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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

"QueensWay Connection: Elevating the Public Realm"
Editor’s Note Editor's Note
(l-r) Ray Beeler, AIA, President of AIA New York State; Kurt Kalafsky, AIA, President of AIA New Jersey; Lance Jay Brown, FAIA, 2014 President of AIANY; and Justin Mihalik, AIA, past President of AIA Newark & Suburban, presented at the Regional Recovery Working Group Workshop. In the foreground: AIANY Design for Risk and Reconstruction Committee co-chair Illya Azaroff, AIA.
Rhetorically Speaking: Regional Resilience Rhetorically Speaking
Jessica Yager, Policy Director, NYU Furman Center; Jonathan J. Marvel, FAIA, Principal and Founder, Marvel Architects; Howard Slatkin, Director of Strategic Planning and Sustainability, NYC Department of City Planning; and Laurie J. Schoeman, Program Officer, Technical Services, Enterprise Community Partners, Inc. discussed recent research and policy that will change the way New York City apartment buildings prepare for disaster at Affording Resilience: Housing Retrofits for Climate Threats Panel on 07.15.14. Mark Ginsberg, FAIA, LEED AP, Partner, Curtis + Ginsberg Architects, moderated the conversation.
Policy Pulse: Design Excellent Policy Pulse
Three pods of dangling cups act as drapes, enveloping visitors.
The Power of Collaboration: The Governor’s Cup Reports from the Field
Life-size active figures hold the exhibition panels, meaning that the space is populated with active individuals leading by example.
FitLondon – London Festival of Architecture 2014 Reports from the Field
Friends and family of Fred Schwartz, FAIA, joined at the Center for Architecture on 06.30.14 to celebrate the citizen architect's life.
THINKing Fred Schwartz At the Center for Architecture
(l-r) Joseph Giovannini, New York Architectural Critic and founder of Giovannini Associates; Thomas de Zengotita,  Professor, Draper Graduate Program, NYU, and the Dalton School; Albert Vecerka, Photographer, ESTO group; Kurt Kohlstedt, Founder, WebUrbanist; and Matthias Hollwich, SBA, Principal, HWKN, co-founder, Architizer
Postcard Identity: Architecture in the Age of Digital Reproduction At the Center for Architecture
(l-r) Matthias Hollwich, AIA, principal, Hollwich Kushner, and co-founder, Architizer; Francesca Birks, AIA, Americas lead, Arup Foresight + Research + Innovation Team; Eric Cohen, AIA, senior associate principal, Ethelind Coblin Architect; Jayne Merkel, architectural historian, critic, and author; Christine Hunter, AIA, LEED AP, principal, Magnusson Architecture & Planning; Lisa Morgenroth,  Assoc. AIA, co-chair, AIANY Design for Aging Committee; Helen Castle, Editor, Architectural Design; and Jerry Maltz, AIA, co-chair, AIANY Design for Aging Committee
Age of Housing At the Center for Architecture
(l-r) Robin Nagle, Associate Professor of Anthropology at NYU, and Anthropologist-in-Residence, NYC Department of Sanitation; Nick Dawber, Managing Director, Energos;  Juliette Spertus, co-founder, Closed Loops; and  Antonio Reynoso, NYC Council Member, District 34, and Chair, Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management
Getting Wasted: AIANY Talks Trash Uncategorized
(l-r) Craig Copeland, AIA, Senior Associate Principal, Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects & Sculptor; Paula Scher, Partner, Pentagram & Painter; and Charles Platt, FAIA, Partner, Platt Byard Dovell White Architects & Painter
Culture Mapping: Space and Practice At the Center for Architecture
(l-r) Geoff Lewis, VP of Marketplace Liquidity, Honest Buildings; Brian Newman, Director of Investments, Prodigy Network; Amanda Schachter, AIA, Principal, SLO Architecture; and Matthew Shoor, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, Project Manager, Macrae-Gibson Architects, PC
Financial Wizardry in a Digital Age At the Center for Architecture
(l-r) John Boulé, PE, Senior Manager for Priority Project Delivery, Parsons Brinckerhoff; Illya Azaroff, AIA, Founding Co-chair, AIANY Design for Risk and Reconstruction Committee; Lance Jay Brown, FAIA, 2014 President, AIANY; and Daniel Zarrilli, PE, Director , NYC Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency, Acting Director, NYC Mayor's Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability.
