Build Me Up, May, 2019!
by Tom Emison, Strategy and Innovation Advocate, KA
In March, we introduced you to our first blog in our series on innovation – or ingenuity as we call it. This blog is about relevant topics to you in the Built Marketplace, a huge part of our US economy. It’s about keeping it real. Straight talk. It’s about inspiring you with actual examples of innovation at work in our industry. We are here to build you up!
First up? Pre-construction Ingenuity
In the South, there is a slang term Fixin’ To, as in “I’m Fixing to do that”. It means, simply, we’re getting ready to do that. In the world of real estate, property management, asset management, development, architecture, engineering and construction, there is a fixin’ to equivalent – we call it “Pre-con”. It’s when we’re serving our client and working with our business partners far in advance of breaking ground. The client is fixin’ to invest a lot of resources. Our pre-construction team is already adding value at perhaps the most important step of the entire process.
At KA, pre-construction ingenuity is not something we set out to do decades ago. It was not an objective. It was an outcome. Every building contractor by now has a Pre-con team in some way, shape, or form. For us, it was the byproduct of our approach to overall project management in which we have always offered clients a single point of contact throughout their entire project. Because we approached every client project that way, our project managers become especially conversant with preconstruction and conceptual estimating. They had to. They were sort of forced to, because they were (and still are) the single point of contact. Clients have told us over and again how important it is to have this single point of accountability.
So, at KA, our project management personnel, well, they’re good at pre-construction ingenuity. When we recruit a new professional to the team here, they often exclaim, “Wow, at my previous company, our project managers just took orders and estimates from the pre-con team. But, KA, it’s different”. Yup. It is. Because KA clients prefer it.
Over the years, we have supplemented these project management leaders with an ever-expanding preconstruction and estimating team. Today, at KA, this Pre-con Team includes 15 individuals whose focus (more like obsession) is to support the success of our project managers in being the single point of accountability.
Meet Dave Lenss
The leader of this Pre-con Team came from (you guessed it) project management. His name is Dave Lenss and he has been delivering pre-construction ingenuity a long time. If I say how long, he will complain about being old, so let’s just ask Dave a few good questions about KA pre-con ingenuity:
Tom: The KA pre-con department now has how many folks, and in what roles?
Dave: The Minneapolis office currently has 14 people in the Preconstruction Services Group, including me:
- 1 – Director of Preconstruction Services – Mark Nolta
- 1 – Preconstruction services Manager – Audie Miller
- 3 – Estimators-Tom Drewiske, Shane Roepke, Lisa David
- 2 – Assistant Estimators-Austin Gapinski, Philipp Wagner
- 3 – Mechanical and Electrical Systems Managers- Matt Stringfellow, Mark Sigel, and Jeff Kemp
- 1 – BIM Manager – Heather Kossila and 1 BIM/VDC Specialist – Andrea Blair
We currently have one Assistant PM, Danielle Champagne, going through our KA Precon Boot Camp.
Tom: Give me an example of an innovation for a client that would not have happened if not for the KA pre-con team. Real. Solid. Like, actually happened.
Dave: A competitor had told a client that our pricing was way off the mark and was very low to the point the client was nervous. The competitor had given the client estimate breakdowns for two similar projects they had done in other parts of the country. Our Mark Nolta was able to load the competitor’s information into Modelogix and the software adjusted their pricing for time and location. The cost model that was generated out of Modelogix was within 2% of the full estimate we had been working on for weeks. This exercise gave the owner the confidence to keep moving forward with KA.
Today, during preconstruction, we are more active performing constructability reviews and performing coordination reviews of the various design disciplines using the design team’s models.
Tom: Other successful construction companies follow a model in which there is no single point of contact or accountability. So, how are we different? Why should clients care?
Dave: At KA, the person who sells the work (the one who wins the work for KA) is typically also the one who is the Project Manager. We call it our Doer/Seller approach. This style of project management provides our client’s with a single point of contact from the very beginning of a project through final closeout. During the preconstruction phase, the project manager leads the process and is supported by the Preconstruction Team. This provides the client with the peace of mind that no matter what phase a project is in, he or she has one person to contact from KA should they have a question or concern related to their project.
Often our competitors will have the Preconstruction team lead the preconstruction phase and in some cases bid out the work scopes to subcontractors and then hand the project off to a Project Manager and Superintendent to build the project. Our model (single point of contact) is just more integrated – from before a project interview through project closeout the warranty period and beyond.
Tom: Projects move fast. In the early stages, we collaborate with architects and others. What do they now expect from KA’s Pre-con Services Group that would have been unrealistic five years ago?
Dave: Today, it’s not unusual to receive an updated model from the architect on Friday afternoon and we are expected to analyze the changes and provide cost impacts the following Wednesday. Often our MEP team has an enhanced understanding of the most current energy code and actively anticipates how to support the design team in their decisions. We now have the ability to scan a structure with either our Faro scanner or our drone and create a working 3D model of the existing structure and its components for the design team and subcontractors to use. Our BIM team can fly the exterior of a high-rise building with our drone taking pictures of the flashing and air barrier details and then attach the photo’s to the elevation drawings so our superintendents can review the photos and if necessary send a corrective work notice to the subcontractors.
Tom: Do these young bright BIM professionals scare you? How do they inspire you?
Dave: It’s crazy to think about some of the things they can do today compared to where we were as an industry five years ago. I’m constantly learning new things from our BIM team. When asked to do something new they never say, “We can’t do that”. They just say give us a little time to figure it out and they usually do!
Tom: Describe a pre-con innovation KA is working on right now and that we will bring to market in 2019?
Dave: Our biggest initiative in 2019 is the launch of our cost history software Modelogix. Mark Nolta is working with our project teams to load cost history of past and current projects so we can provide faster and more consistent feedback to our clients during the early conceptual phase of a project. Being able to provide this type of feedback will assist our clients in making better decisions early in the process. We now have a drone capable of thermal imaging that our BIM team will be rolling out in the second half of 2019.
Note: a special thanks to Dave for taking time out of his busy week for this interview. More from Dave soon on our KA Innovation Podcast called Build Me Up.
Pre-construction Collaboration Really Comes Down to Communication
Pre-construction ingenuity is part of construction project management; part of the overall planning, coordination, and control of a project from inception to completion, aimed at meeting KA’s clients’ requirements. Clients just want to have a functionally and financially viable project and we want to deliver it with professionalism they remember. The more I talk to Dave and his team, the more I realize they have the wrong job titles. They really ought to be called, more accurately:
- Ingenious and Collaborative Dream Planners, Estimators, and Communicators with Value Engineering Knack and Tech Savvy Who Totally Dig Serving KA Project Managers and Their Clients. Fit that on a business card.
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Tom Emison, Strategy and Innovation Advocate, KAView Comments