The Evolution of Preconstruction

Ray Miller, Vice President, Preconstruction

Here at Balfour Beatty, we have expanded the notion of what the preconstruction phase of a project really means—for us, it’s about more than just assessing cost. We pride ourselves on delivering a truly personal and customized preconstruction experience and believe that no two projects are alike, approaching each one with a fresh perspective.

In our world, preconstruction has evolved into a process that is more than measured on accuracy of estimates, but must now focus on management of the entire process. We are a team of risk managers, budget consultants, design guides and trusted advisors. One of our biggest goals is to help our clients differentiate their product within their specific market. We do this by seeking out new technologies and trends in the building industry that our clients can realistically implement in their projects. By doing this, we all gain a competitive edge.

Working with our architectural partners, we also tend to focus as much as possible early in the design process—during conceptual and schematic phases of design. This makes us more proactive, and gives us a chance to guide the design and save our clients and architects time and headache by eliminating any rework or redesign.

To this end, the best service we can offer is expert guidance along the way. Always tracking and providing cost information, we take it a step further to provide other relevant metrics relative to each building type, such as the gross sellable area to gross building area, and the public area to sellable area, so we can give our clients an idea of where they fall in the typical range of projects similar to their own. This type of information puts our clients at ease as they are faced with crucial decisions that could paralyze a project. 

Anyone can go to market and provide a price. What we do is leverage our passion and relationships in the marketplace to provide meaningful solutions. We’re just getting started, but already, we’re making a difference. 

Leveraging our Expertise in Higher Education: During the kick-off phase for a new local academic building, we focused specifically on project priorities and on what defined value to the University and design team. Utilizing Target Value Design, we applied this information conceptually to create target budgets and assign value to each major building system, ultimately leading to the alignment of a basis of design and a basis of budget. We then continuously measured the progress of the team against these target values throughout the entire design/preconstruction phase of the project.

All of this pre-planning resulted in a number of benefits. First of all, the project design never exceeded the target budget throughout the entire preconstruction period. By establishing targets for such things as exterior skin and allocating budget where appropriate, the university was able to add an additional 10,000 square feet to the building area very early in the design process, resulting in more classrooms. In addition, the university was able to add a connecting bridge to the project. 

Providing Solutions in High-Rise Residential: During the conceptual phase of a 30+ story high-rise residential project, we studied various HVAC options while establishing the basis of design. This client valued energy savings in particular, and we were able to deliver a Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) HVAC system for the same cost as typical, standard split-systems. This will result in the single largest VRF installation in the U.S. and will provide the owner with energy savings of up to 55% over comparable unitary equipment as well as greater control of the room temperatures, which provides the owner with a clear differentiator in marketing his building.

To help us and our partners stay abreast of the latest technologies and trends in construction, we’ve launched a Preconstruction Series together with some of our vendors. If you would like to participate in one of our educational sessions, please reach out to me!