What It Takes To Win
Graham, one of the jurors
of this year's Best Of awards program, writes that seeking
solutions that the competition does not have will help in
winning Texas Construction's award program just as effectively
as winning a highly sought project contract. The judges of
the Best Of program look for that same uniqueness in the submitted
projects as they select the winning entries.
|Dr. Charles Graham, AIA, FRICS, is an architect and building scientist with more than 26 years teaching and researching in higher education. He teaches in the Department of Construction Science at Texas A&M University, College Station, where he is currently the interim department head.
Students in the Department of Construction Science at Texas
A&M University are told that construction requires as
much creativity and innovation as the design of a building.
Creativity and innovation in construction come in different
forms and are required at different times during the project's
life than during design, but they have to be there for a firm
to be competitive in the marketplace.
Having judged some 200 entries in the "Best Of"
submittals to Texas Construction over the past two years,
a number of winning project attributes have become obvious
to this juror. These are worth sharing for future competitors
One of the realities of our industry is that people often
fail to appreciate the value contractors deliver to their
clients. Traditionally, people have viewed construction as
a commodity like any other good purchased at retail, and contracts
for construction have been awarded similarly at the lowest
bid price. More recently, however, the construction industry
has largely moved away from hard-bid processes of project
procurement to qualification-based selection. In doing so,
the trend has been towards the delivery of competency in other
areas besides technical competence. That is not to say that
technical competence is not important - it is. But contractors
are now being chosen to deliver services on the basis of best
value over a wider range of project involvement before, during
and after construction. The selection process bodes well for
contractors because it offers them the chance to add even
more value to the project. However, to be successful in the
new marketplace, something must be present in the package
of services contractors offer to make their services stand
out from others.
A project submitted for possible inclusion in Texas Construction
awards program will be judged on the following dimensions:
solutions to difficult challenges, project management, construction
innovation, client service, safety and similar attributes.
As the magazine is also accepting and receiving an increasing
number of submittals in the design category, unity with nearby
societal and environmental elements often has to be considered.
We will focus here on the construction submittals, but again,
one must appreciate the requirements of a project - construction
or design - to be unique and make it stand out from the competition
in a group of projects. Simply stated, a firm must submit
a good project. A great presentation of a weak or poorly conceived
and executed building project will not be competitive. There
has to be something unique about the project in the first
place to give it a good chance of winning in its category.
Good architectural design indeed helps here, but it is not
the only attribute of a winning construction project.
So what do the judges look for? In the category "solutions
to difficult challenges," we look for something that
makes the project management approach stand out. Most urban
projects, for example, have tight sites, and so a good site
logistics plan is required. Unprecedented weather conditions
can present challenges. Labor supply and material delivery
problems are standard fare on almost any large project. It
is not these challenges that matter, but rather how the contractor
dealt with these issues. The "best" contractor was
the one that found a way to manage these challenges in an
effective and noticeable way that added value to the project
and that was not typical for all contractors.
Examples of innovative project management might include formation
of unique teams to manage the project, use of unique communications
such as Internet-based technology, virtual meetings and so
on. Project management involving weekly team meetings with
the owner's representatives is standard practice. Meetings
or information exchanges using virtual computer technologies
or other unique forms of communication technology might set
a project apart from the others. Explanations including examples
of good pre-project planning decisions are also helpful.
In the category of construction innovation, the jury is looking
for a project in which the contractor found the most innovative
way to solve construction problems. Solutions to tight site
conditions, poor soil conditions, heavy traffic on surrounding
streets, unique construction sequencing requirements, use
of special construction equipment, special green building
approaches and unique project financing or phasing will catch
the judges' attention. Again, something had to be done that
clearly solved the owner's project requirements in a way most
other contractors would not have normally done. Unique methods
or sequences of construction will catch the judges' interest
almost every time.
Many clients have unique service requirements, especially
if they want to remain open for business during construction
of adjacent facilities. Some project types, such as health-care
facilities, may have unique noise and vibration limitations.
Sometimes public and institutional clients have special phasing
requirements. A public highway authority, for example, may
need to get a revenue stream in place as soon as possible
and may want the contractor to complete sections of work so
tolls can be collected. An indication of the quality of client
service is the number of disputes and claims during the course
of the work. This kind of information should be included in
the award submittal if it is good.
Stating that one's company conducts weekly safety briefings
at the jobsite is really no different than what the majority
of contractors do. Planning a construction sequence or method
that designs safety hazards out of the project so that costs
and time delays are reduced to zero might set a project apart
from others. Finding ways to save time and cost of safety
provisions on a tight sight would be unique because usually
tight sites increase time and cost of the safety provisions.
Accident rates, lost time due to accidents and insurance rates,
when good, are measures that help to prove safety performance.
In summary, start with a good project. Be certain to provide
text that addresses the competition requirements to the letter,
and include outstanding photographs, but do not count on the
photography alone to win. Put the package together in an effective
graphic layout, check spelling and grammar and explain what
really made the project unique to the owner. Use metrics to
support claims factually. When well presented, this information
will probably convince the judges that you really do have
a winning project.