Many years ago I was part of the 11th hour construction documents staff that was added to a hospital renovation design team to meet an out-to-bid deadline. The project, then internally behind schedule, had not been well organized or adequately staffed during the design phases, and the impending deadline forced the firm to add many staff who were not familiar with the project. The project scope and design decisions were not effectively communicated to the new team members. One unfortunate result was the unnecessary scheduling and expensive replacement of all patient room doors on a floor of the hospital that was beyond the intended scope of the project. In the 11th hour chaos, the question “why are we doing this?” went unanswered. Hundreds of hours of ineffective time poured into the project, far exceeding the firm’s budget for the project and yet still leaving the construction documents with major gaps and inconsistencies that would pester the project throughout construction. There was no way or time to check the documents before they went out the door; so unhappy feedback from the field, the CM, and the owner took the place of checking. Firms learn and improve from such experiences in order to survive.
Although the focus of project communication is often outside the walls of the designer’s office – reaching out to consultants, owners, authorities, and construction managers – the in-house team also needs effective management, communication, and supervision in order to keep a project on track. Key decisions must be documented in a way that in-house staff assigned to a project can become familiar with the project intent; of course, there will be and should be questions, but the basic information must be developed in a timely way and made available for staff access. And the persons leading the development of design and construction documents must be effective communicators more than dreamers.