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.

Share Your Thoughts On Architectural Education Editor's Note
Michael Sorkin, Principal, Michael Sorkin Studio, with Michael Murphy, Co-founder and Executive Director, MASS Design Group
Infrastructure, Politics, and the Dilemma of Donald Trump At the Center for Architecture
Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks outside Trump Tower.
Policy Pulse: New York Elected Officials Weigh in on Trump Administration Policy Pulse
New York City's Roadmap to 80x50
Roadmap to 80×50 At the Center for Architecture
Sponsors and organizers of the 2016 Ratensky Lecture with Rosanne Haggerty. (l-r) Peter Bafitis, AIA; Jennifer Sage, FAIA; Gary Solomon; Rosanne Haggerty; Theodore Liebman, FAIA; and Fernando Villa, AIA.
2016 Samuel Ratensky Lecture: Rosanne Haggerty At the Center for Architecture
LA Gensler office, sample rendering from within the Gensler VR app.
Brave New Worlds: The Impacts of Virtual Reality on Design At the Center for Architecture
The Creative Architect: Inside the great midcentury personality study by Pierluigi Serraino, AIA
Oculus Quick-Take: The Creative Architect: Inside the great midcentury personality study Podcast
1 - Memorial Honors Victims of the AIDS Epidemic
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
“Authenticity and Innovation,”
through 01.14.17.
On View On View
Classifieds Classifieds
Message from the Executive Director: 2016 Elections From the Executive Director
We thank Kristen Richards, Hon. AIA, Hon. ASLA, for her dedication and support of AIANY and the Center for Architecture.
Oculus Evolving Center News
Office of the City Clerk
Lobby Law Update Policy Pulse
E.R. Butler & Co, on view in "Authenticity and Innovation."
Center Mentions Center News
Congratulations to our 2016 Heritage Ball honorees! The Rudin Family, Alice Tisch, and Thomas Phifer, FAIA (not shown: Senator Charles E. Schumer).
Design Matters: 2016 Heritage Ball Reports from the Field
Juror Favorite: "Lean on Me" by Dattner Architects
Canstruction NYC Reports from the Field
SITU Studio won the Pritzkerpumpkin for their concrete pumpkin void.
The Most Gourdgeous of the Gourds: Pumpkitecture! At the Center for Architecture
Speakers and organizers of "Global Migration, Refugees, and a Role for Design."
Antidotes to Xenophobia: Win/win Design Ideas for the Displaced At the Center for Architecture
A representative from the Northeastern School of Architecture + Art speaks to a prospective student and his father.
2016 Architecture and Design College Fair Learning by Design
Eric J. Pick, AIA, 1922-2016
Eric J. Pick, AIA, Retired Partner, Warner, Burns, Toan & Lunde (1922-2016) In Memoriam
In the News In The News
Names in the News Names in the News
New Deadlines New Deadlines
“Reading Room: A Catalog of New York City’s Branch Libraries,” through 01.07.16
On View On View
10.25.16: In conjunction with the Center for Architecture’s exhibition, “Authenticity and Innovation,” Architectural Record Editor-in-Chief Cathleen McGuigan moderated a discussion on the inherent value of older buildings with Claire Weisz, FAIA, Principal-in-Charge, WXY architecture + urban design; Constantine Kontakosa, Professor of Urban Informatics and Deputy Director of the Quantified Research Facility, NYU Center for Urban Science and Progress and Tandon School of Engineering; and Charles Bendit, Co-chief Executive Officer, Taconic Investment Group.
Sighted Sighted
Classifieds Classifieds
Payette: George Washington Milken Institute of Public Health, Washington, DC
Announcing the Winners of the 2016 AIANY COTE Awards Names in the News
Courtesy of Elizabeth Felicella
5 Questions for Photographer Elizabeth Felicella On View
New York City Council expands reach of the Green, Greater Buildings Plan.
City Expands Building Energy Plan Policy Pulse
Arthur Rosenblatt Memorial Lecture: David Chipperfield
David Chipperfield’s Arthur Rosenblatt Memorial Lecture At the Center for Architecture
Suzanne Stephens, Hon. AIANY, Deputy Editor, Architectural Record in conversation with Pierluigi Serraino, AIA, architect, author, and educator
Oculus Book Review: The Creative Architect: Inside the Great Midcentury Personality Study by Pierluigi Serraino Book Reviews
The girls took turns presenting their own design work to the group at the end of the program.
Women in Architecture Committee Reaches Out to the Next Generation Uncategorized
FIGMENT: What Is This? Why Is Nothing for Sale? Why Is Everyone Smiling? by David Koren.
Oculus Quick-Take: FIGMENT: What is this? Why is Nothing for Sale? Why is Everyone Smiling? Podcast
Courtesy of Dezeen Jobs
Save 50% on Your Next Dezeen Jobs Advert Of Interest
1 - New Academic Buildings are Changing the Face of Manhattanville
In the News In The News
Names in the News Names in the News
New Deadlines New Deadlines
"Authenticity and Innovation," through 01.14.16
On View On View
10.18.16: Amanda Dameron, Editor-in-Chief of Dwell; Julio Salcedo, Chair of the Spitzer School of Architecture at the City College of New York; Mark Gardner, AIA, NOMA, Principal, Jaklitsch|Gardner; Valerie Kennedy, Senior Vice President of Diversity, Innovation and Strategy at the NYC Economic Development Corporation; Jack Travis, FAIA, Principal, Jack Travis, FAIA, Architect; and Tonja Adair, AIA, Principal, Splice Design, convened at the Center for Architecture to discuss why diversity in design continues to pose a challenge.
Sighted Sighted
Classifieds Classifieds
Benjamin Prosky, Assoc. AIA, Executive Director, AIANY and Center for Architecture
Archtober Itinerary Word of Mouth
STUDIOS Architecture's winning cake: Zaha Hadid's Heydar Aliyev Center in Azerbaijan.
High-Calorie High Rises: The Great Architectural Bake-Off Reports from the Field
The AIANYS board enjoys an architect-led tour of the Algonquin Building, originally designed by S. Gifford Slocum, during the 2016 AIA New York State Saratoga Design Conference.
In Architecture, Collaboration is Key Reports from the Field
Bruce Fowle, FAIA, LEED AP, accepts the 2016 AIANYS President's Award.
AIA New York State President’s Award: Green is Beautiful Word of Mouth
AIA Presidential Profiles.
AIA Presidential Candidate Profiles Policy Pulse
1 - A New Museum Has Got Lady Liberty’s Back
In the News In The News
Names in the News Names in the News
New Deadlines New Deadlines