Blog Entries

Black sheep – change directive

Black Sheep

It’s a pretty good chance that your construction project is going to encounter changes, and that you are familiar with the change order (CO) process, but on the odd occasion a change directive (CD) may be required. Do you know the difference? Test your knowledge – which of the following statements below are true?

A Change Directive…

  1. Is issued by the owner
  2. Does not need the contractor‘s agreement to proceed
  3. Price can be determined by the consultant in event of a disagreement
  4. All of the above

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The Epekwitk Assembly of Councils Building

RForm Case Study – Epekwitk Assembly of Councils Building

Managing the Many Layers of Funding, Construction, and Documentation of the Epekwitk Assembly of Councils Building

When Coast Design Inc. began the design of the new Epekwitk Assembly of Councils Building that would sit on the waterfront in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, there were several important considerations that guided the project. 

Owned, operated, and occupied by the Mi’kmaq Confederacy of PEI, this building was designed to house several organizations that serve the needs and economic development of the province’s First Nations — the L’nuey initiative, the Mi’kmaq Confederacy, and Epekwitk Development — and to perfectly align with Mi’kmaq beliefs in preserving the environment for future generations, and that buildings must be an extension of their community and culture. 

The red tones of the building and the circles and curves used throughout the design recall traditional Mi’kmaq depictions of their land, with a circular tower housing conference rooms as an homage to traditional Mi’kmaq “Talking Circles.” As sustainability was a core mandate of the project, Coast Design Inc. used the Green Globes Eco-Rating Program in the design and construction of the Epekwitk Assembly of Councils. The building attained an impressive Four Green Globe rating.

Epekwitk Soffit

Managing a complex mix of funding and stakeholders

The Epekwitk project was funded by various levels of government and administratively construction was essentially broken into five mini-projects. When projects have multiple stakeholders and funding sources, project management can be very challenging. 

RForm was especially helpful with organizing all the different funding and communicating with the building committee as well as the owners and contractors. There were many layers to this project, and many reports that needed to be easily accessed by many different people. 

Coast Design Inc. Intern Architect Marie-Eve Roy worked on the project and says that RForm was incredibly useful as an administration tool for this project for many reasons. “For example, it allowed us to select which consultant or consultants we wanted to send a document or drawing to, and request approval from a specific owner representative,” Roy explains, “It also let us control who can or cannot access certain project files, depending on the nature of that information and level of involvement from each team member.”

When invoices needed to be paid and reports sent out to the various government agencies funding the project, RForm was able to generate reports with a click of a button and share them with the people or groups that needed them, and not every single stakeholder on this extensive project. 

Moving through the shut-down

A further complication was added when Coast Design Inc embarked on the construction of the Epekwitk Assembly of Councils Building as Covid-19 restrictions went into full force as the construction phase was beginning. 

There were concerns that this might slow down project progress. However, under provincial regulations, this project was considered essential construction so work could continue. Using RForm enabled Coast Design Inc to minimize the friction caused by the restrictions that the pandemic caused with regard to meetings, but also helped overcome the issue of people not wanting to meet in person even if they were allowed. 

Coast Design Inc was able to achieve everything they needed without meetings through using the RForm platform.”We could send information to the general contractor, for them to share with the subcontractors. The general contractor could also send us their questions on RForm, while having the other team members, including the owner, follow those discussions,” says Roy. “The various consultants — structural, mechanical or electrical — were also able to answer questions or add comments as needed. So that was a very interactive tool.”

As with any project, changes were requested throughout the construction process, and Roy says that RForm proved to be very useful when these requests came in. “RForm was a great communication tool, but also an efficient way to refer back to the previous change orders when searching for specific information, or looking for a revised drawing for instance,” Roy says.

Both the owners and general contractor readily embraced using RForm. Once the owners started using RForm they wanted to be more involved and enjoyed being able to see where all the project information was and how easy it was to access reports just before meetings. The general contractor found using the platform invaluable for increasing efficiency, so much so that they went on to adopt RForm for future projects.

RForm was a great communication tool, but also an effective and efficient way to achieve everything we needed without meetings.

Marie-Eve Roy, Intern Architect, Coast Design Inc. 

Cash allowance or contingency?

