Lorenzo Vascotto discussing general contractors v. project managers during "Leading Architecture in a Changing World: Digital Strategies for Architects and Our Clients"
Lorenzo Vascotto discussing general contractors v. project managers during "Leading Architecture in a Changing World: Digital Strategies for Architects and Our Clients"

Project Management New York Style: It is about how, not what, you buy

At the Center for Architecture by • 05/01

The relationship between architect and project manager can be fraught with complexity; many anecdotes suggest that projects run smoothly when both are in place, while almost everyone also has a war-story or two about the time that the two were at odds and disaster ensued. While project managers may argue that costs increase due to “design creep,” architects are fending off a wide variety of other client service providers. In other words, one might argue that costs are rising instead from “consultant creep.”

Lorenzo Vascotto, a founding partner currently serving as managing director at VVA Project Managers & Consultants, was game to take on this topic and many others during the Professional Practice Committee’s fourth program of the “Leading Architecture in a Changing World” series, which culminates on 06.17.13 with “Entrepreneurship in Architecture and Beyond.”

Vascotto presented an honest look at the differences between general contractor (GC) and construction management (GM), specifically focusing on the impacts of their decisions on, among others, design quality, cost to deliver, reliability of cost, and use of change orders.

VVA, is a leading independent project management firm founded in New York City over 19 years ago, is best known for offering a full range of advisory and technical project management services in the real estate and construction arenas. Vascotto brings a technical and financial approach to his work that was honed during the 13 years before founding VVA. He served as an engineer at Syska & Hennessy, which laid the technical and mechanical foundation for his career. He further expanded his knowledge of real estate, facilities management, and finance, during his seven year tenure at Goldman Sachs.

The first portion of Vascotto’s presentation focused on the practical differences between general contractor and construction management for project delivery. From his experience, he’s found that design delivery with a GC may be 10-15% cheaper due to a number of drivers including competition, business experience, risk absorption, and actual services delivered. There was then some conversation about the value of those services, and the kinds of projects and clients that benefit from each.

The opinions of both Vascotto and the audience revealed that our industry still seems to have a significant amount of cost volatility. Relaying recent experience in comparing construction bids, Vascotto saw budgets/fees/proposals with 15-20% price differentiation. He explained that, unlike in Europe, where quantity surveying is a licensed profession, cost estimators are less prominent in the United States marketplace and their level of expertise is more varied; this is one of many roles that project managers are supporting.

One of Vascotto’s key points: it is all about “how you buy, not just what you buy.” He emphasized that asking the right questions during the bid and negotiation process is essential to mitigating risk and making sure that expectations are met later on. He generally aims to require that the final selected delivery team commits to the design intent, not the letter of the drawing. At the end of a bid sequence, he often goes back and negotiates a Guaranteed Maximum Price. He advocates clear and open communications to reduce “change order mania.”

Vascotto finally described ways to achieve price control throughout the process, including pre-purchase pricing of carpet, walls, furniture, lighting, doors and hardware, and other items, locking in the cheaper – and often better – option.

Audience member Peter Matthews of Matthews Moya Architects offered a keen observation and potential solution, explaining that “the perception of the creative architect is a double-edged sword, that as design costs increase, we often appear to be part of the problem, contributing to the cost, rather than helping to control it.”  He said that one way his practice has mitigated that perception and limited cost increases, while preserving design quality, is by locking in prices on premium items early on, sometimes through purchase, other times just by getting a bid and price commitment.

For better or worse, there also seems to be power in being big. Vascotto’s presentation emphasized the role of social, political, and industry prominence as way to access better results in the construction and design-delivery worlds, particularly in New York City. He mentioned revenue volume and potential for repeat business as one of the key reasons contractors deliver services on time, as well as leverage in negotiations.

At event’s end, the conversation shifted to a debate on several topics including those that cut to the quick of architectural fees, from value engineering to a constant barrage of new players, and challenges around who is closest to the client – when and for what purpose. Further conversations will surely be required.

Melissa Marsh is a workplace strategy and change management consultant with an architectural education. She recently founded her own company, Plastarc. She is new contributor to e-Oculus, and can be reached at melissa@plastarc.com.

Event: Leading Architecture in a Changing World: Digital Strategies for Architects and Our Clients
Location: Center for Architecture, 03.22.13
Speaker: Lorenzo Vascotto, Founding Partner and Managing Director, VVA Project Managers & Consultants
Organizers: AIANY Chapter Professional Practice Committee and AIANY staff

Comments are closed.

