I find it interesting that most any time you start a new project that has limited scope and appears to be a quick and easy exercise, it seldom is. In my experience, this is more often the rule, not the exception. Recently I have been working on a limited renovation for a small building at a local University. The University occupies a number of large early 20th century houses that have been converted to office space for supporting faculty and staff. This particular project involved updating finishes and building out the currently unoccupied attic and basement spaces to support a new department that is meant to move in this fall. As most people know, anytime you are working in a century old building that has had a number of modifications over the years, there is going to be surprises. What most people don’t understand, is occupying these existing additional spaces with a business occupancy opens up an entirely new set of issues for the entire building.
To add another twist to this quick and painless project, it was determined half way in on the design that in order to meet the University’s schedule involving departmental moves and other projects on campus, this would need to be fast tracked. This turned out to be the most difficult part of this project to date. Everyone on the project – owner, architect, contractor, and subcontractors – has objectives and standards that need to be met and can only overlap so much. This made the documentation, code review, mobilization, demolition and early construction phases anything but quick and easy. While I see great value in creative project scheduling on mid to large scale projects, this experience has led me to question how much time is actually saved when fast tracking a small project with as many gray area issues.
We are now a couple of weeks into construction, have our building permits, uncovered many of the expected surprises and are finally on the downward slope towards completion. Navigating this process is nearly identical for a project such as this with limited scope as a large, complex project – with the main difference being the misconception that since it is such a small project, the effort to execute it is proportional. So here’s to small projects and the owners, architects, engineers, and contractors that understand that scope does not necessarily define the speed, efficiency, and effort that it takes to get the job done.