Why is fast track delivery critical for today’s multi-family housing developers?

Top six things an architect should provide to help institute a fast track construction project?

      According to an article in Construction Dive, the construction industry accounts for more than $1 trillion in annual spending, making construction a major driver of the U.S. economy. Particularly in residential real estate, where move-in and occupancy dates are critical, fast-track design and construction can be critical. If executed properly, fast track delivery can make the difference in securing the right tenant(s) but if not achieved, can result in lost revenue and increased cost.

      Fast-track delivery is a method of implementation where various elements of architectural and engineering disciplines join simultaneously to expedite project completion. This approach is highly applicable to site development-related design and permitting, as this typically defines the critical path to the all-important “start construction” date. Going the fast-track route, however, comes with some challenges.

      As a project manager at NODE, I make sure we are meeting our deadlines and clients are happy. Recently, a multi-family developer came to us with a project he wanted to fast track to capitalize on the commercial real estate market needs in the Northeast. The project was in the Bronx and is a 23,000 square foot, 25-unit apartment building. He desired to complete the project as soon as possible. To accommodate his request, my approach focused on the following critical items.

      1.  Because the schematic design is where most time is spent (or where time can be recaptured), our design team interviewed the owner multiple times to clarify his objectives before beginning design.

      2. Finalized the building footprint within zoning and building code parameters to obtain early permitting approval.

      3. Completed the consulting engineer design plans early in the process to avoid multiple (and costly) design changes impacting other disciplines involved in the project.

      4. Consulted with City agency officials prior to submittals to make real-time design corrections and understand future requirements.

      5. Produced design documents in phases for sequenced approvals which allow for expediting both design and construction. For example, while the foundation is poured our team can complete detailing the kitchen.

      6. Managed change. Sometimes refinements are necessary. Communication among the project team is key throughout the entirety of the project.

      Proper project execution helped the team prevent delayed project design and construction completion, incurring additional costs. Fast track can help avoid losing rent or sale revenue, additional cost of contractors, special inspectors, professionals and expediters, and other consultants involved in the project.

      In this case, my team’s hard work, prior experience, and diligence paid off. We received approval to start construction for this project in two and a half months. I’ve been working with NODE for more than a decade and this is the fastest approvals process I’ve managed to-date! The developer in this case study has already moved on to his next project, thanks to the quick delivery of this project. To allow for continued success, our team is working the same process as above on his second project.

      Alternatively, a developer can help an architect prepare for a fast track project. In addition to selecting an experienced consultant team, they should:

      • Have a clear vision for the project. This helps, but if it isn’t clear, don’t worry. An experienced architect project manager can help you clarify the vision by providing the site planning services prior to design commencement.

      • Have a budget identified. Again, the budget does not have to be set, but having a range is helpful and the design details can be developed specific to the budget.

      • Hire an experienced and (if you can) integrated team of architects and engineers. A great example is the case study I referenced prior. Experience is everything when it comes to successful fast track projects.

      • Consider reusing prior design concepts. Prototype design is one thing but reusing certain components from projects is helpful as well.

      Ultimately, avoiding changes during the design phase and (especially during construction) is paramount to success. If the architect/engineering (A/E) team does not have the proper experience, time may not be on your side. Also, finding an integrated A/E team is great – if all staff reside within one organization it will aid in communication and, therefore, the design development. Remember — minor comments from one discipline can have a significant impact on the entire process.

      Ensuring that a project is moving forward seamlessly and on time is my passion. Chasing the teams, coordinating with City officials and agencies, and finding room in schedules and budgets means I have achieved important milestones at every turn.

      When our team takes on a challenging project and achieves the client’s vision, we all enjoy the success. And, what’s better than that?