"Designing Affordability" opens tomorrow at the Center for Architecture
“Designing Affordability” Opens Tomorrow! Editor's Note
Archtober 2015 is almost here!
Five Years, Five Boroughs, One Archtober Reports from the Field
Center for Architecture at the Seaport with "Sea Level: Five Boroughs from Water's Edge"
Come On Down to the Seaport Culture District! Reports from the Field
09.17.15: The Regatta crews had to maneuver around the Manhattan on an AIANY Around Manhattan Boat Tour, several water taxis, and a huge garbage barge.
All Aboard, Hoist the Sails: 2015 New York Architects’ Regatta Challenge Reports from the Field
Suzanne Nienaber, Partnerships Director, Center for Active Design; Robin Guenther, FAIA, LEED AP, Principal, Perkins+Will; Ramon Rodriguez, President and CEO, Wyckoff Heights Medical Center;  Sarah Wolf, Deputy Director for Active Living, NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (moderator)
Promoting Healthy Living from the Nexus of Healing Policy Pulse
Eric Rivers of ARUP walked attendees through pedestrian planning case studies at a 09.25.15 talk hosted by the AIANY Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Pedestrian Planning and Simulation At the Center for Architecture
1 - Mixed-Use, Mixed-Income Project Rises on Last Site to Be Developed in the BAM Cultural District
In the News In The News
Names in the News Names in the News
10.16.15: Call for Entries: 2015 AIANY COTE Awards
New Deadlines New Deadlines
Dezeen Jobs has launched in the USA!
Dezeen Jobs has launched in North America! Of Interest
“Sea Level: Five Boroughs at Water’s Edge” at Center for Architecture at the Seaport Cultural District through 12.31.15
On View About Town
09.18.15: AIANY and Center for Architecture leadership gathered at the newly-christened Silman Room to celebrate the Center for Architecture’s Renovation Project.
Sighted Sighted
Classifieds Classifieds
"Un/Fair Use" opens at the Center for Architecture this Friday, 09.18.15
Un/Fair Use: Copying and Copyright in Architecture Editor's Note
Author Robert Sullivan contemplates the photography of Elizabeth Felicella at the opening for "Sea Level: Five Boroughs at Water's Edge."
Time and Perspective at the Water’s Edge Reports from the Field
Frank Ritter RitterPhoto.com
The World Trade Center, 14 Years After Reports from the Field
Speakers at "Equity and Urban Development" discussed whether public-private projects are the new recipe for design excellence and city-wide equity.
Equity and Urban Development Policy Pulse
Speakers and organizers of AIANY COTE's "It’s Occupied, Now What? Post-Occupancy Client Reengagement."
It’s Occupied, Now What? At the Center for Architecture
Barbara A. Nadel, FAIA, Principal, Barbara Nadel Architect
Don’t Be a Hack: Avoiding Cyberattacks At the Center for Architecture
Bridge models created at prior Center for Architecture Building Bridges Family Days.
New Educational Programs at Center for Architecture at the Seaport Learning by Design
1 - South Bronx Modular
In the News In The News
Names in the News Names in the News
10.09.15: Call for Entries: 2015 AIANY COTE Awards
New Deadlines New Deadlines
image3
On View About Town
Classifieds Classifieds
"Sea Level: Five Boroughs at Water's Edge" opens at 181 Front Street.
“Sea Level: Five Boroughs at Water’s Edge” Opens at the South Street Seaport Editor's Note
Architects, Pick Your Leaders! AIA News You Can Use
Grand Central Terminal
Landmarks of Change Policy Pulse
30 Years of Emerging Voices
Oculus Book Review: 30 Years of Emerging Voices Book Reviews
Michael M. Samuelian is a Vice President with the Related Companies, prepares students for a site visit of Hudson Yards by looking at the architectural model at their office.
Center for Architecture, the Epicenter of Fun and Learning Learning by Design
1 - A Rooftop Meadow in the Sky
In the News In The News
Names in the News Names in the News
10.09.15: Call for Entries: 2015 AIANY COTE Awards
New Deadlines New Deadlines
"Un/Fair Use" opening 09.18.15
On View About Town
08.31.15: Cynthia Kracauer, AIA, Center for Architecture, Managing Director, snapped a picture of celebratory staff members James Fallarino, Events Manager, and Camila Schaulsohn, Communications Director, at the Archtober kick-off, Tweet-for-Treat. Participants received free architecturally-inspired Coolhaus ice cream sandwiches and could peer into the Center’s new space on 181 Front Street, opening officially on 09.10.15 for the exhibition opening of “Sea Level: Five Boroughs at Water’s Edge.”
Sighted Sighted
Classifieds Classifieds
Member Dues: Good News! AIA News You Can Use
Grand Central Terminal
LPC Reform: Improving Important Processes Policy Pulse
Speakers of "Edge Collaborations: Creative Partnerships with Social Science" discussed how architects and social scientists can mutually gain from a closer relationship.
Measuring Bubbe’s Wisdom and Edifying Clients At the Center for Architecture
AIANY's Fourth Annual Golf Classic brought together more than 140 golfers from the architecture, engineering, construction, and real estate communities out for a beautiful day.
AIANY Fourth Annual Golf Classic Recap Reports from the Field
Speakers and organizers of "Marketing Resiliency Part II: Creating and Communicating a Critical Sector” brought together by the AIANY Marketing Communications Committee and the AIANY Design for Risk and Reconstruction Committee.
Resiliency Today: Systems, Standards, and the Case for Going Broad At the Center for Architecture
A toy store imagined and designed by middle school students in the Summer@theCenter’s Store Design summer program.
Design Thinking and Tinkering: Store Design at the Center for Architecture Learning by Design
1 - The Battery Catches the Brass Ring
In the News In The News
Names in the News Names in the News
09.20.15: Call for Entries: FIGMENT, AIANY ENYA, and SEaONY City of Dreams Pavilion 2016
New Deadlines New Deadlines
“Sea Level: Five Boroughs at Water’s Edge” at Center for Architecture at the Seaport Cultural District Opening 09.10.15
On View On View
08.19.15: George Tsypin, founder of the George Tsypin Opera Factory and luminescent sea creature designer, takes a ride on an angel fish at the press opening for WXY Architecture + Urban Design’s SeaGlass Carousel at Battery Park.
Sighted Sighted
Classifieds Classifieds
“Sea Level: Five Boroughs at Water’s Edge” opens Monday, 08.31.15 at the Seaport.
Center @ the Seaport Editor's Soapbox
Speakers at "Viral Voices IV: Storytelling: On Media, Representation, and Narrative," organized by the AIANY Global Dialogues Committee
This Expanded Language At the Center for Architecture