Extreme Weather, Recovery and New York’s Future At the Center for Architecture
Gilles Marie-Paul Laheurte (1946-2014)
In Memoriam: Gilles Marie-Paul Laheurte (1946-2014) In Memoriam
A sample of Walter A. Hunt, Jr. Scholarship recipient Farzana Anika's portfolio.
Center for Architecture Foundation Announces First Recipient of the Walter A. Hunt, Jr. Scholarship At the Center for Architecture Foundation
1 - BRAC Brightens The Bronx
In the News In The News
Names in the News Names in the News
07.23.14: Call for Entries: AIANY | Center for Architecture’s New York New Design 2014 Subway Show
New Deadlines New Deadlines
“Open to the Public: Civic Space Now” through 09.06.14
On View At the Center for Architecture
06.24.14: AIANY 2014 President Lance Jay Brown, FAIA; Jessica Yager, policy director at NYU Furman Center; NYC Department of Housing and Preservation Commissioner Vicki Been; and Gary Hattem, president of Deutsche Bank Americas Foundation, spoke at the opening of “Affording Resilience: Housing Retrofits for Climate Threats.”
Sighted Sighted
Classifieds Classifieds
AIANY Executive Director Rick Bell, FAIA, received the Edward C. Kemper Award at the AIA Convention.
2014 AIA Convention Special: From Ed Kemper to Ed Mazria, Rick Bell Recognizes Colleagues, Past and Present Reports from the Field
(l-r) Robin Nagle, Associate Professor of Anthropology at NYU, and Anthropologist-in-Residence, DSNY; Nick Dawber, Managing Director, Energos; Juliette Spertus, co-founder, Closed Loops; Antonio Reynoso, NYC Council Member, District 34 and Chair, Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management
Talking Candidly with the City Council: Senior Housing and Waste Management Policy Pulse
AIA President Helene Combs Dreiling, FAIA, presented the AIANY Post-Sandy Initiative with the 2014 Institute’s Honors for Collaborative Achievement. (l-r) Helene Combs Dreiling, FAIA, President, AIA; AIANY Design for Risk and Reconstruction Committee Co-chairs Lance Jay Brown, FAIA, AIANY 2014 President, and Illya Azaroff, AIA; Ernest Hutton, AICP, Assoc. AIA, AIANY Planning and Urban Design Co-chair; Bonnie Harken, AIA, APA, Post-Sandy Waterfront Working Group;  AIANY Executive Director Rick Bell, FAIA; and Robert Ivy, AIA CEO, AIA.
2014 AIA Convention Special: New Yorkers Acclaimed for Designing with Purpose Reports from the Field
The Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University.
2014 AIA Convention Special: 11 AIANY Members Inducted into the AIA College of Fellows Reports from the Field
AIANY 2014 President Lance Jay Brown, FAIA.
2014 AIA Convention Special: Learning from Sandy with Lance Jay Brown, FAIA Reports from the Field
Russel A. Davidson, FAIA, AIA 2015 First Vice President/2016 President-Elect
2014 AIA Convention Special: AIA Elects 2015-2016 Leadership Reports from the Field
K-1 students learned about local landmarks and even created their own blueprints in this 6-week residency.
Looking Back on Another Successful Year for Learning by Design: NY At the Center for Architecture Foundation
1 - A Condo Grows in a Park in Brooklyn
In the News In The News
Names in the News Names in the News
07.16.14: Call for Entries: AIANY | Center for Architecture’s New York New Design 2014 Subway Show
New Deadlines New Deadlines
“QueensWay Connection: Elevating the Public Realm” opening 07.17.14
On View: At the Center for Architecture + About Town Uncategorized
06.25.14: At the 2014 AIA Convention in Chicago, the AIA Foundation and Architecture for Humanity, in partnership with NJIT, announced a new regional recovery studio in in Newark, NJ, to aid in regional reconstruction. Many worked hard to make the studio a reality. (l-r) Justin Mihalik, AIA, NCARB, AIA New Jersey; Illya Azaroff, AIA, AIA New York Chapter; John Peterson, AIA, Public Architecture; Eric Cesal, Architecture for Humanity; Sherry-Lea Botop Bloodworth, CFRE, AIA Foundation; Urs Gauchat, Hon. AIA, NJIT; and Thom Delessio, NJIT.
