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>

New York Architects' Regatta
Editor’s Note Editor's Note
Insight for Architects AIA News You Can Use
The city of Durban, with the Moses Mabhida Stadium by GMP Architekten in the background.
Urban in Durban Shared Voice
Daniel Zarrilli, recently appointed to the FEMA National Advisory Council, at the Center for Architecture.
Counsel for City Council Policy Pulse
AIANY Public Programs Coordinator and Archtober Deputy Director looking forward to her frozen treat.
#TweetforTreat: Archtober Kick-Off Cools Off New Yorkers Reports from the Field
First Prize winners of the QueensWay Connection competition Carrie Wilbert and Eleonore Levieux of Paris, France, were congratulated by Susannah Drake, AIA, ASLA, Principal, dlandstudio, at the exhibition opening.
The Queensway – A Bright Path to New York’s Future At the Center for Architecture
Craig Buckley, adjunct assistant professor of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia GSAPP; Billie Faircloth, research director at KieranTimberlake; George Middleton, AIA, CSI, president of George Middleton & Associates; Dr. William F. Carroll, Jr., vice president of Industry Issues for Occidental Chemical Corporation; and Michael Bell, professor of architecture at Columbia University, talked about the architectural promise of practice and polymers in relation to Permanent Change: Plastics in Architecture and Engineering.
Oculus Book Review: “Permanent Change: Plastics in Architecture and Engineering” At the Center for Architecture
"Permanent Change: Plastics in Architecture and Engineering"
Oculus Quick Take: “Permanent Change: Plastics in Architecture and Engineering” Podcast
Over 10 days, the Lieb House traveled 95 miles by truck and barge from Barnegat Light, NJ, to Glen Cove, NY.
Modern Architecture Still Moving At the Center for Architecture
The NYC Office of Emergency Management's Post-Disaster Housing Prototype by Garrison Architects.
Brownstones, Industrialized: Tour of the OEM Post-Disaster Housing Prototype Reports from the Field
Lance Jay Brown, FAIA, 2014 President, AIANY; Rosa Maria Falvo, International Commissions Editor, SKIRA; Rafiq Azam, Principal, SHATOTTO architecture for green living; and Umberto Dindo, FAIA, Co-chair, AIANY Architecture for Education Committee
Rafiq Azam: The Poetry of Architecture and Watercolors of Bangladesh At the Center for Architecture
The house of Lee Mindel, FAIA, in Southampton, NY
Mindel House: Eccentric Balance At the Center for Architecture
NYC Department of Youth and Community Development staff experiment with different bridge structures during a professional development workshop at the Center.
What I Did Over Summer Vacation… At the Center for Architecture Foundation
1 - Pacific Park Progresses
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
Sophie Troskolanski, an organizer of the Healthcare Otherwhere International Student Competition; Mila Bolt, competition winner and a student at Tshwane University of Technology (TUT); Cameron Sinclair, Founder, Architecture for Humanity, Director, Jolie-Pitt Foundation, competition juror, and UIA keynote speaker; and Madeleine Swete Kelly, a Durban-based architect, were joined by AIANY 2014 President Lance Jay Brown, FAIA, and Executive Director Rick Bell, FAIA, at Archiball, the closing UIA party celebrating the student-run competition.
Sighted: Durban Edition Sighted
Classifieds Classifieds
Archtober 2014
Editor’s Note Editor's Note
AIANY President Lance Jay Brown, FAIA, and Executive Director Rick Bell, FAIA, appeared on the cover of the 07.30.14 Commercial Observer.
Three-Part Harmony Policy Pulse
(l-r) 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 Laurie J. Schoeman, Program Officer, Technical Services, Enterprise Community Partners, Inc.
Mark Ginsberg, FAIA, LEED AP, Partner, Curtis + Ginsberg Architects
The Next Big Storm as Hegelian Tragedy: Resilience vs. Affordability At the Center for Architecture
(l-r) Greg Lindsay, Fast Company; Rafi Segal, MIT Architecture; Mark Collins, Cloud Lab | Morpholio Project; Kyle May, Clog;  David Assael, ArchDaily; and David Basulto, ArchDaily (via Skype Jaime Derringer, Design Milk; and Diana Jou, Wall Street Journal).
The Viral Spread of Social Media At the Center for Architecture
Maarten Gielen, co-founder of Rotor, and co-author of Behind the Green Door: A Critical Look at Sustainable Architecture through 600 Objects; Hilary Sample, AIA, Founding Partner, MOS Architects; and Rick Bell, FAIA, Executive Director, AIANY
Through the Green Door At the Center for Architecture
07.08.14: Beth Heyde, senior events manager at Bike New York; Hayes A. Lord, director of the bicycle program at the NYC Department of Transportation (DOT); AIANY Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Robert Eisenstat, AIA; Stacey Hodge, director of the DOT Office of Freight Mobility; Alison Conway, assistant professor, Department of Civil Engineering, City College of New York; Wenzday Jane, owner, Metro Pedal Power; Gregg Zusman, owner, Revolution Rickshaws; and Bob Nesson, filmmaker and adjunct professor, Emerson College, gathered at the Center for Architecture to discuss sustainable transportation at “Power to the Pedals: Wenzday Jane and the Culture of Change.”
Pedaling the Last Mile At the Center for Architecture
Dream Big honorees Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, NYC Department of Design and Construction Commissioner Feniosky Peña-Mora and actor and author Sonia Manzano pose with students from the Catholic Charities’ MOSAIC Beacon program and their model of the High Bridge created in a Center for Architecture Foundation workshop at the event.
Center for Architecture Foundation Dreams Big in the Bronx with Hillary Clinton and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor At the Center for Architecture Foundation
1 - Sense and Sensibility
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
07.15.14: A public conversation about public spaces between NYC Department of Design + Construction Commissioner Feniosky Peña-Mora; Joe Michael, AIA, Associate Principal at Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates; Maria Sisternas, Project Director at Urban Habitat Barcelona; and Antoni Vives i Tomàs, Deputy Mayor of Barcelona, closed the exhibition “Barcelona Glòries: Dialogue & Transformation.”
Sighted Sighted
Classifieds Classifieds
"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