You are designing a new condominium building, and you’re not a landscape architect, however the development company your client has requested that the the landscaping for the building be included in the construction contract. You are behind schedule, the tender deadline is nearing, and there is no time to hire a landscape architect. What do you do? Postpone the tender? This is a case where a Cash Allowance may come to your rescue. Read More…

Process is the answer, now what’s the question?

Have you ever had to deal with:

  • Marking up a set of drawings, only to find out that really basic information is missing time after time; North arrows, references, sheet titles not matching the index page?
  • Each employee re-inventing the wheel or doing it their own way when it comes to contract administration forms? Everyone having their own special template or spreadsheet tracking system?
  • Looking for information on the office server, only to find out that it was saved locally on a personal computer and that the employee is not around when you need it?

Read More…

Covid changed how we work. The question is, was it for better or worse?

In March 2020, it became clear very quickly that architecture firms in Canada needed to jump headfirst into embracing technology in order to keep working. Remote work became the norm almost overnight. This was easier for some than others—plenty of firms were already using contract administration software like RForm to do many tasks online—but there were those who faced an extremely steep learning curve as they raced to get teams in synch and sign up for Zoom accounts.

More than two years later, the pandemic may still be raging but we’re living with it, going back to the office, and right now planning in-person holiday parties. As a society, we’re in a weird place. While, of course, the pandemic has been truly terrible, some of the work changes it forced upon us were not. As employers, we need to reflect on these changes and the impact that they had on our teams. 

Going remote, staying remote

The US Census Bureau reports that the number of people working from home tripled in the first year of the pandemic. Canada saw similar stats, and as we moved through the pandemic, Canadians have been slower (dare we say more reluctant) to head back into the office than their US counterparts. For most of us, working from home holds a strong appeal. Not contending with long commutes, being more present for our families, and being able to work in comfort is of huge benefit.

Stats Canada reported that 90 percent of employees feel they are just as productive, if not more when working at home. Some businesses have fully embraced remote working, some going so far as to shut down brick-and-mortar offices and save on the costs of rent and administration. This isn’t the case everywhere. Some employers are eager to bring their team back into an office eight hours a day. 

Consequences to consider

Demanding that employees come back to the office may not be wise. With so many empty positions and so few skilled workers to fill them, the last thing you want to do is drive good people away from your workplace. And, you may be fine with coming back to the office but plenty of folks still do not feel safe doing so. Consider why you need them there. If you don’t trust them, if their work is not up to snuff, then that’s a bigger problem than where they are working. 

You’d be more prudent to consider hybrid work models where employees can split their time between the home and office. Perhaps everyone needs to be in on Mondays for team meetings, and on other days as negotiated (and for team building). For some, this is ideal, especially if they enjoy their colleagues and there is a positive environment when they come into the office. 

Embracing tech for contract administration

A Zoom meeting that follows an agenda can be a whole lot more productive than a rambling team meeting, especially if people are having to travel from job sites or far locations to attend. Many of us had never heard of Zoom before the pandemic, yet now more than 300 million people attend meetings on the platform every day. Usage grew exponentially in 2020 but never slowed down which is a clear reflection of how useful businesses find the platform. Clearly, video meetings have made our work lives more efficient, and there’s likely no going back (or should there be). 

In many ways, the pandemic made us more nimble. Who would have considered that even site meetings could be turned virtual? If you had the right systems in place, then distributing information among teams became way more efficient than we may have thought possible in pre-pandemic times. 

Some companies were able to handle the remote work transition better than others. Offices that had already transitioned away from Excel sheets and Word files were already at an advantage when the world changed, but some no doubt had to contend with worries about vital information such as shop drawing reviews, changes, submittals, requests for information etc being left at home on someone’s computer (or locked in a cabinet in a locked-down office). We were able to help many firms make this transition during the past few years, and once they were onboard with RForm, all their contract administration processes were automated so with every change all team members were instantly updated. 

Taking the leap

Communicating online in general makes everyone’s life easier, and increases productivity and efficiency. Adopting industry-specific software such as RForm takes the stress out of contract administration and keeping up with the many, many changes that occur through the life of a project. As our users tell us, RForm handles many of the tasks that can take up far too much valuable time, and ensures that fewer changes slip through the cracks creating those annoying issues that slow projects down unnecessarily. Moving these systems online is definitely a positive change (and if you didn’t do this already, then you really should. Click here to access a free 30-day trial). 

Ultimately, employers need to examine how new practices have made work better, and how to keep it that way.