By: Steve Whalen building envelope consultant
August 31st, 2021
It is hard to say that there is such a thing as a “typical status quo day” for a building envelope consultant; change and variety are commonplace in any given day. For many starting out in this industry, it takes time to learn how to adjust and plan for the unexpected, as there is no formula to follow.
As professional building envelope consultants, (including engineers and architects), we juggle a myriad of responsibilities. On any given day, we collaborate, organize, design, strategize, work with clients and contractors, visit job sites, prepare budgets, and write reports, to name a few! Every day we manage multiple projects that are in different phases of completion, that have various scopes, and are of different sizes.
Workdays for consultants typically begin early. Since work starts early in the construction industry, emails and correspondence from the project construction teams start early. Answering questions from the construction team as soon as they arise (even if it’s early in the morning), facilitates the project team to work efficiently without delay. Another aspect of the early part of the day involves check-ins with team members to discuss project workload and tasks to ensure work production is flowing and budgets are aligned. These discussions happen daily to preserve a consistent line of team communication. Discussions with team members promote integrative ideas and swiftly resolve complications that may have come up on a project. A large part of our day involves communication with team members, contractors, clients, sub-contractors, and manufacturers.
The mornings often continue with visits to construction sites that are part of the construction administration service phase of a project. Depending on the size of the project and request of the client, consultants perform these site inspections on a weekly basis. These site visits help ensure that the project is running smoothly, and the Contractor is performing the work in accordance with the project specifications. For each site visit, we provide the client with a corresponding field report that contains a list of pertinent information about the visit. Field reports play a critical role in communication with the contractor and client because they contain all information about the progress of the project; some of that includes a description of the work being performed with photos of our findings, a list of attendees on site, the weather, and a cumulative list of work items.
In addition to performing regular site inspections, design professionals may also perform site inspections to evaluate issues related to water infiltration, building envelope surveys, or FISP inspections. These inspections require advance coordination with contractors, clients, property managers, and building superintendents. Much like construction administration site inspections, these site visits can vary in duration depending on the size of the project or complexity of an issue. To manage time effectively, it is often advantageous to coordinate site visits from site-to-site that are geographically close to one another to effectively utilize the majority of the day and minimize travel time. When planning site visits, it is important to stay informed of the weather forecasts. We constantly check the weather for the day and for the week, especially since most of the work is weather-dependent. If there is rain in the forecast for an upcoming week, it is helpful to perform on-site inspections and prioritize essential work in anticipation for the inclement weather. Rainy days can present an opportunity to focus on office work and the production of reports. These can be as effective as perfect weather days.
We also perform weekly or biweekly progress meetings with the Client, Contractor and Property Manager, which allows for a timely discussion of all pertinent items during the construction administration. The meetings provide a venue to follow up on action items and hold each other accountable. Preparation is key to running a successful progress meeting; project managers are here facilitate a smooth project, so a well-organized meeting aids in the efficiency and relevance of the meeting items. Following a progress meeting, meeting minutes are issued that contains a summary of what was discussed. Sullivan Engineering, A Rimkus Company provides all field reports and meeting minutes to the project team within 2 days of the site visit or a meeting to ensure that all vital information is relayed quickly to prevent interruptions to the project progress.
During the design phase of a project, there are many components that are required to bring a successful construction document package together. Planning and preparing a design package requires attention to detail. Project managers put in a lot of time when strategizing the best ensemble for the function of each project; during this time, we consider budgets, material selection, building limits, and the end-user. The design phase typically takes several weeks to complete, so we must coordinate with our project teammates to coordinate time in-between visits and various meetings. Some of the items that a design package includes are details for repairs, project specifications with appropriate scope of work, and bid packages to issue for contractor pricing.
Following the design, phase is the filing process with municipal entities such as the NYC Department of Buildings, Landmarks Preservation Commission, or the Department of Transportation. Whether it be in-house or with an expeditor, all forms, applications, and drawings have to be filed with the appropriate governing agencies to receive permits and approvals to commence with the work. If we receive comments from oversight agencies, it is important that we provide responses within a timely manner in order to avoid delays in the receipt of any permits. It cannot be emphasized enough; effective communication with the project team is so important.
As a building envelope consultant, the feeling of delivering a successful restoration project is unparalleled. Everything we do at Sullivan Engineering, A Rimkus Company is driven by our purpose, cause, and passion: to empower others to improve their quality of life. If we assist a building owner to save money on a daunting restoration, find the cause of a persistent leak in a resident’s apartment, or remove a dangerous condition from a building facade, we have helped the life of another, and that is what is most important.