Sighted: At the 2014 Chicago Convention At the Center for Architecture
Classifieds Classifieds
"New York New Design" Subway Show
Editor’s Note Editor's Note
(clockwise from left) William T. Castro, Manhattan Borough Commissioner, NYC Department of Parks and Recreation; NYC Department of Parks and Recreation Commissioner Mitchell Silver; Washington Square Park Conservancy Executive Director Sarah Neilson; and City Councilwoman Margaret Chin.
Washington Squared Rhetorically Speaking
Faith Rose, AIA, Senior Design Liaison, NYC Department of Design + Construction, assists the group working on the Flatlands Library.
Unlocking Potential: Libraries as Hosts for Universal Pre-Kindergarten Policy Pulse
AIANY Executive Director Rick Bell, FAIA.
Behold City Hall Station Reports from the Field
Antoni Vives i Tomàs, Deputy Mayor of Barcelona, and AIANY 2014 President Lance Jay Brown, FAIA.
Presenting “Open to the Public: Civic Space Now” At the Center for Architecture
Speakers of the "Open to the Public" symposium and AIANY 2014 President Lance Jay Brown, FAIA (center).
The Turbulent Possibilities of Public Space At the Center for Architecture
United States – “officeUS” designed by Leong Leong
FUNDAMENTALS: The 14th International Architecture Exhibition of la Biennale di Venezia Reports from the Field
Hillary Brown, FAIA, Principal, New Civic Works, and Professor, Spitzer School of Architecture, City College of New York; and respondent Byron Stigge, Founding Director, Level Agency for Infrastructure
Oculus Book Review: Next Generation Infrastructure by Hillary Brown, FAIA By Annie Coggan Book Reviews
Next Generation Infrastructure: Principles for Post-Industrial Public Works
Oculus Quick Take: Next Generation Infrastructure: Principles for Post-Industrial Public Works Podcast
Lorena del Rio, Iñaqui Carnicero, César Jiménez de Tejada, estudio entresitio, Maria Hurtado de Mendoza, estudio entresitio, Lance Jay Brown FAIA, AIANY 2014 President; Peter Bafitis, AIA, AIANY Housing Committee Co-chair; David Burney, FAIA, AIANY Vice President for Design Excellence; Carmen Espegel, Espegel-Fisac Arquitectos, Fernando Villa, AIA, AIANY Housing Committee Co-chair; and Rick Bell, FAIA, AIANY Executive Director.
Social Housing in Spain At the Center for Architecture
Ronnie Self, Associate Professor of Architecture, Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture, University of Houston, discussed "The Architecture of Art Museums: A Decade of Design, 2000-2010."
Typing the Museum At the Center for Architecture
AIANY 2014 President Lance Jay Brown, FAIA; AIANY Design for Risk and Reconstruction co-chair Joan Capelin, Hon. AIANY; Samuel Carter, Associate Director, Resilience, The Rockefeller Foundation; and AIANY Design for Risk and Reconstruction Committee co-chair Illya Azaroff, AIA.
The Rockefeller Foundation and the Road to Resilience At the Center for Architecture
Portfolio excerpt, model; work titled, “blurred lines,” Allwork Scholarship recipient Alex Stewart, Parsons the New School
The Center for Architecture Foundation Announces 2014 Scholarship Recipients At the Center for Architecture Foundation
1 - Post-Disaster Housing Solution
In the News In The News
Names in the News Names in the News
New Deadlines New Deadlines
“Open to the Public: Civic Space Now” through 09.06.14
On View: At the Center for Architecture + About Town About Town