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.

Ann Marie Baranowski, FAIA. Credit: Paulette Pascarella.
Featured Member: Ann Marie Baranowski Elevated to AIA College of Fellows AIA News You Can Use
Square 650 pixels_final
Spotlight on the 2017 AIANY Design Awards Jury AIA News You Can Use
The Forest House Apartments in the Bronx, recipient of LIHTC
Housing Policy: A Closer Look Policy Pulse
1 - Lighting Up at PS1 This Summer
In the News In The News
Names in the News Names in the News
05.19.17: Call for Entries: Blank Space/City of New York/New Lab/AIANY/ Fast Company’s The Driverless Future Challenge
New Deadlines New Deadlines
“Architecture of Independence – African Modernism,” through 05.27.17
On View On View
Classifieds Classifieds
Patrick J. Burke, FAIA, Assistant VP, Capital Management, Columbia University Medical Center. Credit: Edmund M. Kramer Photographers, Inc.
Featured Member: Patrick J. Burke III Elevated to AIA College of Fellows AIA News You Can Use
AIANY Releases Guiding Statements From the Executive Director
Sharswood Blumberg Redevelopment in Philadelphia
Announcing the Winner of the 2016 Stewardson Keefe LeBrun Travel Grant Center News
Architects Advocate published an open letter to President Trump regarding actions addressing climate change.
Architects Advocate Open Letter to President Trump Policy Pulse
New York Coalition of Black Architects (NYCOBA) Members, 1979. Credit: NYCOBA.
‘SAY IT LOUD’ Includes Timeline of Black Architects in New York At the Center for Architecture
Manual of Section by Paul Lewis, AIA; Marc Tsurumaki, AIA; and David J. Lewis, AIA.
Oculus Book Review: Manual of Section by Paul Lewis, Marc Tsurumaki, and David J. Lewis Book Reviews
1 - New in NoHo
In the News In The News
Names in the News Names in the News
New Deadlines New Deadlines
“Architecture of Independence – African Modernism,” opening 02.16.17
On View On View
Desks for rent in TriBeCa
Classifieds Classifieds
Representatives from at least 10 different architectural and urbanist groups joined the Women's March on Washington.
Architects Build Hope at Women’s March Reports from the Field
The New York Cypher of the nationwide Design as Protest event focused on new ways to use design in support of at-risk communities.
Policy Pulse: Design As Protest in NYC Policy Pulse
Nominate AIA Architects for Fellowship! AIA News You Can Use
Proud parents listen as PS Q300 second graders talk about the neighborhood model they made during a culminating presentation.
First Semester Wrap-Up Learning by Design
Over 300 attendees gathered at the Center for Architecture. Photography by Center for Architecture.
NYCHA Debuts Design Guidelines for Improving Public Housing At the Center for Architecture
1 - Two Performance Venues in One Space
In the News In The News
Names in the News Names in the News
02.03.17: Call for Entries: AIANY 2017 Design Awards
New Deadlines New Deadlines
“SAY IT LOUD: Distinguished Black Designers of NYCOBA | NOMA,” through 04.01.17
On View On View
Desks for rent in TriBeCa
Classifieds Classifieds
Web-Site-Survey
Survey: Help Us Design Our New Website Editor's Note
Report from Architects Assembled: AIA New York Community Forum From the Executive Director
The Unisphere at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park
2017 Policy Look-Ahead Policy Pulse
AIA Board Adopts Equity Recommendations AIA News You Can Use
Graphic Arts Center, Paul Rudolph
Oculus Book Review: Never Built New York by Greg Goldin and Sam Lubell Book Reviews
1 - All You Need is Love
In the News In The News
Names in the News Names in the News
01.27.17: Call for Entries: AIANY 2017 Design Awards
New Deadlines New Deadlines
“SAY IT LOUD: Distinguished Black Designers of NYCOBA | NOMA,” opening 01.26.17
On View On View
Classifieds Classifieds
Kristen Richards, Hon. AIA, Hon. ASLA
Last Letter from the Editor Editor's Note
AIANY 2017 President David Piscuskas, FAIA, LEED AP, at the 2017 Board Inaugural.
AIANY 2017 – Architects: Assembly Required Word of Mouth
Speakers of "Exploring the New Penn-Farley Complex"
New Penn-Farley Complex Revealed Policy Pulse
Industry City by Mathews Nielsen.
Women in Landscape Architecture At the Center for Architecture
Speakers and organizers of "I Love this Place! Exceptional Design Driven through Social Research"
I Love This Place! Social Research-Driven Design At the Center for Architecture
The Well-Tempered City by  Jonathan F.P. Rose
Book Review: The Well-Tempered City Book Reviews
1 - A New Design Hub Grows in Brooklyn
In the News In The News
Names in the News Names in the News
01.27.17: Call for Entries: AIANY 2017 Design Awards
New Deadlines New Deadlines
“Reading Room: A Catalog of New York City’s Branch Libraries,” through 01.07.16
On View On View
Classifieds Classifieds