project hopes to avoid challenges or hiccups along the way. What warnings or red flags should you look out for if “smooth sailing” doesn’t seem to be the direction your project is going? We came up with a list of 12, but let’s start with the first half:

RED FLAG #1: Incomplete Bidding Documents or Qualifications
When specifications require the contractor or its employees (project manager or superintendent) to submit “similar project experience,” verify the submitted documentation. Visit the contractor’s website, check references with Owners and subcontractors, search Google, LinkedIn, and Facebook. You’ll never again have more leverage with a contractor than you do before you sign the contract.

 

RED FLAG #2: Incomplete Initiation Documents
Executing initiation documents, such as submittal and preliminary construction schedule, subcontractors and products list, LEED action plan, performance and payment bonds, and certificate(s) of insurance, before the contractor mobilizes is critical to starting the project on the right foot. These documents are not just “hoops to jump through.”

 

RED FLAG #3: Slow Mobilization
Most contractors are eager to begin construction since it provides operating cash flow. If your contractors are slow to begin (or mobilize), they may be revealing a general lack of initiation or an incomplete project plan.

 

RED FLAG #4: Slow Submittals
In general, subcontractors will not begin work until they have an executed contract from the contractor. If you do not have a flurry of submittals in the first month, it may indicate your contractor is unable to get subcontractors to commit for their proposed bid amount—a tell-tale sign their bid may not cover the cost of the work.

 

RED FLAG #5: Changing Subcontractors
Once contract(s) have been executed, the construction team (contractor, subcontractors, and suppliers) should be fixed, barring bankruptcy, legal action, or other unforeseen catastrophic event. Changing subcontractors for other reasons usually indicates your contractor is “shopping the job”— attempting to reduce costs and pocketing the difference.

 

RED FLAG #6: Installation Proceeding Without Being Previously Approved
Contractors propose submittals (product data, shop drawings, etc.) indicating what products they intend to furnish and how they intend to install those materials. If products are delivered to the site and (even worse) installed without being properly submitted and reviewed by the architect, this may indicate your contractor is worried about the progress of the schedule and attempting to cut corners. The architect’s review of submittals is a critical quality-control measure that should not be omitted.

 

Read Part 2

 

 

 

Construction Manager as Constructor

For public institutions, there are three project delivery methods approved by state law: 

  1. Design-Bid-Build
  2. Design-Build
  3. Construction Manager as Constructor (CMc)

In this blog, we will discuss Construction Manager as Constructor (CMc)—a new construction project delivery method signed into law in March 2014. Public educational institutions have been able to use the CMc method since that year; in June of 2017, all other state institutions will also be able to use it.

Contractors work on projects with different project delivery methods. The same contractor might be working on five projects—all with different delivery methods. It doesn’t change who they are as a contractor. It does change the roles, responsibilities, and contractual obligations they have on a given project. This fluidity of delivery methods can be confusing when owners think of companies as “Design-Builder”, “Contractor”, or “Construction Manager”. These are all delivery method roles—not definitions or limitations on them as companies.

A defining characteristic of a Construction Manager (CM) contract (of any type) is the timing of their involvement in the project. In the traditional Design-Bid-Build delivery method, the construction entity is not involved until the “Bid” portion of the project. Design occurs without the involvement of a construction entity. When a construction manager is involved by contract, they are involved in “pre-construction” activities. Therefore, during design, they can be contracted to offer schedule, budget, and constructability input or feedback to the owner. This early involvement can be beneficial if the owner and/or design firm do not have strong construction experience to draw upon internally.

CMc is sometimes also known as Construction Manager at Risk. This implies that there is additional risk being taken on by the CMc that “normally” does not exist. “Normally”, is related to the standard term of CM. In the construction project world, CM refers to a Construction Manager as Agent (CMa) or Advisor. The CMa is a construction partner in the long-standing Design-Bid-Build project delivery method. Their role is to serve the owner as an adviser or non-constructor. They advise on schedule, constructability, scope of work, etc. They do not self-perform any portion of the work. It is truly the work of managing construction—while not pounding any nails or laying any bricks. The contracts they manage as a CMa are all held (or signed) by the owner.

As a CMc, or at risk, work can be self-performed. In addition, the contracts for the other firms performing work (subcontractors) on the project are held (or signed) by the CMc, not the owner. These two realities create the inherent risk being assumed by the CMc. By holding these subcontracts, the CMc is responsible for the schedule, quality, and cost of the work covered by these agreements.

In order to create a transparent and open competition for publicly funded work, the CMc law signed in 2014 requires some very specific steps, processes, and communication. In our next blog, we dive in to specifics and complexities of the law making that possible.

 

Check out the second blog in the series